Heading down the couloir, I hear a low hum coming from my daughter's room. Peering around the door, I find Jackie sitting on the floor, one leg extended, the other bent with the knee up. Her arms encircle the bent leg with its scraped genou and her fingers are caught in her shoelaces. With a sigh, she frees her hands from the tangle, only to pick the laces up again before repeating this mantra:
Pour faire un noeud
Je fais une boucle
Je tourne autour
Je passe par le petit trou
et je tire...
To make a bow
I fashion a loop
I circle around it
I pass through the little hole
Jackie brushes a lock of hair away from her face and begins again. As my eight-year-old repeats the chant, I can just imagine the pressure she must be under. Earlier, her brother had warned her that if she couldn't tie her shoes by the time she was twelve, she would be la honte of middle school.
I think about my disservice to my daughter in opting for all those Mary Janes and tennis shoes with the Velcro closures. What was a helpful shortcut for a busy mother is now an honteux obstacle for her daughter.
Hands now clasped in supplication, I stand quietly by the door listening to a few more shoelaces-tying attempts:
Pour faire un noeud...
To make a bow...
I watch, front teeth pressing into lower lip, until the last line of the mantra changes:
...and there I have it!
With a sigh of relief, I slip away unnoticed and carry on down the hall, my heart swelling. That's my girl!
le couloir = hallway, corridor
le genou = knee
la honte = the shame
honteux (honteuse) = disgraceful
Listen: Hear my son Max pronounce the word "noeud": Download noeud2.wav
Hear Jackie say "un noeud de chaussure" (a bow): Download noeud_de_chaussure_2.wav
Also: le noeud papillon = bow tie; le noeud coulant = slipknot
une tête de noeud = an idiot
avoir un noeud dans la gorge = to have a lump in one's throat
un sac de noeuds (sack of knots) = something very difficult
faire un noeud à ses lacets = to knot one's (shoe) laces
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