"Gateaux Basques" (Summer 2008): on the west coast of France, not far from Bayonne, in the hills of Briscous.

un sourire
(soo-reer) noun, masculine
    : a smile

Rides, des sourires gravés.
Wrinkles are engraved smiles.
--Jules Renard

Hear today's word and the above quote, in French (compliments of Son Max): Download sourire.wav .  Download sourire.mp3

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Thanks to Laura Ingalls Wilder,* the kids and I are working on a new habit: le sourire.*

We began watching the televised series, "La Petite Maison dans La Prairie,"* over summer vacation--after the DVD box set was given to my daughter. Since, the whole family has benefited from the gift.

Mesmerized by the daily dramas--and the Ingall's family's habit of rolling up their sleeves in the face of adversity--we hardly noticed that some of the old-fashioned family values were rubbing off on us.

One episode in particular has changed our daily routine. In yet another tear-jerking scene, Laura is paying tribute to her mother, whose smile is the first thing she sees in the morning, and the last thing she sees before closing her eyes at night. Indeed, Laura's mother, Caroline, whether about to be scalped by the natives--or on the verge of being burned alive (while, bucket by bucket, she tries to put out the flames that threaten to destroy her family's cabin), yes "Sainte Caroline" always manages a smile before putting out the candle's light each night.

"Elle est trop parfaite!" I often lamented, in a mock complaint as we finished watching yet another happy ending. "Well, you can try to be more like Laura's maman,*" my daughter offered, of Perfect Mother Caroline. Feathers ruffled, I pointed out how Caroline's daughters, Laura and Mary, were just as good role models for a couple of other rug rats that I knew personally. The kids giggled and I looked back to the screen, lost in thought. True, something about the Ingall's façon de vivre* resonated, and soon my family and I found ourselves trying to be good, or at least better.

We started simply, with The Smile. Soon a new habitude* was instilled in our daily routine: "Le Sourire Matinal"* and "Le Sourire du Soir".* Lately, no matter what mood is coloring the moment, we freeze in our tracks in time to paint a sensational smile across our faces. And I do mean sensational, for once
the smile is "put on," we can't help but feel better.

When I slide, sourire-wise, the kids are good at reminding me of our goal.
"Mom!" they'll say, as I peck them on the cheek at night, adding "Did you brush your teeth?" and "You'll have to straighten up this room first thing tomorrow morning!" and "A wet towel? Is that a WET TOWEL on the floor? Where do wet towels belong? That's right: In the bathroom--on a hook!"

"Mom!" they'll interrupt, and I snap back to my senses--my "smile senses". Soon, a toothy smile is flashing across all of our faces, and exaggeratedly so. Life's cares fade quickly into the background as a cloud of consciousness overcomes us: We are Toothy Smile. We are Grin. We are, however fleetingly, happy again.

And no matter how ruffled my feathers get each time "Sainte Caroline" impresses my kids, I have to give her credit for keeping her hair on when those Indians came calling. That's proof right there that a smile can be disarming.


Laura Ingalls Wilder = pioneer woman, writer; le sourire (m) = smile; La Petite Maison dans La Prairie = Little House on the Prairie; la maman (f) = mom; la façon (f) de vivre = way of life; une habitude (f) = habit; le sourire (m) matinal = the morning smile; le sourire (m) du soir = the evening smile

Little House on the Prairie - The Complete Season 1

A cremerie--and a lazy employee--near Biarritz.

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