Video Interview: Jean-Marc with Kristi at the vineyard in 2009

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation.

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

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


S’épancher: to pour out one's heart + Another grocery store encounter

fleuriste flower shop in Sospel France hearts on window niche
A flower shop in Sospel, France. The hearts in the fleuriste's window hint at today's word. The story below reveals the full meaning. Enjoy two sound files in today's post and thank you for sharing this journal with a friend.

Today's Word: s'épancher

    : to pour out one's heart

Example Sentence and Sound File
Retenir ses larmes, voilà bien, selon moi, le comble du " charnel " ; car lorsqu'on refuse à son coeur de s'épancher, le chagrin ne s'ancre-t-il pas en nous, pesant comme un fardeau? To hold back one's tears is, in my opinion, the height of the "carnal"; for when one refuses to let one's heart out, does not grief become anchored in us, weighing us down like a burden? -Jostein Gaarder, author of Sophie's World

Click to hear the quote in French


A DAY in a FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
"Life Unraveling as it Should"

I was blowdrying my hair when Mom knocked on the bathroom door.

"I'm not feeling well. I'm going to stay home," Jules said. I noticed she was hunched over.

Our plans were now changing and this rattled me--especially as I had waited an extra hour to wake up Mom (had I known she wasn't coming with me, I'd have left for the grocery store earlier). In my frustration, I couldn't help but wonder whether Mom was really sick or did she just want to ditch the shopping errand and get back in bed?

"Mom, stand up straight!" I said, assessing the situation. I had never seen her hunched like that and wanted it to stop. (My own kids have a similar reaction when I am not brimming with health. They don't ever want to see their parents weak.)

"I'm not going to the store," Mom put her foot down.
 
"Well, I don't want to go to the store either!" I announced.

"Then don't go," Mom challenged.  

"But I have to!"

In the 30-second standoff that followed, huffs and puffs could be heard...followed by a move on the more mature one's part:

"Here," Mom said, waving some cash.

"No. You keep it!" I thought Mom was giving me pocket money again. If she had 50 dollars to her name, she'd still give us l'argent de poche--no matter our age, for the joy it brings.  

"Just get me some grape juice and bread please."

"Don't worry. I'll get a bunch of goodies," I said, thanking Mom for le flouze.


When I got into my car I saw Mom walking toward me from her studio, reminding me to bring her the pommes de terre I'd cooked earlier. She needed them to make the fried potatoes we were having for lunch. I got out of the car, walked back to the house (pausing to pet our old dog) then back around the house, to Mom's place, patates en main.

Smokey golden retriever 12 years old
                                 Mom's hand resting on Smokey

"Oh, and the bacon..." Mom reminded. Right, les lardons! I hurried back around the house (pausing to pet Smokey) unlocked the front door, ran to the kitchen...then back to Mom's.

(Old Smokey needed more pats on the way back. And because his time is limited, I had to slow down.)

Finally, in my car, seatbelt on.... and zut! I forgot my phone! Oh, leave it. No, you need it or you'll forget what's on your list... One more dash back to the house, and up the stairs to my room.... I sensed at that moment that all the va-et-vient, though annoying, amounted to Life unraveling as it should.

***

At Monoprix supermarket I took a deep breath. You're here now. Take your time. Get what you need. You can catch up with everything else later....

In the frozen food aisle, a petite woman with soft platinum curls approached me. "Pardonnez-moi. Je cherche les épinards."

"Oh, spinach... there it is," I said, walking with Madame over to the display: "il y a des épinards en branches, épinards hachées, épinards à la crème fraîche...."

"Merci beaucoup," she said, "You are so kind. You are so kind."

"Oh. I only showed you where the spinach was," I smiled.

"I'm so lost." Madame said suddenly. "My husband just passed away. I don't know why I am telling you this."    

I stood there holding her gaze and reached for her arm. The widow now held on to mine. 

"And I lost my daughter. She was 45...."

"Oh, I am so sorry! I am...holding you in my heart," was all I could think to say. We stood there in our flimsy paper masks, clinging to each other. I gently squeezed la veuve's arm, hoping the tender gesture would make up for a lack of words.

"Merci, merci, vous êtes gentille," the widow repeated. 

"I will be here shopping for a while,” I assured her. “If you need me, je suis dans les parages."

I continued shopping, glancing here and there for the lost soul, but the widow had vanished. 

***

Back at home Mom was much better (hmmm....) and after lunch we sat together in the sunshine, Mom popping up from time to time to show me her ideas for our garden: “And I'm going to have Max dig a trench here and one there for flowers! Lots of flowers!

Mom sat back down in her favorite papillon chair, looked over at me at snickered. "Stand up straight! I used to tell you girls that when you were little."

Obviously, somebody was still irritated by the comment I made earlier. "Mom, I'm sorry if I was harsh with you," I apologized. “That was just Fear talking. I didn't want you to be sick. And also, I get frustrated when plans change. And then I had a hard time getting out the door. Back and forth, back and forth."

"To and fro, to and fro
, like the Holy Spirit," Mom smiled, in reference to our celestial helper.

It dawned on me then that every little change, every empêchement in my schedule, added up to the chance encounter with a stranger in need. It is a lesson the universe continues to teach: Everything is unfolding as it should, setbacks and all. Just trust that you are in the right place at the right time, right now. (And always be respectful and loving to your Mom!)

Mom  in jeans
Jules. My beautiful Mom.

FRENCH VOCABULARY

Click here to listen to the French terms below

s'épancher = to pour out one'sheart
la pomme de terre = potato
les patates en main = potatoes in hand
le lardon = bacon strip
l'argent de poche = pocket money, spending money
le flouze = cash
zut = shoot!
va-et-vient = back-and-forth
épinards en branches, hachées, à la crème fraîche =
je suis dans les parages = I’m in the area
Vous êtes gentille = you are kind
Merci beaucoup = thank you
un empêchement = a delay

Words missing from the sound file:
le/la fleuriste = florist, flower shop
le papillon = butterfly (read about Mom's butterfly chair)

shopfront artisan fabrication sur mesure
I leave you with a photo from the archives, from the story «Faire Bisquer » (to rile someone) 

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation.

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

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


Les Étrennes: This French new year's custom will have you digging in your pockets

Marseilles les arcenaulx mailboxes boite lettres
Photo of les boîtes à lettres taken in Marseilles at Les Arcenaulx. Thank you, Jean-Marc, for recording two sound files for today's post (the second is found below the vocabulary list). Note: if you are experiencing déjà vu reading the following column--tout va bien--the story is being revived from the archives

TODAY'S WORD: LES ETRENNES


    : New Year's gift, tip, bonus

étrenner = to wear or use for the first time; to be first in the line of fire

Listen to Jean-Marc read from FranceTVInfo.fr:
Avec les vœux du Nouvel An arrive le moment des étrennes. Vous ne savez pas à qui donner ni quel montant consacrer à cette tradition ? Ce don d'argent n'est pas obligatoire, mais c'est un signe de gratitude qui permet d'entretenir les liens avec des personnes qui vous facilitent la vie. With New Year's wishes comes the moment of New Year's gifts. Unsure of who to give to or how much to devote to this tradition? This donation of money is not compulsory, but it is a sign of gratitude that allows you to maintain ties with people who make your life easier.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

On Saturday Mom and I were crammed between the two folding doors of an old telephone booth (now a tiny, free library brimming with books). We were checking the latest titles, including Shogun, which Mom could not read because it was in French. Helping return the book, I looked out through the window of the cabine téléphonique and spotted Postwoman Marie....

Postlady marie

"Mom! There's Marie! Should we give her her gifts now?"

Mom suddenly confessed she had eaten Marie's present. The giant plastic champagne bottle filled with miniature candy bars had been too much of a temptation, stored as it was for the past three weeks on Jules's kitchen comptoir....

We began searching through our coat pockets for some cash, for this was the opportunity we had been looking for... Tis the season of les étrennes! Time to tip those people in our lives who make our days easier or brighter. (And I certainly appreciate it when Postwoman Marie opens our gate and drops a package--rather than putting a yellow ABSENTE slip in our mailbox for pickup at the post office!)
 
"Hurry, she's getting back on her motorcycle!" Jules and I sped toward Marie, singing Maria Maria! 
Having caught up with la factrice, we showered Marie with kisses in thanks for her warmth and realness.

 Marie pulled off her heavy casque de moto, revealing bright blue cropped hair.

"Oh, I love the blue!" Mom said, "even more than last week's green!"

"Merci beaucoup," Marie smiled. "Attendez!" She said. Having accepted our gifts, Marie pulled out a stack of calendars from one of the satchels on her yellow motorcycle. "Il faut choisir...."

Mom was thrilled by the unexpected gift, and she thoughtfully examined the selection of themed calendriers....

Il y avait des chevaux, des champs de fleurs....la mer....

Not wanting to keep our postwoman waiting, I nudged Mom to hurry up and select a calendar.

"Oh, I'd better take the kitties," Jules decided, and Marie nodded, from one animal lover to another.
Our factrice put her helmet back on, only for Mom to shower her with more kisses. And when our blue-haired postwoman drove away there were bright pink kiss prints, les bisous, all over her helmet, and hopefully all over her heart.

***
Story Update: it is now January 2022 and Mom (who never receives mail) has Postwoman Marie's tip ready. "I'm giving extra this year--for her family." Jules is referring to "Guacamole" Marie's adorable, four-legged complice.

FRENCH VOCABULARY

Click here to listen to the French terms below
les étrennes = New year's gift, a tip, (also "Christmas Box")
la cabine téléphonique = telephone booth
le comptoir = counter
la factrice, le facteur = postwoman, postman
la casque de moto = motorcycle helmet
attendez = wait
Il faut choisir = you need to choose
il y avait =  there were
les chevaux = horses
un champ de fleurs = fields of flowers
la mer = the sea
le bisou = kiss

Vocabulary that didn't make it into the sound file:
le/la complice = partner, partner in crime, accomplice

Kristi in telephone booth and smokey
Smokey and me at the telephone booth-turned-library from today's story


Jules my mom in front of coiffeur in la ciotat france
A favorite picture of my Mom, Jules, walking in La Ciotat

Les arcenaulx mailboxesClosing with another photo of the mailboxes at Les Arcenaulx. Stroll with me there in the story "flâner"

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation.

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

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens