Lazy days at a beach in Cavalière, along the Blue Coast.



noun, feminine

laziness, idleness ; sloth


By the time my aunt and uncle from San Francisco arrived for a three-day visit, my home, my yard, my kids, my spouse, my dog and I, all in our Sunday best, were as put together as a family of paper dolls. All I needed to do for the next 72 hours was keep our cut-out cover-ups from blowing off: keep the kids from wiping their mouths with the backs of their hands, keep my husband from leaving the bathroom door open (while he occupied it!), keep the puppy from having indigestion and keep myself from feeling the need to explain the greasy fingerprints on the wall and the still-needs-fixin' front gate. It isn't often that I see my American family, so when they come to France I can't help but want them to believe that I've finally "arrived"... when the truth is I'm still zigzagging along Le Grand Chemin de la Vie.

Not 24 hours into last week's masquerade, my paper-thin façade was literally falling off. It began with that monster spot in the back of my car....

A little while back, one of our kids knocked over a bottle of water, soaking the back seat of our Citroën. When a large water stain appeared, I saturated the tache with spot cleaner, only, when I went to remove the powder, the vacuum cleaner's motor went kaput. The spot, now larger and darker than before, remained. A few more weeks passed... and the tea-colored powder hardened!

The growing and darkening spot represented one great weakness: la paresse. That's right, SLOTH, or "the disinclination to work or exert oneself", a label I've been trying to tear off my person since whiling away many a childhood day in front of I Love Lucy or The Bionic Woman or Pippi Longstocking (while my funny, strong, and adventurous sister, Heidi, did the dishes).

But back to that monstrous tache. On the very first day of my family's visit, the spot was spotted! It happened when my uncle volunteered to take the back seat after I proposed a scenic drive. Noticing the blanket that covered the siège arrière, my curious uncle instinctively tugged at it, instantly revealing The Mutant Monster Tacheand all of my flaws along with it!

"You weren't supposed to see that!" I cried, blowing my own cover. "Everything was supposed to be perfect!"

My uncle was taken aback, either by the spot... or by my confession. After a moment, and in his best French and softest voice, he offered, "Personne n'est parfaite."

After our excursion, by the time I had returned the car keys to the armoire à clés, my uncle had unbolted the back seat, pulled the entire siège unit out of the car, and hosed down its surface. After ten minutes and a little liquid laundry detergent and a scrub brush, the spot was completely gone! "Ce n'était rien." It was nothing, my uncle said.

Two days later I said goodbye to my aunt and uncle. It was while polishing the bathroom mirror that I noticed the apple spice lipstick stain on my cheek. "Stay the way you are," my aunt had said, planting the kiss. "Don't ever change."

True to character, I was a bit slack about removing that lipstick stain, and my aunt's apple spice kiss stayed on my cheek until it eventually wore itself off.

French Vocabulary

Le Grand Chemin de la Vie = Life's Great Path

la tache = stain, spot

Personne n'est parfaite = Nobody's perfect

une armoire à clés = key box

le siège = seat

Your edits here, please.
Did you spot any errors in text or in formatting?  Any words missing from the vocab list? Thank you for submitting any edits here, in the comments box


Related Stories

The Sugar Snatchers: my law-abiding aunt and I become partners in crime. Read the story.


Apparently a lot of artists and writers shun la paresse:

  Le travail pense, la paresse songe.
Work thinks, sloth dreams. --Jules Renard

  La bêtise, c'est de la paresse.
Stupidity is laziness. --Jacques Brel

  Pas de chef-d'oeuvre dans la paresse!
No masterpiece was ever created by a lazy artist! --Salvador Dali

French Pronunciation:
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce this French quote:
  Seule la paresse fatigue le cerveau.
  Only laziness tires the brain. --Louis Pauwels Download paresse.wav

Related Terms & Expressions:
  paresser (verb) = to laze about
  par pur paresse = out of sheer laziness
  paresse d'esprit = sluggishness of mind

In books:
Matisse Chasing Matisse: A Year in France Living My Dream

Crossword Webster's English to French Crossword Puzzles: Level 2

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I'm like you, trying to make everything picture perfect when relatives are coming and then I fumble. Mon mari me dit toujours de ne pas m'en faire des cheveux blancs. Mais je ne peux pas me changer. Je stresse...un peu trop :0(
And again, here, I see my husband in your uncle. What a nice man!

Marianne Rankin

I was glad to read this, as I'd missed it back in 2006 - that was about the time I found out about FWAD and signed up for it.

Your uncle is a cool guy!

I try to have everything as close to perfect as possible when people come to see me. However, I've learned to appreciate the following quotation; I don't know where it came from.

"If you are coming to see us, come any time. If you are coming to see the house, give me some notice."!!

Charles Orr in Flat Rock, NC

Another good story! I especially like the "paper doll" imagery.

I don't think that "vacuum-cleaner" needs a hyphen; also, the word "motor" sounds more appropriate to me for a small appliance than "engine".

In the sentence "Not 24 hours into last week's masquerade and my paper-thin façade was literally falling off.", I would suggest dropping the "and" and adding a comma after "masquerade". (It's the same structure as, e.g., "Two days later,").

I also think that adding a comma after "SLOTH" would be helpful.


Good glimpse!

Kristin Espinasse

Wonderful! Thanks, Charles!

Marijcke Jongbloed

in the third but last paragraph: 'we having returned from our excursion' seems awkward to me. why not just say 'after returning from our excursion'...
other than that - three nice stories today!

edith schmidt


"we having returned from our excusion" do you need the "we"? I liked the bit about the lipstick!

Edie from Savannah

Kristin Espinasse

Hi Marijcke, That we jolted me, too. Im blaming this addition (evil smiles) on Behind the Scenes, Bill, my rock star volunteer editor, who was looking for clarity (or grammar correctness) there. Im taking it out, but--shhh!---dont tell Bill! 

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Edie. Just saw your comment. Now Im double-glad I removed the we.

Sharon Marchisello

I don't think you need "myself" after "I" in the first paragraph.
This sentence sounds a little awkward:
"By the time I returned the car keys to the armoire à clés, having returned from our excursion, my uncle had unbolted the back seat, pulled the entire siège unit out of the car and was hosing down its surface."
How about:
"After our excursion, by the time I had returned the car keys to the armoire à clés, my uncle had unbolted the back seat, pulled the entire siège unit out of the car and was hosing down its surface."

Betty Gleason with blue pencil in hand

Brings tears every time I read it. Perfect!

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you Betty and, Sharon, I need to get those edits in.

Also, anyone who may be reading: HELP! I dont like the part about the puppy passing gas (although it is the absolute truth... and so I wrote it that way!) can anyone think of a more dignified way to put this? This story is a gift to my family, and I think that bit about indigestion (hey, maybe thats the word Im looking for!) is more than I want to give them!



I read all 3 stories. I loved them. Your writing has heart Kristin. I can visualize every situation, and can feel your love, empathy and passion for your family & home.

I agree with one correction: I & myself is a bit awkward. What about just "I"?

Good luck -- I love reading your stories!

Mary Rack

"keep the puppy from having an accident"

"keep the puppy out of trouble" ????

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Faye! 

Mary, I enjoyed your suggestions--thinking about them now...

Olga Brown

I love the story.
I also have the similar problem with my car seat. You gave me a great idea how to solve it.
I have just one question: in paragraph #9 is it the best way to say "my aunt and my uncle" or "my aunt and uncle"? Maybe I am not correct, but the first one sounds more French than English to me.



I agree with Olga, no need for the second 'my'. 'My aunt and uncle' keeps them together as a unit rather than separating them with the two 'my's.
Kristen, they are all lovely stories. I am enjoying reading the new ones and re-reading the ones I haven't seen before.

Cynthia Lewis

Maybe you could write something like: keeping the puppy from a faux pas...and leave the rest to the imagination. Once again, thanks for your touching stories.

Bettye Dew

Great story. I like the repetition of "keep" in 1st paragraph. Keep the puppy from perfuming us with tummy gas? Keep the puppy from gassy explusions? Anyway, better to say: keep MYSELF from feeling the need to ... (sense: I needed to ...keep myself from).
The repetition of "returned" in paragraph is clunky. You can fix that.

Maybe you have too many ellipses. For sure, I'd use a comma after siege arriere, rather than the ellipsis.

Bettye Dew

Sorry. I should proofread myself better. The repetition of "returned" is in paragraph 8.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you Bettye, Jan, Cynthia, and Olga! I hope the piece is reading smoothly now.... I am excited to transfer it to the book template.

Kristin Espinasse

Sharon, Just saw your note. You are right: it is confusing. Thanks for the example you sent; Ill change the sentences order....

Bruce T. Paddock

Good afternoon, Kristin –

I hope I’m not too late with these. You’re moving much faster than I am.

I can’t find “paperdoll” as one word in any of my dictionaries.

It’s kind of a mixed metaphor — I mean simile — because paper dolls don’t get dressed up on Sundays. How about something like, “…my dog and I, all in our Sunday best, were as put together as a family of paper dolls.”

In the next sentence, I don’t think the second “to” is necessary: “…next 72 hours was keep our….” (plus, then it matches “…keep the kids…keep my husband… ” etc.)

When I read “keep the puppy from having indigestion,” I assumed you meant vomiting, not … uhh … something from the other end. But that’s OK, it gets the idea across, if not the specifics.

In paragraph 3, you say “backseat.” Everywhere else, you say “back seat,” which makes more sense to me. (I often see it as one word, but I never see “frontseat,” so I don’t understand why “backseat” is so accepted.)

“Citroën” doesn’t need to be italicized — they’re sold here in English, too.

Miss Longstocking’s name is spelled “Pippi.”

I’m not clear on why “funny,” “strong,” and “adventurous” are italicized.

The day of your family’s arrival is just one day. You can say “On the very day of my family's arrival…” or “On the very first day of my family's visit….”

Consider “It happened” instead of “this happened.”

People are usually taken aback by something, not from something.

Consider dropping the comma between “his best French” and “and softest voice.”

How cool that your American uncle spoke to his American niece in French! Both of the sentences you quote from him are negatives, and neither contain “pas.” Admittedly, though, I’m real unclear on when “pas” in not used. And now that I think about it, if his French was technically incorrect, you should probably leave it as he said it.

In the next paragraph, there’s a parallel-construction issue: “had” applies to “unbolted” and “pulled,” but not to “was hosing.”
How about “…my uncle had unbolted the back seat and pulled the entire siège unit out of the car, and was hosing down its surface.”
Or same as above, except “…and now was hosing….”
Or same as above, except “…and was now hosing….”

The next sentence has a dangling modifier, given that your uncle was helped by the detergent and brush, but the spot is the subject of the sentence. Possible fixes include:
“Not ten minutes later, after the use of a little liquid laundry detergent and a scrub brush,…”
“After ten minutes and a little liquid laundry detergent and a scrub brush,…”

“Assuring me” is unnecessary — we know that his “It was nothing” was intended to reassure you, and we can assume it worked.

Yeah, I misted up at the end there. Nice job.

Kristin Espinasse

Ouf! Thanks, Bruce! What would I do without you ;-)

Nancy Rial

I'd rather have the first sentence read ..."arrived from SF for a 3 day visit"...
Third paragraph:..."only to have the vacuum cleaner go kaput when I tried to snap up the powder."
"After our excursion, by the time I put away the keys" is a little awkward to me but cannot come up with an alternative.
Liked the ending a lot.
You are making progress!
(as an aside- read the story about the showering neighbor- I don't shower outside, but do throw all my kitchen water out onto the garden all summer!)

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