une pantoufle

la frangine

Jean-Marc's frangine.

la frangine 


noun, feminine

sister (in informal French)


When Jean-Marc's sister comes to stay with us, the kids want to touch their aunt's pink hair, ride in her orange car, and give up their beds for her comfort. Do you still live in a school bus and can we come visit? they want to know.

The bus has been sold, she tells them, but there is plenty of room in her two-ton camion. The home being of a mobile nature, such a visit might be in Normandy or Paris or even Africa—wherever work or wonderment might take her. Aunt Cécile has worked as a mime, as a circus-tent technician and, most recently, as a driver for a punk-rock band—she even holds a poids lourds license.

Aunt Cécile with the pink hair drove up in an orange station wagon this weekend. She is taking the clunker to Africa. Her mission is to transport English books to a bibliothèque in Gambia. For cash, which she calls flouze, she will sell her car along the way, in Morocco perhaps, where station wagons are used as taxis. And while she is there, she—and the friends with whom she is traveling—will get the shots they need for Africa. Immunization, Cécile explains, is less expensive in Morocco. For the price of one French injection, she and her potes can each get vaccinated before venturing south along war-torn roads that lead to hungry villages.

Along our manicured driveway, our family gathers for the bon voyage wishes. But before she goes, there are so many things I want to ask my sister-in-law about her life, one so different from mine.

"We don't ask these questions," my mother-in-law sighs, wanting to ask them more than I. 

After my belle-mère kisses her daughter goodbye, it is my turn to say au revoir.

There we stand, side by side, my frangine and I—I with salon highlights in my hair, my sister-in-law with Mercurochrome streaks in hers (the dark red liquid stains it radical pink), I with diamonds on my finger, she with jewels in her soul. She is a French Robin Hood and her treasures are the cast-offs that she spirits away from the privileged. I am the stable, square, secure sister-in-law, still searching, longing to be spirited away with those old clothes and books of mine that are headed out the door, to Afrique.


*     *     *


French Vocabulary

le camion

le poids lourd
heavy goods vehicle

la bibliothèque

le flouze
(or flouse)
dough (argot for cash as are le fric, le pognon, le blé, and la thune)

le pote

bon voyage
have a nice trip
la belle-mère

au revoir

l'Afrique (f)

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