Pictures of Grimaud + conjugation
What does the French word "micmac" mean?

Photos of Roquemaure + souvenir: remembering September 11th, 2001

Angel war monument in Roquemaure, France (c) Kristin Espinasse
Do you believe someone watches over us? Photo taken the town of Roquemaure.

le souvenir (sooveh-neer)

    : memory, recollection

Audio file: listen to Jean-Marc read the example sentence below: Download mp3 or Wav file 

Hier soir, nous avons regardé un film en souvenir des attentats du 11 Septembre 2001.
Last night, we watched a film in memory of September 11th, 2001. 

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

Seven years ago we came to a fork in the road of our French existence. Jean-Marc was floundering at his job as an uninspired sales rep for an Italian company selling wine bottling machines. As for me, I was holding on tight to the coattails of my writing dream. But a proposition my husband was about to make threatened to put an end to both of our careers:

"Et si on déménage en Californie?" he ventured.

To this day I wonder what our life would have been like, had I not talked Jean-Marc out of the idea of moving to the States and, instead, reminded him about his own dream of wine-making. (Admittedly, the encouragement given was also a way of safeguarding my own nascent vocation--as a chronicler of French life.)

Jean-Marc soon quit looking for jobs in the California wine industry (he'd discovered the town of Healdsburg and was smitten), and happened upon a vineyard for sale in the town of Sainte Cécile-les-Vignes, where we spent the next 5 years of our lives--he picking grapes and making wine--and I chronicling a fast-paced life in the slow-poke countryside. What a ride.

Still no regrets for talking my husband into deepening our French roots, though I do sometimes wonder what life would have been like had we offered our children a chance to grow up in the States. By now one of them would be a senior in some California high school, and the other would be celebrating her upcoming Sweet 16 as a Valley Girl might.

"I know 16 is a special birthday for Americans," Jackie hints, hoping to cash in on a smart phone this year.

"Oh yah, Smartie Pants? Just how do you know so much about American culture?" But I already know the answer to the question--it's all the dubbed T.V. our daughter watches. In any case, the reality in our house is we don't do birthdays like the Kardashians!

Which reminds me, now, what it is about France that pulled me close in that decisive do we stay or do we go moment: it's something about French modesty (apart from necklines and swimwear, of course)... and history. These two things are beautifully represented in a gift my mother-in-law received, at about the same age as Jackie.

"That year I received an orange." Though my belle-mère remembers it bitterly, the flicker of gratitude is still bright in her eyes. Her father was a prisoner of war, and her mother struggled to make ends meet, hawking linens out of her truck in North Africa. Under the gritty circumstances, it was a privilege to receive a gift at all--and to this day my mother-in-law can't eat a clementine without remembering her family's struggles.

Perhaps that is what draws me to old France: more than modesty, it is remembering. Here is where the word souvenir takes on full meaning.  More than a trinket brought home from a tourist trap, a souvenir is a heart-filled remembrance and a timeless honoring. It whisper "We will never forget." On ne vous oubliera jamais.

This week my own country--and people all over the world--are remembering September 11th. Last night, as I watched the film "Vol 93", I remembered the hair-raising telephone call, received twelve years ago....

A Dutch neighbor, who ran a local café in Les Arcs-sur-Argens, rang me. Her voice filled with empathy, she asked, "Have you heard the news?"

*    *    *

I meant to write about our parallel life, or what things would have been like had we taken the other direction at that proverbial fork in the road. Instead, things ended up here--neither in California or in Ste. Cécile, but here, with this souvenir de 11 Septembre

Will you join in now, and share: Where were you when you heard the news? 

Comments welcome here.

Corridor or porche in Roquemaure, France (c) Kristin Espinasse

The photos in today's post were all taken in Roquemaure, France, in 2010.

Diamond and blue window in Roquemaure, France (c) Kristin Espinasse
 Diamonds and shutters.

l'Ecole Buissonnière restaurant in Roquemaure, France (c) Kristin Espinasse

The restaurant is called L'Ecole Buissonnière, and the term faire l'école buissonnière means to play hooky or skip school.

Lace curtains at the produce stand in Roquemaure, France (c) Kristin Espinasse
 Lace curtains at the green grocer's and cageots, or crates, of produce.

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