Faire le Sapin, "la flemme" and The Spirit of the Season

Christmas tree sapin de noel in the port of Bandol France
A giant sapin de noël in the Mediterranean port of Bandol, south of France.

TODAY'S WORD: la flemme

    : laziness, reluctance 

Consider all these translations for "j'ai la flemme":
I don't feel like, I'm too lazy, I'm not motivated, I can't be bothered, I don't even care, I haven't the courage

Audio/Listening: Click the link below to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in the following story. Then scroll down to the vocabulary list to check your French comprehension.

French pronunciation MP3 file

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
“For the joy it brings”

As I look up to the highest cupboard in our house, guilty thoughts permeate my mind: What if we skip the tree this year? Would anyone notice or care? Is it a crime not to deck the halls at Christmastime?

Recognizing the lassitude as one big bout of holiday flemme, I had a little pep talk with my inner flemmarde:  It's time to prendre du poil de la bête! Time to pep up, se requinquer! and the only way to do it is to move it. Move that energy. Start by moving the tree!

Ni chaud ni froid?
Dragging a bistro chair over to the mile-high cupboard, I retrieved our sapin artificiel and began decorating it, beginning with la guirlande lumineuse. I began to think about why I had been so reluctant to trim our tree: Was it indifference (ça ne me fait ni chaud ni froid?) Or lack of novelty? (Our Christmas tree lingered until Easter last year...) Or was it because no one was participating this time—does my family have la flemme too? I tested the theory when my son returned from work: "Max, help me put some ornaments on the tree?" 

"Désolé. Trop occupé!" Jean-Marc was busy, too, with les cadeaux de fin d’année (delivering wine to Toulon, to Aubagne, to Marseilles...) and Jules was in her studio, keeping warm under a pile of blankets (Smokey being part of that pile). Jackie would have helped faire le sapin, but she moved out last week--which brings me back to Pourquoi?

Pourquoi faire? What's the point in decorating? Who am I doing this for anyway?

From flemme...to flamme!
Once the fairy lights were on the little tree I stepped back and, Holy Flamme! There it was: une étincelle. A spark in my heart...and then another. I hurried over to get Mom and drag her with me into The Spirit of Christmas, as it moved through our home--an Eternal Flamme overcoming la flemme.

"I'll be there in a minute," Mom said, putting on her lipstick.

I ran back to the house to put on some Christmas music and light a pine-scented candle (the best friend of a faux sapin). When I turned I saw Mom at the glass door. Those same sparks in my heart were now in Mom’s eyes which were lit with excitement. Even Smokey had the spark, bark! bark!

The mixture of surprise and delight on Mom's face as she discovered the lighted Christmas tree put an end to a nagging question—Pourquoi?

The answer was so simple now: for the joy it brings! Pour la joie que cela procure!


FRENCH VOCABULARY
la flemme = laziness, reluctance 
J’ai la flemme = I don’t feel like it
le (la) flemmard(e) = idler, lazybones
prendre du poil de la bête = to bounce back
se requinquer = perk up, pep up
le sapin = fir tree, pine tree
artificiel = imitation, fake, ersatz
la guirlande lumineuse = Christmas-tree lights
ni chaud ni froid = indifference
Ça ne me fait ni chaud ni froid = I don’t mind either way
désolé = sorry
je suis trop occupé = I’m too busy
le cadeau de fin d’année = year-end gift clients give each other
faire le sapin = to put up a Christmas tree
pourquoi? = why?
pourquoi faire = why do it
pour la joie que cela procure = for the joy it brings

...a few words missing from the soundfile
une étincelle = spark
une flamme = flame
un faux sapin = fake tree
Smokey and the Christmas tree Noel 2021
Bark, bark! 12-year-old Smokey beneath the fairy lights, doing his best impression of Le Flemmard, or Lazybones.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Une saccade + Tic Talk: Let's talk about tics (did you know "Tourettes" is named after a Frenchman?)

Mediterranean port of La Ciotat south of France
Our bustling port here in La Ciotat. Today we're talking about a word we share with the French. A tic is "a frequent usually unconscious quirk of behavior or speech" (Merriam-Webster). Read my story and then share your own experiences in the comments. Merci!

TODAY’S WORD: une saccade 

: jerk, twitch (movement)

saccader (verb): to tremble, shake, jerk

A saccade is also a rapid movement of the eye between fixation points.

Audio/Listening: Click the link below to hear the French words in the following story. Then scroll down to the vocabulary list to check your French comprehension.

Click here to begin listening


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristi Espinasse

Have you read about a certain eye exercise that improves vision?
Bref, all you do is look left, right, up, down, rouler les yeux, then repeat. Do these ocular rotations several times a day and eyesight will supposedly improve. 

But if that were true I would have 20/20 vision by now—without even trying! Because for years I’ve done the left, right, side-to-side sequence sans s’en apercevoir. I say “unknowingly” because I only became conscious of the repetitive eye movements when we lived at our first vineyard

UN AUTOMATISME?
It was during the busy wine harvest when I stole away for a break in my room. I remember laying in bed “stretching” my eyes in different directions when it struck me I’d been doing this a lot lately and that all this straining could be damaging! What if my eyes stuck that way (or one of those ways)? Even that didn’t stop me from doing the eye equivalent of scratching an itch. (And getting the same sort of relief).

Blink, stretch (left), blink, stretch (right), rouler, rouler…. I didn’t think much more of the “eye-scapades” until recently when the habit seemed to get worse. I began to wonder: is there an explanation for these forced eye movements and how common is it? Do you, dear reader, do such a thing? What’s this thing called?

UNE MANIE?
Is it a simple compulsion? A habit? Un TOC? The internet didn’t list “eye stretching” among other popular obsessions, such as:

⇒ biting one's nails (ronger les ongles)
⇒ pulling one’s hair out (arracher les cheveux)
⇒ picking at one’s skin (gratter sa peau)
⇒ picking one’s eyelashes, eyebrows (arracher les cils, ou les sourcils)

UNE SACCADE?
Meantime, I googled an interesting term having to do with repeated eye movements: une saccade (French for “jerk”) is a quick, simultaneous movement of both eyes between two or more phases of fixation in the same direction. According to the Oxford dictionary, saccade means literally ‘violent pull’, (from Old French saquer ‘to pull’).

UN TIC?
Tic is big word (often associated with Tourette’s)... maybe that’s why so many of us don’t make the conscious connection between our repetitive behavior and ticcing (ticking?). Here’s a non-exhaustive list of tics (when the following behavior is continuous):

⇒ blinking (clignements des yeux)
⇒ shoulder shrugging (haussements répétitifs des épaules)
⇒ Foot or finger tapping (tapotements involontaires du pied ou des doigts)
⇒ Sniffing (reniflements),
⇒ Throat clearing (raclement de gorge)

Saperlipopette! Looking over the 2 lists above, I realize I am not alone: some of my family members have either une manie or un tic—everything from continuous throat-clearing to incessant hair-pulling to a spectacular neck jerk. It appears that such gestures may be related to fatigue, anxiety, tension, or stress--even excitement or happiness. The heartening news is that,  just like a sneeze, tics can be controlled...

Ha! Tell that to a control freak.

***

TIC TALK
Share your thoughts about tics and manies (compulsions): do you or a loved one suffer from one? Can you name a famous person with one? (Tennis champion Rafael Nadal, who before serving, rubs his ears and pinches his nose and bottom—il frotte ses oreilles, pince son nez et sa fesse. These are knowns as tics or "little routines", for which he is sometimes mocked.). Are all tics related to Tourette’s? Is there a positive side to tics? And do you know of a technique to reduce or eliminate this sometimes embarrassing behavior? Share your knowledge in the comments box.

FRENCH VOCABULARY 
bref =  in short
rouler les yeux = roll the eyes
sans s’en apercevoir = without realizing it
rouler = roll
une manie = habit, obsession 
un TOC (trouble obsessionnel compulsif) = OCD obsessive-compulsive disorder
ronger les ongles = to bite one’s nails 
arracher les cheveux = pull out one’s hair
gratter sa peau = to pick at one’s skin
arracher les cils, les sourcils = to pick one’s lashes, eyebrows 
une saccade = jerk, twitch
les clignements des yeux = eye blinking
les haussements répétitifs des épaules = shoulder shrugging 
les tapotements involontaires du pied ou des doigts = foot or finger tapping
les reniflements = sniffing
le raclement de gorge = throat clearing
saperlipopette = good heavens!
frotter ses oreilles = rub one’s ears
pincer son nez, sa fesse = pinch one’s nose, one’s bottom
Gilles de la Tourette
From Wikipedia: Tourette syndrome was named by French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot for his intern, Georges Gilles de la Tourette, who published in 1885 an account of nine patients with a "convulsive tic disorder".

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


An exhausting surprise at Jackie’s Alpine “hébergement”

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Serre Chevalier Vallée, with its snow-capped cimes. Photo by Jean-Marc

TODAY’S WORD: se soutenir 

: to help one another, to support one another

Audio/Listening: Click the link below to hear the French words in the following story. Then scroll down to the vocabulary list to check your French comprehension.

Listen to Jean-Marc’s recording, click here


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

On Monday, Jules and Smokey opted to stay cozy at home while the remaining members of our household made the three-and-a-half-hour trajet from La Ciotat to Serre Chevalier. Jackie moves there next week, but this week her two-day formation began, and we wanted to be there pour la soutenir

Having dropped Jackie at Jules Melquiond Sports, we took advantage of le déplacement to get some work done. For our son, Max, a wine salesman at Domaine de La Mongestine, that meant visiting a few accounts in nearby Briançon, including a cool wine cellar called 1000 & Cimes, and a favorite restaurant Le White, located high up on the snowy slopes. Meantime, Jean-Marc checked on a few of his clients in Chantemerle village... and my job was to tag along, paying close attention to all the details in order to report back to you, Dear Reader. The pressure is on, now, to type up this report by Friday. Je suis à la bourre! Je suis charrette!

I really love this last term "charrette", learned while watching yet another wine tasting. This time we were chez Hervé et Eliane in their lively chalet in Monetier-les-Bains. The couple heartily welcomed us, smack in the middle of several projects--including a reconversion of their spa/hotel, now called "Alliey & Spa appart-hotel". 

"Je suis charrette!" Hervé admitted, pushing aside the contents of his kitchen table to make room for a tasting of Mongestine wines. Charrette? What an interesting way to use this word! What exactly did the expression mean?

"It comes from journalism and deadlines," Hervé said, swirling some rosé, “you know, ‘to be pressed’." The dégustation continued as I took mental notes for my own rédaction and deadline. Our brief meeting over, we said goodbye to Hervé and Eliane in time to pick up Jackie for lunch at L'Alpin, in Briançon, and enjoy a decadent meal: raclette (a gigantic half-wheel of cheese “au lait cru” heated by a copper bar. Diners scrape (or 'rake') the cheese onto a plate). Miam, miam!

After her first 9-5 day at Melquiond Sports, we met Jackie in time to visit son hébergement: a tiny, 15-square-meter studio located up the hill from the ski shop. Small as it is, this apartment is une vraie trouvaille given accommodations are extremely hard to find (so many seasonal workers needing a place to stay).

The ad mentioned "4th floor" (really “5th,” in American English) and no ascenseur, but we counted two extra flights as we huffed and puffed our way up to the apartment from the lower hill (only 5 flights if you hike up the hill and enter from the front :-).

Seven flights and no elevator? I trusted our girl could do this hike several times a day. But it could prove inconvenient when she's pressed—-when she’s charrette! Speaking of charrette, she's going to need something like that--a cart with wheels--to drag her groceries up all those stairs. Bon courage, ma fille! It will all work out. And it'll be quite a work-out at that!

Voilà for our quick aller-retour to the Alps this week. Jules was happy we made it home safe late last night, in the pouring rain. She and Smokey are the most adorable welcome home committee, one of them wagging a tail the other offering a warm hug. This brings us back to the word soutenir, which is what this trip was all about.


FRENCH VOCABULARY
se soutenir = to support each other
le trajet = journey, trip, drive
soutenir = to support
le déplacement = business trip
la cime = mountain peak, pinnacle, summit 
la formation = training course
être à la bourre = to be running late
être charrette = to be pressed, overwhelmed
la dégustation = wine tasting
la rédaction = writing, essay
la Raclette = a local dish made of cheese, charcuterie, and potatoes
fromage au lait cru = unpasteurized cheese
miam! = yum!
un hébergement = accommodation, lodgings
une trouvaille = a find
un ascenseur = elevator
bon courage = good luck
une charrette = a cart with wheels
un aller-retour = round trip 
soutenir = to support
le chamois = goat antelope 

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Max woke before dawn to hike up and see les chamois—a goat-antelope native to these glorious mountains.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Guess Where Jackie is moving?... and the expression “être sur son trente-et-un”

Chantemerle Serre Chevalier Vallée Alps France
The French Alps at Serre Chevalier. Have you heard of this popular ski resort in Southeastern France?

TODAY’S WORD: être sur son trente-et-un 

  : to be all dressed up, all dolled up

Audio/Listening: Click the link below to hear the French words in the following story. Then scroll down to the vocabulary list to check your French comprehension.

Click here to begin listening


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristi Espinasse
“Être sur son trente-et un”

Behind a curtain at Le Printemps department store, dans une cabine d’essayage, my daughter is trying on an elegant black pantsuit. The gabardine costume is similar to an outfit a friend wore to Saturday’s dressy gala...

“Jackie, that looks great on you! It’s a classic and you will have it for a very long time. Dress it up or down—you could wear it just about anywhere!"

My 24-year-old agreed, adding, “I can wear it to work....”

Her comment was so innocent... Truth be told this was not an appropriate outfit for her new job. Should I gently enlighten her? After all, this would not be the same dress code as Baccarat... shouldn’t she know that by now? 

By now, seven weeks since leaving Miami after une escroquerie, our cadette was doing better. Gone was the numbness, la colère, and the depression. Maybe it was a good sign she suddenly wanted to wear a power suit? I just wouldn’t want her to feel out of place—when even France feels out of place to her right now. And I’m so afraid she’ll get back on that airplane and disappear...yet I’ve got to be honest with her and quit handling my grown girl with kid gloves.

“I don’t think this is something you could wear for your new job at the ski shop...” 

“Pourquoi pas?” Jackie countered and this time Innocence wasn’t talking. This was Boldness. She reminds me of her grandmother when that rebel spark flies out. 

Jackie’s grandmother, Jules, also worked in a ski shop. While we wore jeans (my sister Heidi and I worked there too) Mom wore silk dresses and patent leather pumps at The Alpine Ski Keller, in Phoenix Arizona. But that was the 80s. That was also a time of transition in Jules’ life. There, in “The Valley of the Sun,” Mom went on to become a top producer in real estate before burnout led to her early retirement in Mexico. 

Back in France, in Serre Chevalier Vallée, Jackie will soon be in a similar transition. While she has recovered from a terrible scam, she is still trying to find her footing, après avoir perdu pied. Going back to Miami is tempting, but something tells her ce n’est pas le bon moment. So when a friend put up a Help Wanted sign in their family-owned ski shop, the universe seemed to be nudging.

Bienvenue à Jules Melquiond Sports!
Since getting the job, Jackie’s been busy researching the company, founded by Jules Melquiond. champion de ski et ex-slalomeur de la grande équipe de France des années 60.... Searching the company’s Instagram account and its website, Jackie shared various nuggets with me as I cooked dinner: “Did you know the shop sells luxury ski apparel? And that it boasts one of the best French boot-fitters in the country?”

Skilled boot-fitters? Our girl is sure to find her footing in the mountains! And high-end apparel? She might be able to sport that elegant costume after all. But for now, please join me in wishing Jackie bonne chance at Jules Melquiond Sports. She begins training next week!

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I leave you with a postcard from the collection of love letters Jean-Marc sent me 30 years ago... the message on the back is timeless as our daughter begins a new chapter in the Alps.

Serre Chevalier est un pays magnifique. Tout est sain et je me plais à venir ici...avec toi. Serre Chevalier is a beautiful place. Everything is healthy and I enjoy coming here...with you. —Jean-Marc

FRENCH VOCABULARY 
être sur son trente-et-un = to dress up 
la cabine d’essayage = fitting room, dressing room 
le costume = suit
une éscroquerie = a scam
un(e) cadet(te) = youngest
la colère = anger
pourquoi pas? = why not
Serre Chevalier Vallée = major ski resort in southeastern France
perdre pied = to lose one's footing, to be overwhelmed
ce n’est pas le bon moment = this isn’t the right time
champion de ski = ski champion 
équipe de France = French team
bonne chance! = good luck!

Chantemerle sapin de noel wood heart door star
For more photos and a story about a stolen kiss in the Alps, click here.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Burlesque in Burgundy... (A Cheeky Cabaret to Celebrate a friend's 50th birthday)

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If you are here for the photo of the semi-clad dancers, you’ll need to click over to the blog for the full version of this steamy letter! 

Today's French Word: le déguisement

    : costume, disguise; dressing up clothes, wearing fancy dress

Audio/Listening: Click the link below to hear the French words in today's séduisante story. Then scroll down to the vocabulary list to check your French comprehension.

Audio file, click here


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
"Tarzan is Happy"

En route to Burgundy to celebrate a friend's cinquantenaire, Jean-Marc was having difficulty shifting gears in our jeep. His right hand was swelling up from une crise de goutte ! I was feeling so sorry for him until our conversation switched from his gouty arthritis to details about our weekend rendezvous with twenty friends. Ever trying to fit in with the French, I had asked my husband multiple times about the dress code. Each time his response was the same: he didn't have any information in particular.

Getting information out of my man is like pulling teeth! Une vraie galère!

Considering how cold it might be en Bourgogne, I decided on black jeans and a black col roulé for Saturday night. But now, an hour away from Gevrey-Chambertin, busy helping my husband shift gears, I saw an update on his phone from the group we were meeting up with. Scrolling through his messages, a few words jumped right off the screen.

SOIRÉE DE GALA???

Suddenly Jean-Marc yelped in agony as he returned his swollen hand to the steering wheel, but this time I didn't respond "Pauvre-toi!" I was too busy feeling sorry for myself, picturing all the wives in exquisite evening attire. When the torturous thought had run its course, Reason had its say: Oh, laisse tomber tout ça! What would it matter in 100 years? Besides, this would be a good exercise in l'humilité

But humility is also knowing when to ask for help. Our 6-hour drive over, we joined our friends for lunch at La Part des Anges to savor specialties including Boeuf bourguignon, les escargots, and la volaille de Bresse. During a lag in the conversation, I fessed up about my clothing predicament and, illico, one of the women offered to lend me an elegant chemise. Parfait! Merci! 

(Speaking of “fessing up”... Did you know fesses in French means "butt"? If that seems off-topic read on...)

That night at the beautiful Castel de Très Girard hotel the women were dressed to the nines, but after the festive evening began they ditched their gowns and slipped into itsy-bitsy costumes for a spicey mise-en-scène.... 

There was a hush as the guest of honor sat in the middle of the party room, his back to the door. Soon we heard a rumble from the “jungle" when Serge Lama's song, Et Tarzan est Heureux, came on. The door opened and a delicate Geisha took tiny tiny steps towards our newbie Cinquantenaire, fussing over him before shuffling off stage. Next, a saucy cowgirl galloped in... after a few whips of her lasso she exited stage left in time for La Policière to saunter forth and issue him a ticket (which she tucked beneath his belt). As each dancer sashayed her way off stage, the audience belted out the song's joyous refrain....

“...et Tarzan est heureux!”
“...et Tarzan est heureux!”

Tarzan did indeed look happy! The burlesque continued with a voluptuous visit from “L'infirmière” (the Nurse), the sensual “Pilote d'avion,” the steamy “Soubrette” (that's a cheeky way to say Maid) and finally, The Birthday Boy’s own wife, and you have never seen a more ravishing (and provocative) Pirate! 

With forward and backward flips of their skirts à la Folies Bergères, all wives (or most all wives...) returned center stage. By now my husband had completely forgotten about his excruciatingly painful gout

Quant à moi, I wasn't sure whether to feel left out or enormously relieved not to be shaking my booty beside the other femmes-séductricesOh, laisse tomber! All that mattered was whether our beloved guest of honor was having a good time on his half-century mark. Just then, the song’s refrain seemed to confirm it:

Et Tarzan est heureux!
Et Tarzan et heureux!


I leave you with a photo (many thanks to our friends for permission to post it!) and a sound file of the catchy Tarzan song. The lyrics are un peu osé! Here are the first lines in English...

JPEG image
Et Tarzan est Heureux

When you sleep near your husband
For the three hundred thousandth time
Doesn't it happen to you sometimes
Dream that he's someone else?
And when you roll in his bed
Meowing like a young cat
Don't you sometimes hope
That Tarzan is behind the door?...

(For all lyrics in French and in English, click here)


Listen to "Tarzan est heureux", click here


FRENCH VOCABULARY
le déguisement = costume, dress up clothes 
séduisant(e) = seductive
en route = on the way
le cinquantenaire
= 50th birthday
une vraie galère = a real pain, a real chore
la crise de goutte = an attack of gout
La Bourgogne = Burgundy 
le col roulé = turtleneck
la soirée gala
= gala reception
pauvre-toi = poor you
laisse tomber tout ça
= forget about all that
la part des anges
= "the angel's share" refers to the wine that evaporates during fermentation
le boeuf = beef
la volaille = poultry
illico = right away, presto
la chemise = blouse
la fesse = cheek (bottom)
les fesses = butt
la mise-en-scène = setting up the scene
l’infirmière = nurse
la soubrette = maid
quant à moi = as for me
les femmes séductrices = seductive wives
un peu osé = a little daring

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Wearing my dear friend’s chemise. Thank you, Isild 💕
Crise de goutte
Photo from several years ago. A clay poultice (covered with a Harry's Bread sack) to help alleviate Jean-Marc's gout. For more about his painful gouty arthritis, click here

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That's all for this playful edition! If you enjoyed it please share it with a friend. Take care and "see you" next week.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


"Eclosion": Old love letters, a lifetime commitment, and "rien n'est acquis"...

postcards from Marseilles Provence France

Today's Word: une éclosion

    : blossoming, burgeoning

Audio/Listening: Click the link below to hear the French words in the following story. Then scroll down to the vocabulary list to check your French comprehension.

Sound File here


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

There were a handful of letters I meant to include in our vineyard memoir, colorful cartes postales from Provence saved from when Jean-Marc and I fell in love. I never did find the right chapter in which to insert ces déclarations d'amour and, finally, the cards were set in a box of "things to find a place for" beneath our bed. 

Last summer I took several months off from this blog to organize my thoughts and my life. Jean-Marc spent August at his man cave in the Alps... During la pétite separation I continued getting rid of the surplus in our home, trying to decide what to keep...while mindful not to toss the baby out with the bathwater. (Perhaps my husband of 27 years was safer in the mountains while I navigated "le retour d'âge"*?)

While tossing or donating "7 things a day" I uncovered more letters from Jean-Marc, dated 1990, '91, '92, '93, '94.... Turns out that handful of correspondence under our bed was but the tip of the iceberg!

Speaking of ice...

My husband returned from the mountains. Damn, he looked good! All tan and a dashing grin on his face. I began to melt all over again. He even had a gift in hand (an antique moulin à café to perk me up). Any complacency flew out the window and we quickly began revamping our efforts "not to take things for granted." But we would need more than appreciation to jumpstart a new season in our lifetime commitment. Sometime midsummer I began watching YouTube videos by a couples therapist. His tip? "95/5": you assume responsibility for 95 percent of the relationship (your spouse is responsible for 5 percent). To add to this injustice, cette iniquité, the therapist dared suggest I write down each day 25 things I like about my husband or our marriage. I did this for one day...when I had a sneaky idea: why not incorporate the "gratitude" practice into our morning ritual?

Je t’aime parce que...
There began a morning ritual of noting down one thing we like about the other. The gratitude pages grew and another chose was added to our early morning routine: “read one of Jean-Marc's mots doux from the past.” I dug out his cards and read them aloud. Lingering in bed, coffee on our respective nightstands, the sun rising beyond the window shutters, we relived our courtship days, as chronicled in the letters. So many details had been forgotten, like the “Morse” code we used for our international telephone calls (to avoid an onéreux phone bill).  And other particulars regarding our jobs, our wish to fonder une famille and notes on how to care for a lifelong commitment as explained in the following excerpt:

Amour, One thing I consider important is to talk, every day, even if we are tired, even if you don't want to for any reason. Talking sincerely is the best way to reinforce links and to prevent. Moreover, we will have this language problem and talking will help us to perform communication. Don't you think so?

Perform communication...That was Jean-Marc writing in English, 30 years ago...but it might have been me talking today: We need to communicate! We need to communicate!

Speaking of me talking, where were all my letters to JM? Qui sait? We didn't have to wait long to find out. One morning my husband appeared at the door of our bedroom, un sourire enjôleur on his face and a thick manila envelope. "Tu veux lire tes lettres aujourd’hui?"

He found them!

Postcards from Arizona to France

We now poured over postcards from the Arizona Dessert (Saguaro cacti and yellow poppies contrasted with his postcards of lavender fields and old stone farmhouses...), and letters long and short written on company letterhead (mine from the French travel company I worked for, his from the accounting firm qui venait de l'embaucher) taking turns to read or to carefully file the correspondence in a "his" or "her" pile, by date. On hearing JM read the date, I always pause to tease him, “So this was before (or after..) you bought me my one-way ticket home...” It always brings a chuckle...before we are gently quieted by the reminder that rien n’est acquis! 

In addition to the thoughtful cards, Jean-Marc sent me tape cassettes of French news "to help you keep up your French...." I sent most letters from the office, where I worked as a bilingual receptionist. One day, so deliriously in love, I stuck my head in the office photocopier just to have something interesting and passionate to send him.

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In big loopy writing or small hard-to-read cursive, our billets doux progressed and so did our plans. In a postcard of an old French mas from the winter of winter '92, Jean-Marc wrote poetically: 

It is in a house like this that I would like to live, when the passion of work and when age will have reminded me that nature is truly beautiful. And if in 30 years you will share my life, I hope you will be happy in this kind of landscape. (See postcard below...)

And here we are, 30 years later dusting off our histoire d'amour. There are dozens more letters to read and enjoy. We’ll be careful to keep them, and us, together this time.

 

FRENCH VOCABULARY
une éclosion = blossoming
la carte postale = postcard
déclaration d’amour =declaration of love
la petite séparation = little separation
le moulin à café = coffee mill
je t’aime parce que...= I love you because...
une iniquité = injustice, unfairness
une chose
= thing
le mot doux = love letter
onéreux
= pricey
fonder une famille = start a family
Amour = Love
qui sait? = who knows
tu veux lire tes lettres aujourd’hui? = want to read your letters today?
qui venait de l'embaucher = that had just hired him
rien n’est acquis
= nothing can be taken for granted
le sourire enjôleur = charming, beguiling smile
le billet doux = love letter
le mas = Provencal farmhouse
l’histoire d’amour = love story

*"Le retour d'âge": I slipped this term in later, in place of  "menopause". The term is slightly dated, but the literal translation is interesting: "the return of age"; poetically means: "the change", the change of life

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A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


A Strange Coincidence, “soul-daughter”, and wonderment in French

Jean-Marc and Jackie making cocktails
Pictured: Jean-Marc, who does the sound files for this journal, and our daughter, Jackie, whom today's story is about ♥ (here, she is making "The Lady B" one of the drinks she mixed for Baccarat).

Today's Word: émerveillement 

  : wonderment, amazement

Audio/Listening: Click the link below to hear all the French words in the following story. Then scroll down to the vocabulary list to check your French comprehension.

Sound file here


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Soul daughter

Last night I lay in bed wondering where my daughter was. I knew Jackie had a few rendezvous in Marseilles...By now she had surely finished lunch at the Callelongue calanque with cousins Clara and Mahé. She must have gone ahead with plans to meet up with Alice for a drink at l’Escale... Perhaps Jackie had posted an image from the popular seafront café?
 
Opening Instagram, ça y est, there was a video update from my 24-year-old.  I noticed bistro chairs in the foreground and a vibrant orange coucher du soleil on the horizon. My eyes locked on the young woman walking toward the blazing orb. Was it Jackie? I played the clip over and over, to where the girl takes off in a spirited gallop toward the setting sun. There was something about the image that stirred me....

Just then I heard the front door and the sound of steps in the stairwell. A gentle rapping on the bedroom door and Jackie appeared. A soft floral-fresh scent now filled the space between mother and daughter. I noticed her shiny hair, her new blazer, thick gold loops the French call créoles... 

“Come sit down!” I motioned to the edge of the bed. I couldn’t wait to hear all about my daughter's day. Did everything go smoothly? How was the drive all the way out to La Baie des Singes? Was it easy to find a place to park? Did the restaurant ask for un passe sanitaire?

With her fading French accent, Jackie assured me tout s'est bien passé. But how was I? she wanted to know. How was Grandma? What did we do all day? Oh, and did I see her video?

“Yes! I loved it! What a wonderful capture of the girl walking into the sunset...”

"I thought of you when I saw it. I knew I had to film it for you..."

Mon Âme-Fille
How touching that she would stop to think of her mom. Such love stirred me. Suddenly, I recalled being at that same place...and thinking of her—or the her that was to be or should have been. It was uncanny... déjà vu... the sunset, those bistro chairs, the girl running towards the horizon (Jackie or me? The image was superimposing, transporting me back to the summer of ‘93 when my daughter was but a twinkle in my eye)....

Twenty-eight years ago I sat alone at that very café, watching the sun go down on my life in France. I watched as a young mother parked her stroller at a table across from mine. She reached for her baby, hugging and kissing the child before settling into her bistro chair. I remember my heart sinking, tears welling up, and the thought of what might have been.... 

I recounted to Jackie the story of her parents' rupture years before she was born. "Little did I know then that you would be sitting here with me today. Isn’t it amazing?" Reaching for my daughter’s hand, I was replaying in my mind the image of the girl running toward the blazing horizon when Jackie looked at me, somberly.

"It is hard to think that we will only be here together for 50 years..."

"What do you mean? Here at the same time on earth?"

"Yah..."

"Well, that’s true, one day we'll be dust. But you know I believe in...."

"Heaven," my daughter continued.

"Yes! And I know you have your own beliefs. But one thing we both have to believe is that our souls are entwined éternellement." As my daughter listened, I thought I saw a twinkle in her eye. It brought me back to that glittering sea, the girl, the mother-child, the sunset, and Life's mystery.

“Nobody knows what comes next,” I admitted. “Not even the most brilliant scientist. All that is certain is dust and this soulful connection we have.” It is why, in the midst of a crowd, we think of our bien-aimée and sometimes even finish their sentences when we are together. Who can explain it? 



FRENCH VOCABULARY
émerveillement = wonderment, amazement 
la calanque = rocky inlet 
ça y est = there it was
le coucher du soleil = sunset 
les créoles = hoop earrings
La Baie des Singes = Monkey Bay
le passe sanitaire  = health pass, vaccination passport
tout s'est bien passé = everything went well
l’âme-fille = soul daughter
la rupture = break-up
éternellement = eternally, infinitely, without end
le/la bien-aimé(e) = beloved

RELATED STORY
Don’t miss the story “FRISSON” (“Chills”) - about a scary-cozy pastime both Jackie and I enjoyed when she was a teen. Click here.

Sunset coucher du soleil france
Girl running into the sun. A still from Jackie’s video.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


"Regretfully" in French + to spin out of control + One of us moves out...

historic building La Bastide Marin La Ciotat France
Which family member moved to the historic grounds of La Bastide Marin? Read on, in today's chronique and learn a dozen more useful French terms.

Today's Word: à contrecoeur (or contre-coeur)

    : regretfully, reluctantly, grudgingly

Audio/Listening: Click the link below to hear today's word + a dozen more vocabulary words. Next, scroll down to the vocabulary list to check your comprehension.

Click here to listen to Jean-Marc pronounce a list of French words



A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Ever since our hen, Edie, lost 4 camarades (victims snatched by des oiseaux de proie, two died mysteriously), our poule has struggled with la solitude...which is why we let her out of her empty pen and gave her the run of the garden.

An unbridled hen in un jardin is a catastrophic thing (for starts she ate the artichokes, the favas, and the nasturtiums), but not as catastrophique as a hen in a home...
"I did not encourage her," my Mom swore, the day I found our chicken nesting in a corner of Jules's ADU, or "garage apartment". It was hard to hide the delight on her face (Mom's or Edie's) and equally hard to hide the trail of seeds leading into Mom's studio....

hen chicken in art studio
photo by my belle-soeur Cécile, wine bottles painting by Jules

For weeks we hid the whole pagaille from Jean-Marc (did my husband know but looked the other way?). But when Mom became ill 6 weeks, coughing night and day (a cold? bronchitis? Covid??), I wondered, could she be allergic to our big bird?

An online search for "bird flu" brought back chilling results: Avian influenza in humans can cause a range of serious and potentially fatal complications, including eye infections, pneumonia, viral and acute respiratory distress....

Enough was enough! Edie expulsé, I spent all day Saturday getting any bird traces out of Mom's place, vacuuming under the bed, wiping down the walls, tossing damaged things--rearranging everything.

Mom didn't speak to me for weeks. The invasion of her privacy! The violation! The eviction of Edie!

Had I crossed the line of dignity? 


Mom got better (though she still held a grudge at "Sergeant Kristi") but now there was Edie to worry about. No longer queen of the garden (what was left of it...) she was back in her empty pen--a dustbowl compared to the Garden of Eden she ate before moving into Grandma's. Alone she lamented from morning to evening. Have you ever heard a chicken lament? Our entire neighborhood has! I spent my days hurrying back and forth from house to hen, trying to appease our lonely chick with snacks and water...which only exacerbated another problem: all the neighborhood doves and pigeons had moved in to feast on the food and water (they were drinking from Smokey's bowl, too. Was this healthy for our dog?).

A Jumpity Sergeant
Slapping at my arms and legs (mosquitos!), I stood guard while Edie ate or drank, but the pigeons were determined. The food and water supplies dwindled along with my nerves. The situation became unmanageable...

...et là, tout est parti en cacahuète! Everything spun out of control.

I knew I needed to find a home for Edie, but what if our free-spirited hen ended up in a cramped poulailler? In full sun? Who would take good care of Edie, if I couldn't?

I remembered reading about a friendly farm, La Ferme d'Autrefois, here in La Ciotat...
"Located in the park of the classified domain of La Bastide Marin, the farm proposes ludique and educational animations in order to sensitize young and old to the protection of the environment in contact with the animals, to support the discovery and the learning of the activities of the agricultural world."

I knew this would be the only place for our cocotte, a pleasant environment to thrive in. Contacting the person in charge of the ménagerie, I was so relieved by Marion’s willingness to adopt Edie. And so it was, last Saturday, our hen nestled comfortably in a straw cabas, Jean-Marc drove us the 5 minutes to the historic and lively domaine. For Edie, it will surely be a change from Jules’s cozy studio (or from my tasty garden) but it beats an empty pen and a jumpity sergeant. 

Post-Note: since relocating Edie to the friendly farm, we've returned weekly to visit her and bring her treats (she loves tomatoes, and so do the roosters that follow her around. After living in a hens-only home, I hope all these new suitors are suitable for her! 

IMG_2249

FRENCH VOCABULARY
la chronique = column
la (le) camarade = friend
la solitude = loneliness
un oiseau de proie
= bird of prey
le jardin = garden
catastrophique = disastrous
ADU = Accessory Dwelling Unit, in-law suite, garage apartment
la belle-soeur = sister-in-law
la pagaille = mess, mayhem, chaos
expulsé = evicted
partir en cacahuète = to spin out of control
le poulailler = henhouse, chicken coop
la ferme d'autrefois = "The Days-Gone-By Farm" (or The Once-Upon-A-Time Farm)
la cocotte
= hen (in child's language)
la ménagerie = menagerie, small zoo, group of animals
le cabas = straw basket
à contrecoeur (contre-coeur) = reluctantlyIMG_2259

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Name your favorite drink + What does the French “bredouille” mean in English? (Hint: it doesn't mean 'tipsy')

Jean-Marc at Le Vin Sobre wine shop epicerie in La Ciotat France
If you were to visit Jean-Marc's wine shop, what would you buy? Tell us your favorite wine, drink, or boisson in the comments section. It could make for a lively thread!

Today's Word: bredouille

    : empty-handed, unsuccessful

Audio/Listening: Click the link below to hear today's word + a dozen more vocabulary words. Next, scroll down to the vocabulary list to check your comprehension.

Sound File, click here


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristi Espinasse
"A Surprise Visit"

Following Sunday’s grasse matinée, I felt lazy and tempted to skip church. Maybe I could go with Jean-Marc to his wine shop instead? It would only be for 3 hours, given the store’s open from 10-1 le dimanche. And it would give us some time together. Allez! On y va!

Setting my coat and purse on the tasting table at Le Vin Sobre, I turned to peruse the small épicerie fine when I heard my husband say the very thing I was thinking: Help tidy the tea section? 

Compte sur moi!”

After the teas were neatly line up I began to clean the glass windows behind which Jean-Marc stocks les produits fraisla poutargue, la pata negra, les boquerones, les fromages… A woman, her young son and their spirited cocker spaniel blew into the boutique along with a few fall leaves. “Bonjour Monsieur. Auriez-vous un Chenin Blanc?”

After Jean-Marc had rung up his first sale of the day and the trio had left, he shut the cash drawer with a flourish. “Comme ça on ne sera pas bredouille.” 

Bredouille? That sounds like a cool word . Répète-le.

“J’ai dit, ‘comme ça on ne rentrera pas bredouille’.”

Ah! Now I wasn't leaving ‘empty-handed’ either! I was going home with a new expression to share with readers!”

Ah, quand on parle du loup! Just then, two Francophiles from Boise, Idaho walked in... Susan introduced herself as a reader of my blog. She and Larry were leaving their rental in Cassis, and heading north to the quaint village of Sablet. What a chance meeting this was on the very day I was ditching church.

“C’est une double coïncidence,” Jean-Marc smiled, “because we don’t always open on Sundays.” With that, on a fait connaissance. I leave you, dear reader, with a snapshot of our chanceux encounter. And a warm remerciement to Susan and Larry, for all the wine you purchased. Là c’est certain, on ne rentrera pas bredouille! 



***
Post note: I was going to use the phrase “speak of the devil” to segue into the final part of the story about when my readers appeared. But then, yikes! I didn’t want to inadvertently refer to “readers” (or to Susan and Larry) as les diables! That’s when I learned the popular idiom: Quand on parle du loup, on en voit la queue (when you speak of the wolf, you'll see his tail). It means when you speak of someone they will appear). 

A Wine Odyssey...
This fall marks the 2-year anniversary of Jean-Marc's wine shop. Bravo, Chief Grape! My husband has come a very long way in his wine journey. Read about the ups and downs in our memoir, The Lost Gardens. 

Jean-marc wine odyssey
2007 at our first vineyard, "Chief Grape," who records all sound files for this blog. Merci, Chief!

FRENCH VOCABULARY

la grasse matinée = to sleep in
le dimanche = Sunday
Allez! On y va! = come on, let’s go!
l’épicerie fine = delicatessen
Compte sur moi! = count on me!
les produits frais (m) = fresh food, refrigerated foods
la poutargue = a culinary specialty of Martigues, known elsewhere as “bottarga” (salted, cured fish roe)
la pata negra (“patte noir”) = Iberian ham
les boquerones = anchovies
le fromage = cheese
Bonjour Monsieur, Auriez-vous un Chenin Blanc = hello sir. Do you have a Chenin Blanc
Comme ça on ne sera pas bredouille = now we won’t be going home empty-handed
Quand on parle du loup, on en voit sa queue = when you speak of the wolf, you'll see his tail. 
C’est une double coïncidence = it’s doubly coincidental
on a fait connaissance  = we got to know each other
chanceux (chanceuse) = lucky
le remerciement = thank-you

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Kristi, Larry, Susan, and Chief Grape

Bon weekend à tous. Don't forget to list your favorite wine or boisson in the comments, below. Merci! 

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


"Conciliabule" or how to say Pow Wow in French + Family dynamics: living with adult kids and Grandma

Le vin sobre cavea cave vin la ciotat vitrine window
A new window, or "vitrine", at Jean-Marc's wine shop. It depicts the local coastline, including Cassis!

Zut! There's a blooper, une gaffe, at the end of today's sound file. Listen for Jean-Marc, who tells me I've made two mistakes. Hear all the French vocabulary in today's story when you click on the link, below:

Audio file, click here

Conciliabule
(kohn-see-lya-bewl)
: conventicle

Conciliabule--what a cool word in French! A "conventicle" is a secret meeting of nonconformists, and it's perfect for today's missive about a recent family pow wow. Synonyms in French or English for consiliabule: tête-à-tête, conversation, entretien, chat, meeting, discussion

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
Our 3-Generation Household & La Thérapie Familiale

If ever there were 5 adult family members more challenged for multigenerational living, c'est nous! What with one ex-winemaker and wine shop owner (Jean-Marc), one bartender (Jackie), one wine salesman (Max), one wine thief (Grandma), and one teetotaler (moi...), le conflit est inévitable—even if booze has nothing to do with it. 

One thing we've been needing to do with is our new living arrangement. A recent visit to Jean-Marc's cave à vin provided an opportunity for such a meeting (which I like to call pow-wow if only to slip in one more English term for my kids to learn).

"What is a pow wow?" our son asks, stumped.

"C'est une réunion familiale," I answer, flustered to be speaking bad French when I mean to speak English to my kidults. Seated around a table at Le Vin Sobre, my husband’s wine shop in La Ciotat, we're here to support Jean-Marc in his latest inspiration: une pause déjeuner for customers interested in a simple lunch option at the store.  All family members are present, except Grandma, who is siesting at home (no worries, our wine cellar is locked!).

Last night’s storm has left us feeling out of sorts, so maybe this isn't the time for the conciliabule I have in mind but, with 5 strong personalities now living together (2.5 of us have short tempers and the other 2.5 wish to avoid conflict at all costs),  je me lance!:

"I need help cleaning la salle de bain!" I say.

One of our tribe, the elder fiston, speaks up, arguing that if the bathroom is already propre, why clean it? I feel my blood begin to boil. If it's clean, that's because I keep cleaning it!

Later, at home, after our tummies are full (blood sugar intact) there’s another attempt at group communication and already 2 of us (mother and son) are wrestling with a resurfaced rancune. "Would you please back me up?" I say, glaring at our Chief, who remains bouche cousue. This is not how I imagined our do-it-yourself family therapy session! Maybe we needed outside help?

Max and I managed to work it out all on our own, and what a relief it was. "OK,” I agreed, “I will work on being less controlling if you will work on...." (I let my son fill in the blank)...

"...not losing my patience," Max agreed. Très bien, a successful pow wow at last!

golden retriever dog chien sunflowers
Our 12-year-old golden retriever, Smokey, relaxing in Mom's butterfly chair

Now that the storm is past, instead of grumbling over qui fait quoi I can focus on and appreciate each family member's contribution (even if that doesn't include scrubbing toilets and washing floors...):

My Mom, Jules, waters our garden, and her free spirit (which I am always trying to tame) helps us to lighten up and see life from a creative perspective. Jules also takes good care of her roommate, Smokey, qui veille sur Jules aussi!

My husband, Jean-Marc, takes care of the bureaucratic paperwork we all avoid. Plus he is willing to do anything on my Honey-Do list (if only I'll settle down and write it!).

I take care of the house and yard, do the cooking and try to make everything run smoothly around here by keeping everyone in line when I should probably let go and go with the flow. (But we all should remember the saying: “walk a mile in my shoes!”)

My 26-year-old, Max, is "our supply guy." While on the road as a wine salesman, he sees all sorts of bonnes affaires: from free-for-the picking persimmons to retro bistro chairs (from a wine shop that was tossing them) to a giant antique mirror (found by the side of the road) he gifted Grandma. He's that family member who brings useful/abandoned stuff home for redistribution. Plus, he's a neat freak so he takes care of details I don't think of (like washing down our portable clothesline after the storm).

And my 24-year-old, Jackie, is the peacemaker. Calm, quiet, and thoughtful, she is the listener (and still the dreamer). I am amazed by her ability to simplify and express in words a complex notion or emotion. I've always felt she would be an excellent therapist or advocate given her innate sense of justice. Ironically she is currently recovering from a terrible injustice and this has brought her back to France, to the frenzied fold she escaped years ago.

"Mom," Jackie texted, after I was still spinning from our family meltdown, "everything will be fine, I promise. Everyone is under tension today. Don't blame yourself or anyone. Let's be patient...."

Late that same evening, worn out from emotion as we sat gathered around the salon, I had the last word: “Look, we may not be a perfect family... but would you trade ours for another and maybe a whole other set of problems? We have made it this far and that is a beautiful thing. And right now, at this time in our lives, for various reasons, we are living together again and I believe this is not by coincidence. We all need each other. And, just think, when will we ever have a chance to live together like this again—parents, kids, and Grandma? It’s kind of cool, isn’t it?”

Or, as Jackie said of our multigenerational foyer, “We’re  like an Italian family!” 

We all nodded in appreciation of such exotisme. Yes, indeed. C’est la dolce vita! I think Jules would toast to that...just as she did when she snuck into Jean-Marc’s wine cellar, dragging a neighbor down with her. She must have swiped a very good vintage (Domaine du Banneret, Châteauneuf du Pape?) because when her son-in-law burst into her room the next day, il l’a grondée!

 

FRENCH VOCABULARY
c'est nous = it's us
le conflit est inévitable = conflit is unavoidable
la cave à vin = wine cellar, wine shop
une réunion familiale = a family gathering
la pause déjeuner = lunch break
conciliabule = discussion, chat, pow-wow
je me lance = I go for it
la salle de bain = bathroom
le fiston = son, boy
propre = clean
la rancune = grudge, resentment, hard feelings
la bouche cousue = tight lipped
qui fait quoi = who does what
veille (veiller) = to take care of
une bonne affaire = a good deal
le salon = living room
C’est la dolce vita = it’s the good life 
il l’a grondée = he reprimanded her!
*At the end of the sound file, Jean-Marc is saying: "voilà 'gronder' c'est 'é'...Ah zut!" (I had spelled it 'gronder'.

076653C8-F8A7-4E5C-9675-9DD2CFA9CFED
A favorite picture of my free-spirited Mom, Jules.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety