Without a modicum of foi, life can be a three-ring circus.



noun, feminine



My daughter says that books are like cigarettes, une mauvaise habitude, and would I please put the reading aside for one night?

"Of course, Sweetheart," I promise, returning the book to its shelf. Is that a tremble in my arm? Sweat on my brow?

"And the cahiers and the pens—put them away too!" Jackie insists.

My head starts to pound and the twitching begins. I leave my hard- and soft-bound drugs, feeling the first symptoms of withdrawal as I walk away from words. I tell my daughter that I got the habit from her Mexican grandmother, Wholia, and that one day she'll need a paper-and-pen fix too. It runs in the family like flat hair and latent fury.

I don't tell my daughter that her Mexican grandmother, Jules, is really American, but leave it as Jackie's told it time and again. It is her story and not mine, and she gets that storytelling gene from Wholia, or Julia—make that "Jules".

At the dinner table, Jackie asks, "Why does Grandma Jules dress up for dinner?"

I sit there in my felt slippers and pajamas, thinking up an answer.
"Because people like to look at pretty things when they eat, and don't we love looking at Grandma Jules?" My daughter agrees.

When Jackie says, "Let's do like Grandma Jules!" I prepare to get up, walk to the powder room, and put on some lipstick. Instead, my daughter reaches for my hand, closes her eyes and says:

"Dear Lord, thank you for this food."

It is no thanks to me, nose deep in a book, fingers curled around another cartouche, that my daughter learned to pray. But tonight we'll take Wholia's example, and hope that, like fury and fine hair, faith runs in this family—if not always in stride.

Thank you for pointing out any typos or "grammar worries" in this story. Click here to submit edits or to comment 

French Vocabulary

une mauvaise habitude = a bad habit
le cahier = notebook
une cartouche = (ink) cartridge (refill for pens)

:: Audio File ::
Listen to my daughter, Jackie, read today's quote:

Terms & Expressions:
  digne de foi = reliable, trustworthy (witness)
  être de bonne foi = to be sincere, honest
  la mauvaise foi = dishonesty
  avoir la foi = to have faith
  perdre la foi = to lose one's faith
  sans foi ni loi = to fear neither God nor man
  avoir la foi du charbonnier = "to have a coalman's faith" (simple faith)
  avec les yeux de la foi = "with eyes of faith" = to believe sight unseen

If you enjoy French Word-A-Day, please take a moment to learn how you can support it. Thank you!

Hear the following story:

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!