Crashing into the marguerites. Oh, the dangers of driving in Ceriana, Italy (where we saw the little camionnette).

la camionnette (ka-me-oh-net) noun, feminine

  pick-up truck; small van, minivan

La camionnette démarre avec fracas et la jeune fille ferme derrière elle la lourde porte, relique de temps moins sûrs. The truck starts up with a roar and the young girl closes behind her the heavy door, a relic from uncertain times. —from "La Nouvelle revue des deux mondes"

I was wondering about what to get my son for his birthday when Jules called from Mexico to offer her two centavos worth:

"Get him a car!" she rooted.
"A car? He is turning twelve, Mom."
"It's not too late! Your uncle Rusty and I didn't start driving until we were twelve...or was it eleven? Hmmm. I had an old Ford pick-up!..." my mom reminisced.
"Mom! Max can't drive!"

The conversation was surreal until I remembered that my mom's clock does not tick to world time. She doesn't even have a watch. And lest day and night become nagging reminders of Father Time's regulatory nature she'll sleep with the sun and dance with the moon just to shake things up. She's a rebel that way and wouldn't want her grandson to be driven by society's clock--which brings us back to driving...

Come to think of it, my sister Heidi and I, pint-sized Thelma and Louises at the age of thirteen and nine, used to careen across the dusty desert floor, in Grandpa's Jeep, tumbleweeds spinning in our wake. With Heidi at the wheel, we killed time (something Mom might've approved of)—this after a breakfast of burritos and beer, coffee being bad for a kid. My grandfather made the turkey burritos and shared the Budweiser. We only had a few sips of it—though Grandpa's poodle, "Poo-Poo," got a generous splash in her bowl each morning. The beer cans were then strung by the tab along my grandmother's clothesline. BB guns poised, we'd spend the afternoon shooting at the cans from the deck where my grandparents' singlewide trailer was set in cement. The year was 1977. We were in Bouse, Arizona.

I am a long way from the desert now and just a tumbleweed's trot from the French Drôme* as I clutch the phone, feeling iffy about my mom's suggestion.

"Well, tell Jean-Marc about my idea, Honey, and see what he thinks," Mom says, trying to sell me on the idea. "So much safer than a motorcycle!" she argues. "Braise* could ride in the back and Jackie or mom or dad next to Max. Max would learn all about mechanics...I would suggest finding a garage where Max could meet a mechanic and learn how to keep his truck running."

By the time I hang up the phone I am spinning with anxiety. Then, I recall our neighbor's "garage." Monsieur Delhome has at least four tractors in that massive steel hangar,* the walls of which are covered with tools. One entire wall is a veritable tools-n-parts museum. He could probably build a camionnette* with all that metal....

Bingo! Max can build his own car! (And, I reckon, by the time he's figured out how to assemble the monster he'll be old enough to drive it). Off to Feu Vert* now...to buy my son a wrench and the French equivalent Kit Car magazine. I can afford that (and this mother's nerves could afford a break now).

References: French Drôme = a department in southeastern France, where the towns Nyons and Valence are located as well as the charming town of Grignan. The Drôme is located north of the Vaucluse department; Braise = our one-year-old Golden Retriever; le hangar (m) = shed; la camionnette (f) = pick-up truck; Feu Vert (Green Light) = French auto parts store

:: Audio File ::
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's French word and quote: Download wav
La camionnette démarre avec fracas et la jeune fille ferme derrière elle la lourde porte, relique de temps moins sûrs.

 Also: camionnette de livraison = delivery truck

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Eileen - Charlottesville, VA

Hi Kristin,
What did you end up getting Max for his birthday in 2007? Did he get a camionnette?

Kristin Espinasse

Eileen, I think he got a dirt bike motorcycle to ride through the vine rows and dirt paths... And to eventually sneak off the property and transport himself to his friends houses!

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