zone de confort

cheveux blancs

Our son, Maxime, examines some weight-lifting equipment on his birthday. Notice the patch, just above his ear (read on, in today's story...). Never miss a word of photo: get French Word-A-Day delivered by email, here

les cheveux blancs (lay sheh veuh blahn)

    : white hair


le cheveu gris = gray hair
les cheveux poivre et sel = salt-and-pepper hair

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words: Download MP3 or Wav file

A seize ans, notre fils, Maxime, a déjà quelques cheveux blancs!
At sixteen, our son, Max, already has a few gray hairs! 

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

Sage at Sixteen

Well, Mr. Max, you turned 16 yesterday! And, mon pauvre fils, we spent the landmark occasion doing errands, or les courses, but you did not complain.

Having picked you up from collège, we headed over to Orange, for your appointment chez l'orthodontiste. From time to time, as I drove, I would look over at you, Max, as you sat there in the passenger's seat, earplugs in, listening to your favorite song, Mocking Bird. A cloud of calmness settled over you and I had to ask, a few times, "Est-ce que ça va?" You assured me it was.

Now and then, my eyes fixed on that patch, over your left ear. I'll never forget when, earlier this week as you sat in the coiffeuse's chair, the hairdresser shut off the electric shaver and announced, Votre fils a des cheveux blancs!

Unbelieving, I got up out of my chair and went to see the very same: a patch, no bigger than the tip of an eraser, of white hair! 

You were pretty cool about that, too, taking the information in stride, just as you are taking this afternoon of errands with the same calm and collectedness.

When we pull into the grocery store drive-through, to collect our commande, you ask whether it's too late to buy a can of sirop de menthe....

But when I try to amend our order, the machine balks. After several attempts to add the sirop de menthe to our virtual cart, I dissolve into a mist of exasperation. My forefinger punches the menu screen until I finally give up.

That is when, Mon Fils, you quietly exit the car, come around to my side of the vehicle, and say in a soft voice: "I'm going to try to figure it out, Mom."


You may have received a few cadeaux on your birthday, but I wonder whether you are aware of the gift of peace and serenity that you have clearly shown me, this week? Your newly-won patience was again evident in the car ride, at the grocer's and, later, at the sports-goods store, where we would try out a gamme of weight-lifting equipment, only to leave the shop empty-handed when all of those "promotions" added up, costing your mother a lot of confusion. I needed time to figure things out--to decide just which set of barbells, which bench press, which curl bar... would be best for a growing boy. When I broke the news to you, I braced myself for your disappointment. Instead, you responded with a tender smile, and that serene gleam in your eye. "T'inquiète pas, Maman. Je peux attendre."

Last night at the dinner table, after blowing out your birthday candles, you told Grandma Jules and me that you have had a very long life, that it feels as though you had been around forever - and not a mere 16 years.

As I listen to your wondrous thoughts, my eyes return to that patch of gray, just above your ear. Though I don't understand the metaphysics of time and space, of one thing I am certain: in my hopes, in my prayers, in my wishes and in my far-flung dreams... forever, my dear son, you have been with me.


Smokey and Braise (c) Kristin Espinasse
Smokey (left) and Momma Braise illustrate that tender, mysterious, and sacred Mother-Son bond. (Photo taken in 2009, when Smokey was a wee whippersnapper.)

Le Coin Commentaires

Corrections, comments, or stories of your own are welcome here, in the comments box. 

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French Vocabulary

 sage = wise

mon pauvre fils = my poor son

Orange = a city in the Vaucluse

est-ce que ça va = is everything OK?

la coiffeuse = hairdresser

Votre fils a des cheveux blancs! = Your son has some white hair!

le cadeau = present

la commande = order

le sirop de menthe = mint syrup

mon fils = my son

la gamme = the (product) range

(ne) t'inquiète pas, Maman. Je peux attendre = don't worry, Mom. I can wait

le cadeau = gift, present

And how about a Reverse dictionary for some of the English terms?:

now and then = de temps en temps

a patch (of white hair) = une tache

to take something in stride = accepter quelque chose sans sourciller

empty-handed = les mains vides

une bougie = candle

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We had to round up some candles... (1 = 10... +1 x 6!) (left to right: Kristin, Jackie, Max)

Max, I love your smile, I love your engaging sense of humor, I love that twinkle in your eye, that faith that says "I will try". I think you are cool (I think you're a geek), I think you are intense, I think you are very, so very sweet. Enigmatic, charismatic, diplomatic... are just a few words to describe you, Mr. Moose (from "Maximousse", not his name, but a term of endearment all the same). The two photos, above, are by Jean-Marc. The one below Jackie took.

Kristin and Jean-Marc (c) Jackie Espinasse
Max, you have brought so much joy to our lives. Your mom and dad thank you (and your sister, too, though she won't admit her appreciation just yet!).

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Beautiful Kristin - your writing touches the heart!


You are such a beautiful family in more ways than one.....thank you for sharing and I hope to meet you soon, Molly and Ralph are quite keen to meet Smokey and Braise, they are granny and grandson, but have an equally loving relationship.......

Sandy maberly

It's more than just luck. Il a été bien élevé, ton fils! I know that you and JM are so proud of Max. My heart shares in your joy!

Ma from Brasil

Max, wishing for you all the very best!!!May you have many more returns!Have fun on 16!Big brazilian hugs =)


Thank you so much for this wonderful post. You have put into words the tender feelings a mother has for her son. Happy Birthday to Max!
Thank you for sharing these heartwarming photos!

Karen Whitcome

It doesn't take much to get the tears flowing when it comes to this topic. But the combination of reading your beautifully written sentiments as they recount your seemingly typical day of errands with Max somehow makes it all even more poignant. Maybe because these days are so precious.

My son will turn 16 in 2 weeks. He's driving now (I still must be in the car with him) but we are spending A LOT of time together because of this. He is and will now always be my 6 ft. little boy who can (since he was a baby) still my soul and fill my heart like no one else.

Happy birthday Max.
Thanks, Kristin.

Eileen deCamp

Beautiful Kristin!


Thank you for sharing your love. Sending many blessing for a wonderful 16th year. Mary


It is raining on my face, too. This was expressed so well. Congratulations on putting mother's love, an infinite emotion, into words. :)
I noticed you wrote in English on Max's gift wrapping. Do both of your kids speak English pretty fluently, too?

Tom from Detroit

Kristen, your masterful expression of maternal affection creates a bittersweet longing in my heart on behalf of my own seventeen year-old son. His mother died when he was 10 and in spite of my best efforts, a father's love can never replace that of a mother. Max is indeed blessed; you are a willing tool in God's hand, modeling and teaching grace to your progeny. Thank you.


Beautiful post and beautiful family! What a wonderful tribute to your son. Those are words he will certainly always treasure. Belated happy birthday to Max! :-)

Amber, Peoria IL

Happy birthday to Max! What a handsome young man! Today's writing was so beautiful, just like your family!


Kristin, thank you for sharing this today. Having raised two daughters I was rather clueless when my grandsons came along, but now I understand. They have stolen my heart. Bon Anniversaire cher Max.

lou bogue



Bravo for the cheerful photos!
The 'happy parents', and 'Mum with children' encapsulate that extreme feeling of joy in the very happy Espinasse family. Wonderful!

Whatever happens in the future, your Mum's words on your 16th birthday, will stay with you forever and will always be a great source of happiness, strength and thankfulness.

you span your feelings into a rich golden thread, shining with Mother's Love, warmth and tenderness...
A pleasure to share your song of joy and appreciation on that beautiful day!

Now, on a witty note:
When I read the title "cheveux blancs", I immediately thought Jules's hair is not white yet, so, maybe something happened, maybe Kristin wanted to introduce the expression:
--> "se faire des cheveux blancs"
= to get worried
Ok, I quickly understood Max recently developed a little patch of 'white hair'. It's only a tiny patch, so yes, you can say "des" / "quelques" cheveux blancs, ... "une petite tache blanche", "une tache de cheveux blancs"...
but not - not yet -
-> "les" cheveux blancs (which would imply all his hair...)
If not cut short, it would become a noticeable "mèche blanche".

Mille mercis for this newsletter!
PS: birthday cake ---> "le savarin" looks soooo "miam-miam"...

Ophelia in Nashville

Kristin -- What a touching and very special tribute to your son and what beautiful photos of all of you. Max sounds like an "old soul"..... As the mother of two now grown sons, I teared up tout de suite. It only gets better.

A belated happy birthday to you both.

Suzanne, Monroe Twp., NJ

It seems we have watched Max grow up and mature on these pages. He is indeed wise for his age ... a true gift.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you for these very kind wishes!

Karen, courage to you as you sit in the passenger's seat of your "6ft tall little boy"!

Anita, both Jackie and Max speak English fluently. They make mistakes - but we have an agreement to correct each other !

Tom, so touched by your note about your son. I am sure that your love stretches as wide as angel wings!

Newforest, thank you for the expression "se faire des cheveux blancs" and for the explanation in which we understand the difference betwee "les cheveux blancs" and "des cheveux blancs" (I had been wondering about that...). Off to fix the French. P.S.: the cake was yummy (you guessed right "le savarin": it is a chocolate and banana cake, this time (using the standard Yogurt Cake recipe!)

Standard Yogurt Cake recipe (I need to post this one again soon... meantime, if anyone would like to share their version of the famous French yogurt cake or "gâteau yaourt" - thanks for posting it here!)

Gail Jolley

I am not a mother (except for my dogs), but what you wrote was indeed very touching and brought tears to my eyes. How blessed you are with your wonderful children. Happy Birthday to Maxime.

Candy in SW KS

Ah, chere Kristin, what a lovely expression of motherly love you have shared with us today. And how appropriate for me as I leave in a few hours to drive to CO to take my only child, my son Andy, to dinner for his birthday! He is my most favorite person in the world, my most favorite travel partner. How did he get so wise, so tender-hearted, so kind, so much a part of my soul that I can't imagine life without him? I love what you said about Max. And the photo of Smokey and Braise speaks volumes! One question - why are there cow bells on the table with Max's birthday cake?! :) Gross bisous a tous!!

Debbie from Baltimore


You've done it again! Your heartfelt and poignant words have brought tears to my eyes! It is so heartwarming to see the warmth and love among you and your family, which in turn radiates out to your readers. How lucky we all are to be able to share in your lovely family's remarkable experiences!

Bonne anniversaire a Max! Et merci pour tout!!

Julie Schorr

Beautiful writing today! You illustrated so eloquently the unique and special bond between a mother and son. I love Max's sweet and gentle spirit. Max does seem very wise and mature for his age.Maybe his "petits cheveux blancs" are an indication of this. Thank you for sharing these beautiful pictures!


Oh, my! You did such a wonderful job of putting the feelings of mothers of growing offspring into words! I look at mine and wonder, "Where did my baby go?" Of course, I know.

It is good that Max's spot is over his ear. It could have been right above his face (as it is for some) and been more noticeable.

I like the cake baked in a ring mold pan with fruit in the middle. Cake with icing always seems a bit over the top.

The same is true for girls and makeup. It is good to see Jackie without a lot of "frosting" (le maquillage). She looks more genuine without it.

Merci for including us in the everyday life of your family.


Happy Birthday Max! Wishing you a grand year.
And congrats Krisi and Jean-Marc for creating such a wonderful family.


Sharon - Montague, Michigan

Max, Happy Belated Birthday; your Mom's tender words are so loving. Wishing you the very best.

Jeanne of Maumee, OH

What a lovely tribute to your son. I remember when my son turned 16 I found a MY first gray hair on my forehead! I pulled it out, feeling old enough already with a 16 year old son! Of course he had just learned to drive and many more replaced that first one!

Kristin Espinasse

Candy, enjoy your time with your son! Joyeux anniversaire to him (and to Karen's son, too!)
Re the cowbells: they're there because I love bells! They're in my car, next to me on my desk as I type... I always enjoyed driving in my grandparent's car, in Seattle. Beneath the driver's seat, there were sleigh bells (mounted on a wooden base)! I have meant to try and recreate the same bell system in my own car (perhaps I am busy collecting bells... in time to one day learn to weld them to the floor beneath the drivers seat!). My dad has the sleigh bells in his car. I love the gentle ringing sound at every stop. Mind you, (my) cow bells don't have the same finesse....


One more wish of happiness for Max, and all of your family, Kristin! I too found myself sitting right there in the car with you, accepting a son's help and being blessed by his patience. Thank you for sharing his special day with us.


Happy Birthday Max! Blessings for a year of health, happiness and peace.
Kristin, I know how you feel because I have two sons who are 47 and 38 years old and I always feel so happy to be with them. They are a joy in my life like no other.
Oh, you have such beautiful children. Max is so handsome!

Robin Katsaros

Tap, tap the sound of two little tears that dropped on my keyboard as I read this poignant story of the love between a Mother and her son. Words escape me. xx Robin

Erin from Canada

Happy Birthday Maxime! Kristen, you have a beautiful family that is an inspiration to read about.
Today I especially liked the reverse dictionary- English to French- what a nice addition to the blog!


So beautifully expressed.....I, too, had tears in my eyes as I read today's birthday post & then saw the photo of Braise & Smokey.
Our children are so special........& it's just that added bonus when they give back to us in such innocent uncontrived ways.
Happy Birthday!!!!


May 17th seems to be a popular birthdate. My daughter celebrated her 34 th birthday and her husband,his 33rd! There were also several children wearing birthday crowns during my music rounds at a preschool yesterday.
The photos are beautiful and your wring touches my heart. Max is a darling son.

gail bingenheimer

Bon Anniversaire Max! Tante, Gail


Mon marie est francais, so j'etudie le francais! This blog will help with that, thank you!

J'adore the dog photo. Bon anniversaire, Max!


What a heart-warming story. The photo of Braise and Smokey was a good tie-in.


Dear Kristin,
This was the first e-mail I read this morning here in California. I have tears in my eyes (not something that happens so often). I am so moved by how you have captured and honored the essence of your son with this simple story. You have given us more than a glimpse of the man he is, is becoming, his character. I am also suddenly struck with the thought that what we can think of as our "flaws" as people, as parents, is part of what helps mold that character. In this way, your worrying about being good enough, etc. supplied the compost for his loving steadiness. An angel who reminds you, "T'inquiète pas, Maman. Je peux attendre." With great love and appreciation and a belated bon anniversaire to Maxime.

Jean(ne) P in MN

Such a beautiful post full of love for your son. One can see the pride in your family in your eyes as parents. Happy Birthday, Max, from Minnesota.

Gwyn Ganjeau

Stunning. Simply stunning. Kristin I hope you print out this entry and tuck it away somewhere to give Max years down the road. He is going to cherish it. Despite what all the parenting books on the planet would lead us to believe, I suspect our children actually raise us....

Sue J.

lovely, Kristin. merci.

Marianne Rankin

Max, je vous souhaite une annee pleine de joie et d'experiences agreables!

Yes, where did the time go? Sometimes we wonder if our children will EVER mature, then suddenly they are displaying character traits, such as Max's patience, that weren't there before. In two weeks, my little boy, also about 6 feet, will no longer be a teen-ager. On the other hand, I think our children, with their energy and enthusiasm and fresh look at life, help to keep us young.

Kit Wilson

Wot THEY've all said already, K, goes for me too about this super-special post with its fresh and vital power of love expressed: thanks so much for sharing your great heart!

My own two offspring, in their thirties now (hey, my son is balding!), are with me for the summer -- first shared time in many years, and what a pleasure it is for us three to be getting reacquainted as the adults we're 'evolving into' day by day. Isn't it a source of joy how family ties remain a rich vein of discovery, no matter what? I do include the shadows as well as the light, of course!

ps Found a 2-minute video report that explains why we so adore your photos in addition to your blogs, Chere Kristin:


Max is such a handsome boy and he looks so much like his pretty mother. Glad to hear que le Jour s'est bien passe'.
Kristin, you described the day so well. I felt the same way on my boys' birthdays when they were growing up. For strange reasons, they all were calm, patient, helpful and...good boys on their birdays. Two of my five boys also have "cheveux blancs" when in their teens. I think it is ok as long as their faces look young and having no wrinkles.


I am so thankful you posted this!
How beautifully it shows us all that we can learn so very much from our every age :)
Maybe that why they call it "wisdom of the ages", because wisdom is not limited by age!OXOX,


I forgot to mention that all the photos you took on Max' birthday are lovely. Mais où était Jules?
The image of Braise et son fils Smokey est simplement adorable:-)

Phil Hicks in CA

Well, did you buy Max a set of weights? I really enjoyed the story and the photos. You have also tempted us with a lovely cake (need the recipe) which obviously pairs with a great Cote du Rhone.

Cynthia Lewis

HAPPY SIXTEENTH BIRTHDAY, MAX !! Thankyou,Kristin,for a lovely touching post which was inspired by Max!


Happy birthday to Max! Btw, I do believe that perhaps at some point there was some injury or some such in that small area from where the white hair "sprouts". It is just too unusual a spot to be a mere age related initial graying area (albeit some get gray hair much younger than others). Some injury or other such thing made it so no pigmentation occurs there...that would be my guess!

Fred Caswell

A heartfelt message was "posted" before 9:30 this morning but, to my extreme chagrin, once again nothing happened! It was GOOD, too. So greatly discouraged.

Kate C

Ooh la la! Les larmes! Bonne Anniversaire, Max! Oh, how your family loves you! Kirsten, every mother recognizes in her heart the feeling you captured so concisely and beautifully. I have several affirmations I repeat to my daughter and I hope you will not mind if I add a version of "Though I don't understand the metaphysics of time and space, of one thing I am certain: in my hopes, in my prayers, in my wishes and in my far-flung dreams... forever, my dear [daughter], you have been with me." I will of course tell her about the author. Amicalement, Kate


What a sweet young man you have, Kristin! I know "sweet" isn't usually used to describe men, so maybe instead I'll just say he is a real 'tresor."

I was very touched by some of the things you described.

Bon anniversaire, Max!

Susan Carter

Bon Anniversaire to Max. It's been such fun watching him (and Jackie) grow up into such handsome & beautiful young adults and see that your insights and sensabilities continue in them.


What an exquisite post. The last line brought a lump to my throat...lovely story of your mother-son bond. Merci mille fois!


Hi Kristin:

Happy birthday for Max.
May God bless you all.
Thank you again for sharing your beautiful family's life with us. For the wisdom and the French lessons. For the amazing natural pictures you display on the site. To me, they are a great gift that I look forward to recieve every other day of the workdays.


Jacqueline Gill

Yet another touching post--happy birthday and God's blessings, dear Max! I feel as if I know you! you share a birthday with my son Alex who turned 31 yesterday! Kristin, I have always dreaded the birthdays of my children--isn't that terrible to admit? but I felt a sadness to see them grow up. Yet, I am so proud of the young adults they have become. What a contradiction. Perhaps you understand. At any rate, thank you again for sharing your beautiful family with us.


16 already!
Only seems like yesterday you were writing about "toads in the swimming pool"!
What a treasure you are and I hope you had a wonderful birthday! Your mother has given you a wonderful present...birthday wishes from all around the world...not many 16 year olds would have that! In fact....I might have to ask you for your autograph soon ;-)!


beautiful in every way.
your blog is an oasis.
wishing all the best for you and your family.


Kristin, I posted my Commentaires yesterday. Today, I felt I HAD to return to my laptop to see, once again, the beautiful photos and "les sourires sur tous les visages"!

Ahaaah! "Le sourire tellement radieux des heureux parents fait grand plaisir à voir et à revoir"...

"Le rire amusé de Max en ouvrant la grande enveloppe" is ... contagious!
It's only now that I've really 'seen' the details of the enveloppe showing the darling 'mini Mr Moose' 16 years ago... (and your handwriting)

Admirable composition de "maman et ses deux enfants" -> 3 happy faces united into a perfect triangle against "l'armoire rustique"... I love the festive foreground on the old pine table, with its flowing line of bells (ding, dong, Que les cloches sonnent sonnent pour célébrer l'évènement!)
and then my eyes got glued to the tempting red spot of delicious strawberries in the centre of your "savarin". Perfect!

I seem to end, once again, with "le gâteau d'anniversaire". Interesting to know it was the famous "gâteau au yogourt" baked in "un moule à savarin"... - a clever idea and a practical way to fill up the centre of it with fresh strawberries.

Jules, were you the phothographer?
How wonderful for you to be there, with them, to share Max's birthday,
re-"Fête des Mères" on Sunday...
and soon in June, "la Fête des Pères"...
but I suppose everyday is "un jour de fête" for you, isn't it?

Bye and have a brilliant weekend!


Thank you so much for another beautiful column. It sounds like you have raised a wonderful son, and you should be very very proud of the entire family you have carved out in Provence. The picture of Smokey and Braise was another precious touch! Merci beaucoup ---

Lisa A., CA

Beautiful story...lovely photos...thanks for sharing such wonderful moments with all of us.

Happy Belated 16th Birthday Max!!! *

Jennifer in OR

This was just beautiful! happy Birthday to Max (belated). What a precious, wise young man, and you & Jean-Marc so blessed and wise yourselves.


Thanks for this very moving article.


I'm late an reading FWD, but happy belated b-day Max. Love the pictures of the family and the dogs. Your story is wonderful as always and so touching.


Dear Kristin,

What a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing. Sounds like Max was happy just to be with his wonderful family on his birthday. Happy Birthday Max! And I'm so glad Jules was there for him.

Beautiful pictures, as always. I love both mother and son pictures (you and Max as well as Smokey and Braise). Love is love, no matter what species and it bonds us all together.

Hope you're all having a great day.

Arnold Hogarth

Well done, Kristin. A family of which to be proud, and a really lovely post . . Congratulations.

Lal Minton

fils de papa - a spoiled rich boy (another expression with "fils")

I love your almost daily musings. " Mon fils maintenant a soixante-sept ans et va se faire opere de la deuxieme hanche. Il parle bien le francais, ayant passe trois annees en France de 7 a 10 ans. Comme je me diminue tous les ans , lui continue de grandir."


Dear Kristin,
I don't even have kids, but I've tears streaming down my face reading this & seeing that adorably sweet photo of smokey & braise.
one of your best pieces....incredibly, beautifully poignant.


Wishing Max a wonderful birthday and life ahead !

In our family, we gift "Excellent Adventures", to mark such special moments in lives of our loved ones.
Gifts can be fleeting and often overlooked as time goes by, but a special event creates memories that last a lifetime !

It can be just the two of you on a hike, or perhaps day spent sharing an adventure., whatever you choose, Max will forever remember that time spent with you!

Much love,


Chanelle M Carlin

Well done, Kristi and Bon Anniversaire, Max! I hope your special day together was as wonderful as it all sounded.

Merci for the continued inspiration and lessons in French, Kristi!


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