I wrote the story "crush widow" two years ago. Were you reading then? (Photo of a modern cabanon with its carpet of white flowers taken in Sainte Cécile-les-Vignes. In wintertime, the old, leafless vines always look, to me, like upended chicken feet—as do all the pollarded trees.)
la veuve de la vendange (lah vuv deuh lah von danzh)
: crush widow
On les appelle "les veuves de la vendange", ces femmes qui "perdent" leur mari chaque année en septembre, pendant le ramassage des raisins. We call them "crush widows", these women who "lose" their husbands each year, in September, during the grape harvest.
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse
I learned a new term last fall, while guiding yet another enthusiastic and brave bénévole out to the vine fields to help my husband, Chief Grape, with the work load.
"Yeah," said Eugenia, sympathetically, as she speed-walked (wouldn't want to keep the Wine Chief waiting!) beside me in well-worn jeans and a grape-stained tee. "There is even a term for it!"
"The harvest just keeps on going... and going... and going... At first it was two weeks, then four, then six. We began this vendange eight weeks ago!" I told our latest helper, as we hurried out to the field, buckets and sécateurs in hand. (I would soon leave Eugenia with Jean-Marc and another volunteer, Jeffrey, in time to dash back to the kitchen and stare into the fridge, wondering just what to throw together for an impromptu lunch for the assistants. I didn't dare serve last night's noodles: a collection of scraped-from-the-kids'-plates pasta... fit for a close-knit family, but nowhere near appropriate for our volunteers!
Huffing and puffing our way out to the field farthest from the house, Eugenia disclosed to me the well-known term used in the wine industry. "They call women like you "crush widows".
Crush widows! It was one of those aha! moments. So I was not alone in this very lonely state, the grape harvest, when vintners disappear from their wives and from the home and can be found somewhere out in the field or in the "cave" for the remains of the day.
But what Eugenia didn't tell me was that crush widows don't suddenly lose their status—and regain their lost love—after the grape crush. No! They wear their vine veils on into winter.... when their husbands are busy juggling the sales of their wine, the accounting, the bottling, the PR, and the pruning of their vines!
"Want to eat early tonight?" I had in mind a movie on T.V., one we could watch after an early meal...
This morning I woke up and checked the pan on the stove. His portion of rumsteak aux champignons was still waiting for him. I imagined Chief Grape had filled up on crackers, olives, and nuts during last night's vigneron meeting. This was all he needed to do! Join another Cercle de Vignerons!!!
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He loves me. He loves those grapes. He loves me. He loves those grapes!
bénévole = volunteer
la vendange = harvest (read about a typical vendange, here!)
le sécateur = pruning shears
le vigneron = wine maker
What Smokey looking for? Click here to share a guess. (It's not snowing here in the south, near Bandol. Photo taken in Sainte Cécile, where it snowed a few years ago!).
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety