Season's Greetings from La Morra, Italy.

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indigne (an-deen) adjective
  shameful, disgraceful, unworthy, worthless, inadequate

Qui ne continue pas à apprendre est indigne d'enseigner.
He who ceases to learn cannot adequately teach.
--Gaston Bachelard

                                  *    *    *

When my 9-year-old came running out to the garden, all teeth and waving an Advent calendar as if it were a winning Loto* ticket, I had yet another mère indigne* moment. Where had I stashed that one? I wondered, of the calendar. "I found it in the bottom of the armoire," my daughter said, eyes still glued to the colorful package. Jackie didn't seem to mind that we'd missed opening so many of those little "doors" beneath the calendar dates and I would soon understand why.

Still feeling guilty about the misplaced calendar (which I vaguely remember receiving in the mail a few years back after it had been lost in transit) I set aside my book, sprang from the garden chair and its patch of winter sun, and followed my daughter into the kitchen to help put together the pop-up structure.

With the assembly instructions located beneath the calendar's base, I had to hold the cardboard unit above my head and assemble it mid-air. When all sides were taped we stood staring at a Nativity scene. Jackie finished the Three Wise Men cut-outs and we taped their feet to the cardboard base, beneath which twenty-four pieces of stale chocolate were hidden.

With the help of  Jackie's friend Manuella, we began "setting" the calendar to the correct date, a process involving the piercing of cardboard, the opening of numbered doors, the tearing of foil, and the gobbling up of chocolate. Jackie reached behind the door for December 1st and I noticed the dark candy was faded. When it was my turn to eat December 3rd, I discovered the chocolates were a bit tasteless but that didn't stop me from eating December 6th and 9th. At this point the girls were popping open the doors and handing me my chocolates. It wasn't until I sat there with December 12th melting on my tongue that I realized.....

"Quelle horreur!* I ate my mother-in-law!" The girls looked stunned.
"I mean I ate my mother-in-law's birthday!" The girls looked amused.
"I mean I ate December 12th -- which WAS Grandma's birthday!"

Panicked, I looked over to Jackie who was busy eating The Day After Grandma's Birthday, a.k.a. December 13th. That meant it was too late to call Jean-Marc's mother on her anniversaire.* I could now slap the words belle-fille indigne* across my forehead.

Feeling worthless and dumb as the cardboard pop-up I'd just assembled, I dialed my belle-mère* in Marseilles. As the phone rang, I looked over at the Three cardboard Wise Men for encouragement. Two of them had tumbled over from the faulty tape job. We're not perfect either, they seemed to say.

*References: Loto = French lottery; une mère (f) indigne = unfit mother; quelle horreur! = how awful!; l'anniversaire (m) = birthday; la belle-fille (f) indigne = unworthy daughter-in-law; la belle-mère (f) = mother-in-law

Hear French spoken: listen to my son, Max, recite today's quote:
Qui ne continue pas à apprendre est indigne d'enseigner. Download indigne2.wa

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