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Down memory lane: Marianne

Collioures 102
Benches along a trottoir in Collioures, France. Photo taken 11 years ago, when Jean-Marc and I celebrated our 11th anniversary, while dreaming of owning a vineyard one day

TODAY'S WORD: le trottoir

    : sidewalk

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En France et en Suisse, par métaphore, le trottoir est aussi le nom communément donné au bord d'une tarte ou d'une pizza.
In France and Switzerland, as a metaphor, the sidewalk is also the name given for the crust of a tart or a pizza.


    by Kristin Espinasse

"Mieux Vaut Tard Que Jamais"

Yesterday--24 years after moving to France--I got the chance to thank Marianne. Marianne is the mother of Fred, who is the godfather of our son, Max. Fred is also the one who picked me up in the airport, in October of 1992. I'll never forget him looking at my cowboy boots, as he stood beside the baggage carousel, wearing a crisp Façonnable chemise and Italian loafers--at least I think that is what he was wearing--and if I retell this same story in 10 years, don't be surprised if Fred is wearing an Izod and wingtips. While my memory may be foggy for details, it is crystal clear when it comes to kindnesses, as we will see in the following remembrance.

(At this point in our scattered story--for it will be scattered as I am due to make lunch for our vineyard intern--you are wondering why Jean-Marc's best friend picked me up from the airport. Because Jean-Marc was beginning his short-lived career in accounting at Guérard Viala firm. Voilà!)

Fred drove me to his family's home, in Marseilles, where I dropped off my luggage. Fred lived with his parents, Marianne and Michel, and his 17-year-old younger brother, Antoine. Over the next 10-months, I had the chance to eat many a Tuesday night dinner at Marianne's table, where I sat absorbing every detail. From pre-dinner ritual of apértifs (I loved Porto!) to the post-dinner digestif (le marc!), I literally drank it all in. Looking back, I wished I had put down my wine glass and helped Marianne carry back and forth all those gratin dishes!

Yesterday was my chance to thank her. Michel and Marianne had come to see our vineyard, and they were here, as well, to visit Château de Pibarnon, where they hope to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. After touring the famous winery, we headed to our favorite port, La Madrague, to eat at our local pizzeria, Chez Henri. Almost as soon as we were seated, I blurted out a decades-late remerciement:

"Marianne. You may not know what an impression you made on me all those years ago!"

Thinking about it, Marianne would have been the age I am now: 48. She would have been serving dinner in high heels and a slim, above-the-knee skirt. It may have been leather. With her shoulder-length wavy black hair parted in the center, and her big green eyes, she looked as beautiful as when she left for work that morning at her law firm. And here she was, late at night, serving 8 of us homemade gratin de courgette and steak. 

Over the years, I thought a lot about Marianne as I began to receive my first dinner guests, become the mother of two children, and receive more guests--all the while balancing kids, heavy casseroles and lots and lots of dirty dinner plates....

As I was thinking about all I wanted to tell Marianne, the waiter at Chez Henri suddenly arrived with our pizzas... and all the focus was about to go to the delicious meal on the table. It was time to hurry and sum up what it was I wanted to say to Marianne all these years later...

"I wish I had helped you clear the table!!"

Looking at me with those beautiful green eyes, which now sparkled and smiled, Marianne said: "I have no memory of you not helping."

As everyone dug in to their pizza, I sat savoring Marianne's words. And then came Michel's perfectly-timed comic relief. Pointing to the crust on our pizzas, he said: Do you know what we call this in French? 

(Two of us shook our heads.)

"Le trottoir. The sidewalk."

Laughing now, I came to the end of a meaningful stroll down another sidewalk called memory lane--where we always remember the best in others.
                        *    *    *


My favorite pizza at Chez Henri. It's called "La Madrague"

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The view from Chateau de Pibarnon, where we visited with Marianne and Michel. Join me at Instagram, where I will post more photos of the coming days. 

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