AKA: la grippe Mexicaine
Swine Flu Debate
In today's debate: la grippe porcine. Please chime in and tell us how you feel the news coverage on this topic (Is it excessive?) and its effect on you. Are you nervous or fearful about the Swine Flu, or what the French call "la grippe Mexicaine"? Or do you think, as one French woman recently confided to me, that topics like this just drive our attention away from other hot-button issues, such as the economy, unemployment... war? Did you see the French comedian's skit "Une Petite Grippe de Tafiole"?* I look forward to reading your thoughts, in the comments box. Meantime, I'm off to help Mom pack for her return trip to Mexico...
A Day in a French Life...
by Kristin Espinasse
I am happy to see Mom ironing her pink poncho.
"You going to get dressed up?" I ask Jules.
"Oh... Well, would you like to wear these sandals?" I offer.
"No. I'm going to wear my tennis shoes."
"Ah... Did you need to use my hairdryer?" I question.
"No," Mom answers. "I'm just going to throw a blanket over my head!"
Obviously Mom is in some kind of mood and I intend to shake her out of it.
"Mom! You never know who you might meet on the plane!" I point out, trying to cheer her up before she leaves for the airport. Jules is returning home, after a two-month absence. Though this should be an exciting time for her (reuniting with Breezy The Dog, her cats, and husband, John...), I notice that she is dragging. She wore house slippers to town the other day, and she's not putting on her make-up, as she does.
Her before-departure blues have nothing to do with the news (where Swine Flu in the City is a sexy media topic), and it isn't that she is sad to leave France... No, Mom's lethargy is the result of feeling paralyzed by fearful thoughts.
To be clear, it isn't the swine flu that scares Mom, it is the Mexican economy and how this will affect her adored amigos, her beloved Mexico. The restaurants have closed, as have many of the shops, and her husband has been sent home from work.
"I told him to stock up on rice and beans..." Mom mumbles and I can just see her train of tick-tick-ticking thinking. I tell Mom that I can relate to her obsessive, fearful thoughts. I, too, tend to latch on to a train of fearful, negative thinking, and don't know how or when to just let go. Besides, even when I let go, a different, equally defeating thought rushes in, only to replace the former one.
Mom and I sit there, each consumed with concern, until the quiet in the room attracts our attention. That's when Mom looks over at me and her face brightens until she's got that pull-herself-up-by-her bootstraps look in her eyes. Speaking of boots, Mom no longer wears spurs on hers, but gets by these days with a spike in her spirit. That spirit is now shining through her pupils and I can sense a lesson coming on.
"Do you know the story about the farmer?" Mom begins.
"Which one's that?" I ask, glad for the distraction.
"The farmer who is sitting quietly in his kitchen, when a dozen pigs rush in, through the open door, creating mayhem. The china cabinets shake, the jam jars come crashing down, the wife screams, and the mug of coffee that the farmer had been enjoying falls off the table, scatters. The room is full of chaos!
(It takes me a moment to realize that Mom's story is a parable: the pigs represent thoughts, whether fearful, angry, or unruly.)
"When the pigs begin to overwhelm him," Mom continues, "the farmer gets up and chases them out of the kitchen, latches the door. Only, now, he is sitting in an empty room."
Sitting in an empty room seems fine to me, I reason... but before I can argue with that, Mom sums up her story:
"It is not enough to chase the pigs out. You have to fill that empty (vulnerable) space, replace the pigs with something else!"
Mom's story ends here, and she looks over at me with a knowing glance--only, I don't know what she's talking about. I begin to wonder whether Mom's forgotten something, left a certain point principal out of this parable. I mean, replace the unruly pigs with what? Flowers? Chickens, maybe? Cancan dancers (a nice distraction if not a change from that nagging wife)?
"I can't wait to get home!" Mom announces, and she's already off, to put that parable-lesson into practice.
"Do you have any shampoo?" Mom inquires. "Oh, and where's that hairdryer? I've got so many people to see when I get home!" I guess Jules is not going to wear that blanket on her head after all... Looks as though she has replaced those fearful "pig" thoughts with positive ones.
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety