siege auto

Menerbes Window (c) Kristin Espinasse
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siège-auto (see ezh oh toh) noun, masculine

    : car seat

Audio File: Listen to 13-year-old Jackie pronounce the words, below 
Download MP3 or WAV

Le siège-auto est obligatoire pour un enfant qui voyage en voiture.
The car seat is obligatory for a child who travels in a car.


A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

Mama Bear

I couldn't tell you what the weather was like, whether the sky was black or blue or bursting with sunlight. If the muguet vendors were out, standing on every floral curb and corner, I didn't see them, and yet it was the season. The only thing I could perceive was the fragile being in front of me.

The newborn in my arms was not yet a week old and it was time to take him home. "Home" was a former one-room cottage in the perched "village" of le Rocas Blanc (otherwise known as Marseilles' 7th arrondissement). With the new room extension—Jean-Marc had had the cellier converted—we were ready to live as a family of three!

Now if only we could get from la maternité to our little nest for three. Currently, we were faced with one big problem: no car seat for our newborn. We had thought of everything else, having ticked off the lengthy list that the maternity ward furnished. But nobody said anything about a siège-auto!

"But we can't leave!" 
"Pourquoi pas?" the nurses questioned.
"How are we going to transport the baby?"

The nurses pointed out what was to them the obvious: that my husband was here to drive us home

"But we don't have a car seat!"
"You will hold your baby in your arms!" one of the nurses instructed.

When I disagreed, the nurses looked at each other, suspiciously.
"Perhaps you are not ready to go home yet?" they suggested. 

I stared at the newborn in my arms, the helpless being that they were sending out into the world, without a seatbelt; if only he had his say! 

I overheard the nurses whispering to my husband.
"Il s'agit de 'baby blues'. Votre femme est dépressive. Il vaut mieux la garder ici...."

"Je vais bien!" I corrected them. A creepy feeling came over me: what was next... a visit from the psy?
"You just need some rest," one of the nurses decided.
"I just need a car seat!" I insisted.

"She is not ready to go home," the nurses concluded, looking past me to my "guardian".

Jean-Marc reacted quickly, with a solution.
"May we borrow this bed?" he asked, pointing to the tiny crib that our newborn son had slept in. The upper unit was detachable...
I shook my head. The bed didn't have a seatbelt!"
Jean-Marc promised to secure it, not to worry.  


I made Jean-Marc drive at a snail's pace, which only accentuated the terrifying traffic around us. We might have been in a war zone, ditching snares and sniper fire all the way home. Everything outside of our little car was greatly threatening... to a mother and her offspring. Every intersection insinuated injury. How would we ever make it home safe and soundly?

I sat shaking in the back seat, the landau beside me. Jean-Marc had rigged us in, baby and maternity ward escapée, safely. 

"Don't worry. We are almost home," he assured me. "Everything will be okay." And, after all, it was.

Postnote: Our son Max was born on May 17, 1995. Today's missive was a nostalgic "looking back". 

:: Le Coin Commentaires ::
Corrections, comments, or stories of your own are welcome in the comments box

More stories about adjusting to France and French life in my book "Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language". Makes a great gift! Excerpt:

When I was in college, I sold lingerie at Dillard's department store in Phoenix, Arizona. It was a summer job and I was saving for an upcoming exchange program in Lille, France... order the book, here.

French Vocabulary

le muguet = lily of the valley flower

le Roucas Blanc
= "The White Rock"

= district

le cellier
= storeroom 

la maternité
= maternity clinic or hospital 

pourquoi pas?
= why not?

le siège-auto
= car seat 

Il s'agit de 'baby blues'. Votre femme est dépressive. Il vaut mieux la garder ici... = It's called "the baby blues". Your wife is depressed. It is best to keep her here...

le psy (pronounced "see") = short (slang) for psychiatrist

je vais bien
= I am fine 

le landau
= pram, baby carriage 


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Smokey-Doo, might this be you? (or one of your five sisters?)

With Mama Bear Braise, summer 2009.

With dogs
Braise, left, with friends Dean and Kathleen. Mr Smokey Bear is on the right.

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