The other day while Smokey and I waited in the school parking lot for Jackie, kids filed past our car, occasionally stopping to point and to laugh: "Mais regarde sa langue! Just look at his funny tongue! Ahahahaha!"
"Laisse tomber! Don't worry about it, Smokey. They don't know your story." So many stories out there... how little we know of the "strange" looking people we pass on the street. The holidays are as good a time as any to open up our minds and our hearts.
le pin (pahn) noun, masculine
: pine tree
le pin d'Alep = Provencal white pine
Cette année, notre sapin de Noël est un petit pin d'Alep.
This year our Christmas tree is a Provençal pine.
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse
When Jean-Marc suggested hunting for this year's Christmas tree in the forêt behind our house, our daughter wrinkled her nose. Now there was a grimace I could translate in French or English: it said that all her friends probably had real Christmas trees, the kind on display at the mall!
Our daughter's reaction made my husband even more determined. It was high time to lift the consumer veil from our children's eyes: A true arbre de Noël didn't always come from the checkout lane! Not this year anyway... not when a forest dense with pines crowded our back yard.
Allez! Jean-Marc persisted, dragging our 15-year-old Christmas tree snob off the couch.
I remained hidden in my room, where I'd taken refuge from all the holiday frenzy. There, in the quiet, I heard footsteps as my husband, our teenager, and the dogs crossed over the boules court on their way to the forest.
Not 10 minutes later and they were back. The brisk foray seemed a bad sign... they must have encountered les chasseurs and had to postpone their search. I sank more deeply into my bed, wondering just when the tree chore would get done! Why didn't I keep the ugly plastic tree of yesteryear? It had been so easy to decide to part with it, while trying to cram our entire life into two economy trucks last September. What a dumb decision that was! (the tree, not the cheap movers—not one lamp broken in the deal!).
But what was the deal with our tree? I threw back the covers and got out of bed. In the living room I found Jackie back on the couch, watching TV.
"Well, what happened?"
My daughter smiled. "Rien".
"But did you find tree?"
"Well, do you like it?"
"Oui," she nodded, and the stars twinkling in her eyes were proof of that. I felt a bit star-struck myself, bewildered by the peaceful atmosphere, when it was chaos I had anticipated.
My daughter followed me into the sas, the cozy entryway to our home, where a rustic fireplace and two felt-covered fauteuils have become a favorite resting spot.
There the tree stood, between the cozy sas and the dining room, punctuating the two spaces like a semi-colon that joins independent clauses—in this case santa clauses!
Leave it to that delicate, sweep of a tree to join all our Christmases of yesteryear, to the one just before us, the one I had tried to steer clear of!
Jackie knelt down on the ground to arrange the area beneath the tree. "Papa collected some mousse in the forest," she explained, as she borrowed some of the characters from the crèche, setting them on top of the deep green ground cover.
The door opened and Jean-Marc came in, his arms full of firewood for the cheminée. "Alors? Ça va l'arbre? Your daughter cut it down."
"It's beautiful!" I admitted. "What kind is it?"
"Un pin d'Alep."
I ran to my dictionary to look up the term. Un pin d'alep equalled a Provençal pine. What more could a hopeless Francophile want than a French Christmas? This year it would be un Noël Provençal!
And what more could our daughter want than a real arbe de Noël. From the sparkle in her eyes, it was clear this year she had one.
Bonnes fêtes! Happy holidays dear reader. May the spirit of the season grab you... filling you with peace, love, and forgiveness. Thank you for reading these missives and for your encouragement to continue writing them.
la forêt = forest
un arbre de Noël = a Christmas tree
allez! = come on!
les boules = the game of Pétanque, read Gary's story
le chasseur = hunter
rien = nothing
le sas = (a synonym for sas is chambre, or room, but here it refers to a small entry way)
le fauteuil = chair
le papa = dad, father
la mousse = moss
la crèche = nativity scene
la cheminée = fireplace
amicalement = warmly (is "friendlily" a word?...)
Smokey has taught himself how to eat, despite his little handicap (we won't go into details, but he may have learned the trick from a mama bird...). And he has a trick or two for keeping his tongue in place. Name this photo--your thought bubbles are most welcome! To comment on any item in this post, click here.
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety