Chapter 1: Positano, Italy - Summer 2002
temoignage

So much for anonymity

Kristi and Jean-Marc Espinasse
 "This one's for you!" (pictured: that's me with the cake, my husband, right, gets all the wine around here--even when we lived on a vineyard, where wine all but flowed from the garden hose.)


A (Very Special) DAY IN A FRENCH ...by Kristi Espinasse

Yesterday a delicate and meaningful milestone quietly passed. Waking up, I searched for a way to respectfully acknowledge the date, lest it pass as another ordinary day. Quietly walking out to the bedroom terrace, I looked around at the countryside.  As far as the eye could see, there was greenery: olive and almond trees, the forest, and the sea.

It was a relief to wake with a clear head and no regrets. Breathing in the morning scent, I closed my eyes. Now was the time. I offered up the simple acknowledgment, and thanks. There was a moment of complete and utter silence, and then seagulls cried in the distance. A train passed, blowing its horn. The neighbor's dogs barked. My robe sagged, and I reached down to tighten the belt. It was both an ordinary and an extraordinary day.

"You can take me to lunch," I hinted to Jean-Marc, both reminding him of the important date—and suggesting how he might help me to mark the occasion.

"How about with a big glass of cognac?" he chuckled.

"That is NOT funny!" No matter how many times I tell him that such jokes, given the circumstance, are in bad taste, he cannot help himself.    

"OK, then how about a six-pack?" my husband continued.

"T'es terrible!"

"I'm very proud of you," Jean-Marc assured me, planting a kiss on my lips. His tenderness provoked flashbacks of years ago, when I would discover little notes stuck in a book I was reading or in the pocket of my robe.

"Çela fait dix jours. Continue, Mon Amour... That makes ten days. Keep it up, My Love," the encouragements read, and "Trois semaines! Fier de toi, Ma Chérie! Three weeks now! So proud of you, My Dear!"

The scribbled notes were encouraging but had I foreseen the future, I might not have had the guts to continue on the new path, not knowing that some of the rockiest parts were just around the corner. The hand-written notes would stop. The sores would begin to open.

A decade has passed and I am still on that fragile path; despite all the setbacks, I have never once veered off track. And even if I wouldn't be celebrating the 10-year mark with a glass of champagne, I was looking forward to eating out with my husband.

Only, when my daughter ran up, asking to bring a friend home for lunch, plans changed. Five months at the new school, and she, too, had passed a delicate milestone: the courage to invite a new friend home!

Well, at least I no longer have to fret about what to wear to the restaurant! The positive thoughts continued as I set about tidying the house, and preparing for my daughter's special lunch.

But as I hurried to fix up the house for our important guest, I felt a familiar rush of panic. There won't be time to finish the cleaning AND to get the meal started. Recognizing the anxiety—that old foe that I could not cope with ten years ago—I was able to put a stop to it. No, there wouldn't be time if I insisted on a perfect outcome. But there was plenty of time otherwise!

What was important, after all, wasn't how the house looked or what we ate, it was how our guest would feel. I wanted Jackie's friend to experience that good and cozy and welcoming feeling and to leave with a desire to return! 

"Promise to come back and see us?" I said, kissing my daughter's friend goodbye after lunch.

"Oui!" came the shy response.

Noticing the look in the young lady's eyes it seemed a guardian angel was smiling back at me. If I had gone to the restaurant to celebrate and be pampered, I would have missed this heavenly encounter.

At the end of the day Jean Marc presented me with a gift. Gently tapping on the door to the bedroom, where I had been putting away a stack of freshly folded clothes, he curled his finger several times, signaling to me to follow him.

I was a little leery of whatever he was dragging me out to see. After polyester pajamas, discount branch shredders, and T-shirts I could never wear in public, I never knew what kind of gift was up his sleeves.

"Will I like it?" I asked, nervously, letting my husband lead me by the sleeve.

Opening the front door, I saw the little cherry tree posed just beyond the welcome mat, like a gushing guest. I looked closely at the delicate, leafless branches. The tiny buds were burgeoning.

"Congratulations!" Jean-Marc said. "I'm so proud of you!" 

The burgeoning continued, inside of me, as teardrops surfaced like the little buds of the cherry tree. Fragile as its branches, my sobriety continues.

Update: February 3rd, 2019, I celebrated 16 years of sobriety.

Golden retriever Smokey resting on the balcony overlooking the vineyard and hills

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