un sou
le pissenlit

un agrume

      Cat on a French porch (c) 2005 Kristin Espinasse
          At the cheese and honey-maker's house, in Tarradeau

agrume (a-groom) noun, masculine
1. citrus fruit

Citation du Jour
Vous pouvez croire en Dieu de deux façons, ou comme la soif croit à l'orange, ou comme l'âne croit au fouet.

You can believe in God in two ways, like thirst thinks about an orange, or like the donkey thinks about the whip.
--Victor Hugo

(The character Ursus speaking, in Hugo's "L'Homme qui rit")

A Day in a French Life...

Our kumquat tree keeled over. It was Jean-Marc who delivered les nouvelles* on that gelid last day of winter. At first I didn't believe him, you know, denial et compagnie.*
"No, it's not dead," I insisted, clipping past him on my way to the mailbox. The citrus tree rumor was pulp fiction to me.

Each day I'd cross the would-be flowering tree, throwing a sideways coup d'oeil* in its direction, not willing to look too closely, not wanting to know.

Printemps* got off to a late start here in the Var* and the poppies made a tardive,* rouge-vif* appearance, the wild lavender, with their floppy high top "ears" burst open in the garrigue* and the grass took on a deeper shade of verte.* I continued to speed walk past the sleepy kumquat tree, both keenly aware of and hopefully oblivious to its "hibernal" state.

The other day while unloading groceries I stopped abruptly, turned, and faced the leaf-bare tree. I moved in slowly, like a teenager approaching a sink counter, upon which lies a completed pregnancy test, where the verdict is just millimeters away. On the last step, I threw myself over the potted tree to learn la vérité.*

What I saw was a life flashing before me; the tree's and mine. Notre vie ensemble.* Seven roller-coaster years, to be sure, beginning with rain, then sunshine and now hail. Oh, the hail!

I now saw the end of a citrus-scented epoch. We'd shared four front porches together; we even shared the tap water. But most important, we shared a need for a warm, cheerful home. Indeed, that's how we met.

             (Il y a sept ans...  Seven years ago...)

"It's so gray in here, no wonder you're depressed!" The doctor's comment threw me. I had not invited him in to critique my home's interior, but to check my blood pressure. Besides, shouldn't a 300-year-old village home with meter-thick walls be dark? And weren't French doctors supposed to be formal when they came to visit? He may as well have said "What an ugly ear canal you have there!" or "Look at the cra-cra* on your tongue!" Doctors never say that, and they don't comment on interiors either.

I have never been one to decorate a home, or a body for that matter, preferring to focus my energies on the decor and dressing of a mind--a place where drapes don't fade, tables don't collect dust and fashions don't come and go with their usual flippancy.

While the doctor's comment didn't send me to Mr. Bricolage* to purchase a can of jaune-citron* paint to splash on the old walls, it got me dressed and out the door, feet heading toward the market to have a look at Katy's stand.

Katy was about as tall as the miniature agrume* trees she sold. She had hair the color of bark, and eyes the shade of a newly sprung leaf. "I can deliver those for you tonight," she said, handing me la monnaie.*

That evening she pulled up to our porch in her old truck, opened the two back doors and unloaded the trees, waving me away as I tried to help.

"It's nice here," Katy said arranging the trees, and I noticed how the vibrant orange fruit threw a warm glow over the entrance hall.

                              *   *   *

Adieu, mon ami,* the little French citrus tree. Thanks for the warmth, the sweet-scented air and the golden hue you threw over us as we shuffled to and fro before you, busy with our sometimes humble, sometimes highfalutin' lives. Tu vas nous manquer.*

References: la nouvelle (f) = piece of news; et compagnie = and the rest; le coup d'oeil (m ) = glance; le printemps (m) = spring; le Var = region in SE France; tardive (tardif) = late; rouge-vif = bright red; garrigue = wild Mediterranean scrubland; vert(e) = green; la vérité = truth; notre vie ensemble (f) = our life together; cra-cra or cracra (from crasse) adj = crass, gross (stuff); Monsieur Bricolage = "Mr. Fix-it"--a home supply store; jaune-citron = lemon-yellow; un agrume (m) = citrus fruit; la (petite) monnaie (f) = change; adieu mon ami = goodbye my friend; tu vas nous manquer = we will miss you

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