The Stranger, Part 2 (+ The Word the French say When Smiling for a Photo)

Eglise cathedral church france la ciotat
A series of empêchements might have kept us from bumping into a stranger. Read on for part 2 of our story...

Today's Word: ouistiti!

    : Say cheese!

A ouistiti is also a small creature, this one.

A life of her own emilie carles
A book on my nightstand, and a memoir I've had for a very long time that is even more meaningful to me now. I hope you will enjoy Emilie Carles A Life of Her Own. Click here to order.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse


After smiling ouistiti for the photo, we left our accidental amie there on the cobblestone path and headed inside the art supply store. Mom needed a special product for prepping her unusual canvases (that's a whole other story).

As Jules searched for supplies, I listened to the commerçant, who said he may have to close shop--having lost 17,000 euros since les gilets jaunes began protesting last November. Mon Dieu, this poor man needed customers! Just as that thought ran through my mind, I heard jingle bells. And there, in the shop's entrance, les cloches still swaying on the doorknob, stood our elegant new friend!

Ah, rebonjour, Madame said. I was thinking.... it would be nice to have the photo your mom just took of us, she said.

Mais bien sûr! I smiled, reaching for my phone. Madame, with a perfectly manicured thumbnail, in clear gloss, flipped open her own phone which had rhinestones on it and a tiny screen which caused her no end of frustrations. Voyons... Madame mumbled.

I began searching with Madame until she got sidetracked by a photo album and there began an impromptu vernissage (or art showing of her daughter's works). I like the coquelicot, Madame said. Ah, but I musn't go on. Say, could you send the picture here, she said, pointing to a message box. 

Equally challenged by technology, it took me a few moments to figure out how best to transfer the file, but we succeeded, managing, at the same time, to record each other's phone numbers. A round of Who's On First ensued as we looked for evidence that we had indeed called each other...and so registered our numbers.

Mindful of every delicious minute we were enjoying together in this serendipitous meeting, hélas, the time had come to say goodbye. Kisses on each cheek, and Madame disappeared beyond les cloches, the door chiming behind her.

Only to reopen 10 minutes later....

I have a little something for your Mom, Madame announced. Hanging from her wrist, there was a little lavender gift bag....

Jules thanked Madame for the kindness, and was visibly moved by the surprise. I noticed Mom did not open the gift, and guessed she was going to enjoy the suspense a little while longer....

In the car ride home, I relived the entire encounter. Can you believe it, Mom. It was so easy to talk to her about everything and nothing--and there was so much spontaneous affection. It is rare to speak to somebody this way. I can't explain it... I went on, Madame was... She was...

Mom gazed out the car window, her mind drifting out to sea as she searched for the words I had not yet found. Her thoughts returned in three giant waves, to describe Madame:

She. Was. Real.

*    *    *
(For Part 1 of this story, click here)

Screenshot_20190122-072742
I've not asked Madame permission to post her photo. But there's a snapshot, below, and here is a sketch from my Instagram. I hope you will join me over there, where I post mini-updates and photos throughout the week. I'm sorry for not posting a picture of the gift Mom received. Every story needs an element of mystery, don't you agree? 

FRENCH VOCABULARY

un empêchement = hitch, hindrance
ouistiti! = say cheese!
un/e ami/e = friend
17,000 euros = 19,340 US dollars
mon Dieu! = my God!
les gilets jaunes = the yellow vests, see yellow vests movement
rebonjour= hi again
la cloche
= bell
la poignée de port = door handle
voyons = lets's see
le vernissage = private viewing of art
le coquelicot = poppy
hélas = alas, sadly

Madame and me la ciotat backpack

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
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"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle

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Haphazardly in French + Serendipitous Meeting with a Stranger, Part 1

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Experience a Lavender & Vine painting tour! Discover the magical light of Van Gogh this summer (lavender season) or fall (wine harvest). Join our small group with professional instruction to paint in Provence. Rates and tour info here.

Today's Phrase: au petit bonheur

    : haphazardly, randomly

Le bonheur, c'est de continuer à désirer ce qu'on possède. -Saint Augustin
Happiness is wanting what you already have.

January Book-A-Thon....
For two years now I have quietly read your blog, enjoying your triumphs and trials. Unable to sleep one night, I opened your email to find a request to buy your book. It was time for me to step out of the shadows and support your cause. What a delight! I have been unable to put it down. I wish you loads of success. --Jeanne
Blossoming cover
January book-a-thon: buy a book for a friend. Your purchase supports my writing and helps new readers find their way here. Merci! Available in ebook/Kindle or paperback.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

It was serendipity. How else to explain Saturday's meeting with un inconnu?...It was, as Madame said, not par hasard the way we ended up walking, one in front of the other on a cobblestone path at the same point in time....

Time! One minute more, one minute less and we'd never have met. Earlier at home, on our way to the car, Mom had said, Do you have any Kleenex? No? I'll go back and get some. Pockets stuffed with mouchoirs, and in town now, we were stalled another 5 minutes admiring the giant seed pods on a tree we could not name. Lolling about we approached le centre ville on our way to the art supply store, when a gothic church caught my eye. Let's go look! 
Church eglise la ciotat cathedral architecture gothic
To think all of these accidental adjustments in our schedule were not accidents, but were serving to line us up at an exact point on a geographical line of happenstance. There we were, meandering down a narrow street when Mom paused, colliding with the stranger behind her... 

Oh, pardon, Madame! Mom said. Apologizing, she motioned toward the historical buildings surrounding us. 

Ah, oui! C'est magnifique, Madame smiled. At this point she might have nodded and walked off. But she stayed...

Je suis
d'ici... she offered, her raspberry red lipstick drawing us in to such glamour: silver-white hair (I don't have a lot of it, she insisted) in a lovely twist, held up with a barrette. She wore wool pants, a jazzy, printed vest, black boots (they are hand-sewn, I got them at the farmers market!) a long foulard wrapped around her neck and big dark glasses.  She reminded me of one of those characters in Advanced Style.

Mom could not help herself: Look at you! You are so beautiful! The three of us huddled closer, and a conversation ranging from hair loss to the horrors of war ensued.  

(Stranger to Mom): Ah, you were born in '46, and I in '44--when bombs were falling over France! They placed my 4 siblings in various homes, but I was still nursing. The soldiers did not believe it so they squeezed my mother's enormous... (here Madame held out two widely cupped hands for effect...). To this day I am a skinny little thing, Madame concluded. When the Mistral blows through town it carries me away! But I'm out today... no wind! 

Mom was getting cold feet--not from the war story--no, it was the frozen cobblestones beneath her Converse hightops that were making her antsy. But before we moved on, Jules really wanted a photo of Madame ...
 
Je ne suis pas photogenic....Madame insisted--only to jump into my outstretched arm and smile ouistiti! Locking elbows, I marveled at the natural affection coursing through our hearts. Ce n'est pas par hasard...Madame repeated, as she looked up and flashed that heavenly smile.
 
 
*    *    *
 
Lavender and vine painting tour in provence villages art trip europe
The photo in the opening of this post, and this one, are from Beth. I have personally experienced her hospitality during one of her organized trips in Provence. Do check it out, it may be just the adventure you are looking for in 2019! 

FRENCH VOCABULARY
le bonheur = happiness
un inconnu = stranger
par hasard = by accident
le mouchoir (en papier) = tissue, Kleenex
le centre ville = town center
le foulard = scarf, neckerchief
ouistiti! = cheese!

Kristi jules max in kitchen
Recent Instagram post: Three generations, with my Mom, Jules, and my son, Max.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
♥ Send $10    
♥ Send $25    
♥Send the amount of your choice

"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle

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Tabouret, fouet, penderie, bonnes idées - and a glimpse into the writing life

Tabouret de bar bar stool
It is not enough to have good ideas, you have to act. If you need milk, do not sit on a stool in the middle of a field in the hope that a cow will pass by. -Curtis Grant (don't miss the French translation below)

Today's word: un tabouret

    : stool, footstool

un tabouret de bar = bar stool
un tabouret de cuisine = kitchen stool
un tabouret de piano = piano bench

Il ne suffit pas d'avoir de bonnes idées, il faut agir. Si vous avez besoin de lait, ne vous installez pas sur un tabouret au milieu d'un champs dans l'espoir qu'une vache y passe.

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Hemingway's Paris: A Writer's City in Words and Images. Order it here.

My backpack sac a dosA DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristi Espinasse

The following paragraph was posted with the picture above at  Instagram....

A bar stool with a lot of memories and, sur son dos, a backpack with a lot of souvenirs. It is comforting to have familiar things out. I wore that sac à dos on the plane, in '92, when I moved to France. It somehow got shoved in the back of the closet. Lately, now that I keep it on the chair by the kitchen, I've been taking it out with me, using it for shopping. Today it brought good luck via a touching and meaningful encounter with a stranger. I think that meeting must've swept all the energy out of me (in a good way) and I'm afraid I'll be lazy and not sit down and write about it all. At times like this is good to rest, let the doubts pass, and then exercise a bit of violence with yourself (French for "give yourself a kick in the butt"!). We all need a handy whip when it comes to realizing our dreams....

 

FRENCH VOCABULARY
sur son dos = on it's back
le sac à dos = backpack
un souvenir = memory

REVERSE DICTIONARY
closet = la penderie
to go shopping = faire les courses
lazy = parasseux (euse)
stranger = un inconnu
whip = un fouet


My writing space
This is my writing desk. My computer and paperwork is hidden under that scarf--because this is also my bedroom and in order to sleep I don't want to be thinking about work. Yet, I think about work all the time. Because writing this blog is my life.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
♥ Send $10    
♥ Send $25    
♥Send the amount of your choice

"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle

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