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French door (c) Kristin Espinasse 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue door in the medieval village of Les Arcs-sur-Argens (Var)

toc-toc

(tok-tok) 

knock knock




Everything about Martine could be known by her knock: unhesitating, energetic, persistent. It was the kind of knock a policeman might use: "Toc-toc-toc! I know you're in there. Come out, come out!"

Though law-abiding, Martine was always on the run. "I passed by your house last night," she'd say, "on my way home from work. Your shutters were open so I closed them for you." I guessed she had figured out that my husband was away a lot on business and that I needed a reminder to lock up my windows for the night as the villagers do. 

When Martine wasn't watching over my home, she was filling it. She brought the children strawberries from the farmers' market and she brought me fresh cabbage—then stayed to stuff and bake it.

"It's good, isn't it?" she'd say, of the stuffed chou. "You love it! It is delicious!" While I ate, she would set about reorganizing my frigo. "All of the condiments go here!" she'd say, gathering the ketchup and the pickles and the tapenade from the back of the fridge and placing them in the door compartments.  

If I complimented her on her dress, she would straighten her five-foot frame, hold her head high, and raise her hand with a flourish. "Je suis belle, non? Just look at me! Bella!"

Her teeth, one slightly and charmingly bent over the other in front, were always showing, because her mouth was always smiling. She was Italian with a dark complexion, her hair was bleached light, her makeup heavy, and her figure—which she decorated with pride—somewhere in between. Martine did not have hang-ups or low self-esteem; she had no time to question or to second-guess. Like her knock—Toc-toc-toc! Come out, come out!—she was direct.

"Get in the car!" she ordered, when personal doubts had begun to consume me. Struggling as a young mother, an étrangère, and a wife, I decided I had nothing to lose by allowing this colorful new friend to steer me out of my tristesse.

Martine drove, speeding across the countryside and over a narrow bridge—edging so close to the guardrail that I shrieked, "Martine!" When I had recovered from the fright, I turned to my friend:

"How do you know you're not going to hit that rail? How can you judge so well?"

"Ce n'est rien! You just need to take driving lessons, know the size of your car—sois confiante!"

True, I thought, forgetting about the guardrail and remembering my earlier self-doubts. It was high time, now, to step confidently into some of the new roles that I had been given since moving to France. Wife, mother, French resident... the ability to fully carry out these roles was there, somewhere, inside of me. I just needed to let go of that guardrail and have confiance

When we had cleared the bridge, Martine abruptly pulled the car over and reached past me to the glove compartment, from which she produced a folded piece of paper.

"Écoute bien," she said. "I am going to read you something...."



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(In the next edition: the famous words Martine shared. Click here.)


YOUR EDITS PLEASE
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French Vocabulary

toc-toc-toc = knock knock knock

le chou = cabbage

le frigo = fridge

la tapenade = pureed olive spread

je suis belle, non? = I am beautiful, aren't I?

un étranger, une étrangère = foreigner

la tristesse = gloominess

ce n'est rien = it's nothing (it's easy)

sois confiant(e) = be confident

écoute bien = listen closely

la confiance = confidence 


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Listen: Hear the word "toc" pronounced Download toc.wav

Quand une porte se ferme, une autre s'ouvre. When one door closes, another one opens. --Miguel de Cervantès
.
Expressions:
Toc, toc. Qui est là? = Knock, knock. Who's there?
et toc! = so there
il est un peu toc toc, celui-là = he's a little crazy, that one

Toc (noun, masculine) can also mean "trash, junk":
  en toc = fake (gem)
  C'est du toc = It's fake
  Ça fait toc = It looks fake

Download martine.wav

Also, the capital letters 'TOC' stand for "troubles obsessionnels compulsifs" ("obsessive compulsive troubles").
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  Words in a French Life - order it here.
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