Meet-up: Jean Marc will be in LA soon... & elsewhere in the States...
une petiote (peh tee oht)
: little girl, lass
un petiot (peh tee oh)
: little boy, lad
A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse
Don't you just wonder who lives behind these fascinating French façades? The characters that cohabit, the personnages who putter derrière la porte? I want to know each and every one, and yet....
Ever since I was a child I have asked "qui habite là?" And so I spent a lot of time knocking on doors. If someone was out in their yard, I'd wander up and wait with hopeful eyes until I got invited over to the other side of the property line. If I didn't get invited in, then I might return minutes later with a handful of just-picked desert flowers. How could the neighbors refuse?
I wish this favorite passe-temps had never left me; regrettably—as a social conscious scaredy-cat—I've lost that free spirit, the one that used to drift, dreamy-eyed, from one door to the next. Toc, toc! Anybody home?! Oh, the people I would meet!
As a child I was outside and discovering just soon as I rose from my bed. I could not wait to tie on my roller skates and glide around the neighborhood looking for a new friend. Our trailer park was populated with characters of all ages. And where there's character, there's atmosphere! I was curious to know what everyone else's insides looked like—the inside of their trailer, even the inside of their refrigerator.... I knocked on a lot of aluminum-sided front doors and eventually got invited in for cookies, ice cream, and a chat. I'm not sure what I had to offer in the way of conversation, but the neighbors didn't seem to mind my company.
I loved listening to the exotic foreigner who ended her sentences with "eh?" I was told she came from a country way up north... and I wondered whether she'd ever crossed paths with Santa Claus, eh? I picked desert wildflowers for her and hooked her up with my mom. The two became fast friends.
Three doors down from mine, a man wore a jupe and played funny pipes. I'd never seen him wear a skirt but my friend Donna said that people like that did. I was fascinated. I played the clarinet and wore bell bottoms which were boring in comparison.
Over in the cul-de-sac, a man, whom everyone called "Father," and his wafer-thin daughter, took me to church. She was so skinny, which was odd given the kind of service they took me to. (I had never before seen people snack at church and I couldn't wait for my turn for "crackers" and "juice" from a fancy goblet. Turns out you only got one of those crackers (and only one sip of the "juice") but the fact was, we were eating and drinking in church!)
The characters whom I encountered in my childhood... from the Canadian to the kilt-wearing bagpipe player to the Catholic priest... continue to impress me and I know that those magical times can be relived. Such experiences are no farther than the next French door. All I have to do is summon that fearless fille inside of me, and head out to the village, with its characters and their mysteries.
Help encourage others in this community to participate by sharing your thoughts in the comments box. Don't worry about your words—just jump in and say hello. Tell us which town you live in. You might even share your age, if you so fancy (and that's as fancy as we get here :-)
la façade = front wall of building, home
le personnage = character
derrière la porte = behind the door
qui habite là? = who lives there?
la porte = door
le passe-temps = pastime
toc toc = knock knock
la jupe = skirt
la fille = girl
Blogger Espinasse has taken a step backward in the evolution of media by converting selected contents of her Web log into a book. Beginning students of conversational French will profit from many of these brief entries, and supplemental tables of expressions go far to demystify French idioms for anyone wishing to speak and write more fluent French. —Booklist
Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi