These ladies light up my life. Mom and I had an inspiring visit with the Dirt Divas. I wish I had had a tape recorder with me to capture some of the chippy bantering! From left to right: Malou, Jules, Doreen, Kristin. Click to enlarge the photo.

avouer (ah voo ay)

    : to admit

avoue-le! = admit it!

Example sentence: J'avoue que je suis un peu sauvage. I admit that I am a bit unsociable.

The Greater Journey : Americans in Paris

The Greater Journey is the enthralling, inspiring—and until now, untold—story of the adventurous American artists, writers, doctors, politicians, architects, and others of high aspiration who set off for Paris in the years between 1830 and 1900, ambitious to excel in their work. Order The Greater Journey here.


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


I decided not to tell Mom until she got here. Why ruin her trip? Why get her thinking on something, ticking about it, when, instead, she could experience another day or two of peace? Besides, she had 24 hours of travel ahead of her and I wanted that trip to go as smoothly as possible.

And so I waited until she arrived to admit to her that I had broken a promise (that is, I think I had promised? It seemed I had. If my guilty feelings were any indication, then I had surely given Mom ma parole).

When I finally told Mom about the broken promesse, prefacing the avowal with enough of a lead-up that Mom was poised to receive une bombe... I let it drop, my little firecracker: Mom, I am so sorry....

... but I did not get around to having your latest painting framed! It is still rolled up, as you had left it, and I am afraid that it might be damaged, having been stored in that position for this long....

Closely, I studied Jules's face, not being able to stand another instant of guessing what her reaction might be. Suddenly, all the worry lines that had built up during my long lead-in to THE AVOWAL... disappeared.

"Is that it?" Mom questioned. I assured her it was. Only, instead of being disappointed, Mom seemed utterly pleased! Oh, that's nothing!, Jules assured me, falling back onto her pillow in relief.

On the subject of pillows... I notice Mom's head has been resting a lot on her oreiller in the last week... (This brings us to Secret No. 2.... : Mom's Avowal)

By day four or five of Mom's visit, my suspicion is growing.... and by lunch on the 7th day, I have lost my appetite. A lump in my throat, hopelessness rising inside, I look across the picnic table to Mom. Something is just not right. That contagious charisma that shines out from within has been replaced by a dull regard.  

I begin to string together the clues:
She's not brushing her hair...
She's sleeping till noon... 

I suspect Mom's reclusive behavior has to do with her medications... the ones she promised she would bring with her to France this time! My eyes begin to smart. There's that pinching sensation that warns that tears are on the way. When I resist (holding my eyes tight), I feel my very own anxiety ignite... 

That evening I fight the urge to retreat, to lick my own wounds up in the privacy of my room. Instead, I stop by Mom's window in the courtyard. The shutters are open and Mom is seated on the other side, framed by the room's light. She is wearing her brightly colored dressing gown with the glittery sequins. If only the colors in her sunken soul matched her vibrant robe.

I carry a garden chair over to the window and its ledge becomes a table between Mom and me. My question breaks the silence. "How are you feeling?" Having asked THE QUESTION, I brace myself for Mom's avowal.

She admits: "I've been halving my medication..."

The information sinks in. My chippy of a Mom has done it again! Though I feel like screaming, I decide, instead, to try for once to learn from past lessons. I calmly ask Mom to tell me exactly how many pills remain. Mom produces two packets, two different medications. She pulls out the sheets of tablets and begins counting. "Well... if I cut them in half, then..."

"No half doses!" I remind Mom. "Now, tell me, how many days do you have left?" I hear the macabre irony as the question rings in my ear, for, without medication, Mom is not truly living: she is suspended, in time, like a deer frozen before headlights.

Mom explains that she was not able to get four weeks' worth of her medication, and I am reminded of the shoddy situation of health care elsewhere. Not everyone has the privilege of walking into their pharmacy and leaving with enough medications to meet their needs. 

My heart goes out to my mother and to her husband, who tries hard to meet all of her needs. Only, this time, it was an impossibility.

I learn about how he has saved coupons in order to be able to stock up on the supply of medications that Mom would need for this trip. Only, they were a week short of being able to benefit from the 2-for-1 offer... and so Mom left with "almost enough medication". Because the idea of traveling all the way back to Mexico, having just gone off her meds, frightened her, she began dividing for the future!

Mom tells me that the secret she's been keeping has only aggravated her symptoms.  "But, Mom!, you should have told me, immediately! Transparency!," I remind her, "is the key to peaceful living."

As soon as I've preached my latest sermon, I am struck by the absurdity of my cloudy philosophy (I remember my own secret...). From now on, I might do well to practice transparency before illuminating others on the virtues that lead one to peace. 


Post note: so I made Mom a deal: why not make it our goal to accomplish two monumental-to-us tasks: to get the painting framed and to get to the doctor! 

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Related story: This isn't the first time our mother-daughter relationship was put to the test. Once, I locked Mom out of the house (I don't think I've written about that one...!!!) and another time, two years ago, Mom came to France without her anxiety medication. We had to live through a trying power outage, which only added to the moodiness (click here)!

French Vocabulary

chippy = (adj = rascally; noun = rascal)

ma parole = my word

la promesse = promise

une bombe = bomb

un oreiller = pillow

la robe = dress 



"The Courage to Face Another Day". A trompe-l'oeil in the village of St Roman de Malegarde.

Shop like the French!

Capture plein écran 12052011 095657Shopping trolleys--seen everywhere in France--are practical, attractive, and a good way to spare a tree or to avoid using yet another disposable plastic sack! Check out the range of colors, here, click Shopping trolleys (or click on one of the trolleys here)

Capture plein écran 12052011 095757 Stripped trolley

  Doreen mom

"Missing Malou". Kristin with Doreen and Mom. (Photo by Malou)

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety