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un filleul (fee-yul) noun, masculine
1. godson, godchild
filleule = goddaughter
filleul de guerre = adoptive son (in wartime)
Mon filleul va bientôt partir, ainsi la guerre va devenir plus personnelle pour moi. My godson is going over soon, so the war's about to get personal for me. --Garry Trudeau.
"I love Marseilles. When I was young, I loved to feel the Mistral wind blowing through me. I would stand still and just let it whip through my hair. I can no longer bear the Mistral. But I still love Marseilles." --Mme. Chollet
In the spice-scented salon* of the Chollet's home, I marvel at four generations of French women, one as beautiful as the next. The great-grandmother, with her dark chocolate brown hair and large clip-on earrings, recounted her passion for the windy city. Curiously, her lust for Massalia* skipped a generation, to her granddaughter. Her very own daughter (seated beside her, dressed all in black and looking very Cannoise*) prefers La Côte d'Azur, explaining, "Les Marseillais* are violent like the wind that blows through their city! The wind is mild in Cannes."
I sat facing my friend Corinne, her mother, and grandmother, thinking about how my feelings for a city that I once called home had changed. I didn't always like Marseilles. At one point I despised it. Returning now, as a visitor, I am enchanted by this historical town founded by the Greeks over 2600 years ago.
Earlier, as we motored through the 8th arrondissement, past the Bagatelle (where Jean-Marc and I were first married, but that is another story...) I found myself wondering how, newly arrived, I could not see the charm and beauty of this ancient city. Back then, Marseilles felt like a perpetual attack on this desert rat. (I would not recommend moving from warm, dry Phoenix to cold, windy Marseilles; Chicago to Marseilles, why not, but Phoenix/Marseilles--forget it!)
The cruel wind, the absence of a "user friendly" anything, the aggressive, unsympathetic government employees who threatened to deport me, and the lack of edible tortillas were just a few elements that wrecked havoc on the successful integration of this Phoenician, in a town founded by the Phocaeans.*
But now, 14 years later, I can't help but be caught up in the whirl of this action-packed, passionate, multi-ethnic ville.* Marseilles IS violent. Like its famous Mistral wind, it kicks, pushes, whirls, stomps, spits, and sometimes slams, daring you to cling right back to it, for the ride of your life.
My first child came into this world via Marseilles, kicking and screaming like the wind, which might explain his constant joie de vivre. (My daughter was born in Aix-en-Provence, and is reserved like the Aixois, or citizens of Aix.)
But, returning to our story, and to the Chollet's cozy salon, we were about to celebrate the birthday of a little guy who had just turned two. Matthieu, pronounced "ma-tyeuh," is my husband's filleul* (and the birthday boy in question).
Matthieu's mother, Corinne, had prepared five desserts for the celebration and, knowing what a good cook she is, I got in line illico* to sample the gateau au chocolat,* crumble au poires,* Madeleines, gateau au yaourt* and a brownie...or two.
Next we watched the birthday boy (dressed in a t-shirt that read "J'ai 2 ans!" I'm 2!) boogie and chanter.* And what did he sing? A song about St. Tropez! I take it that passion for Marseilles has just skipped another generation.
References: le salon (m) = the living room; Massalia = Marseilles' original name; une Cannoise = a woman from Cannes; les Marseillais = the people of Marseilles; Phocaeans = inhabitants of an ancient district of central Greece; une ville (f) = a city; un filleul (m) = godson; illico = right away; gâteau au chocolat (m) = chocolate cake; crumble aux poires = pear crumble; gâteau au yaourt (m) = yogurt cake; chanter = to sing
Hear French spoken:
Listen to Jean-Marc recite today's quote: Download filleul2.wav
Mon filleul va bientôt partir, ainsi la guerre va devenir plus personnelle pour moi.
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