jeu de mots


Looks cozy, no?

douillet, douillette (do-yay; do-yet) adjective
  cozy, snug

"Douillette" is also a feminine noun for "quilted coat or robe" and, in both masculine and feminine forms, has a second meaning: one sensitive to pain (a wimp). There is also the verb "douiller" which means "to pay through the nose" (never a "cozy" feeling).

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L'amour est un coussin douillet et une épée posée sur la gorge.
Love is a soft cushion and a sword against the throat.
--Shan Sa

There used to be a book on one of my bookshelves (back when books were actually mis en place* and not packed in boxes) called "Charms for the Easy Life," by Kaye Gibbons. I haven't yet read the novel, which was left behind--as have been many of the books in our collection--by a houseguest about to board a restrictive transcontinental flight.

Charms for the Easy Life... the title comes to me now and again, especially when reminded, by a well-meaning stranger, of just how lucky I am to be in France, and what a dream it must be to live at a vineyard. On such occasions, I lose myself in a picture-perfect image of a cozy farmhouse, broom at the front door and chicory-laced coffee on the wood burning stove (as a real French farmwoman keeps it, I imagine). Outside, along the window sill, are terracotta boxes full of geraniums and the wood shutters are painted just the right shade of green. Beside the front door, there is a cozy bench, a radassier* to be exact, where one can chat with a neighbor or stare out over the field of vines beyond.

Below, off to the side of an iris-flanked stream--yellow irises, mind you--there is a potager* from where I have gathered haricots* (which, in my dream, I am shelling beneath the shady plane tree) for a savory soupe au pistou.* It is a rosy rêve*: soft, cozy, douillet* and one that has been reeling through my
mind (plus or minus the yellow irises) for some twenty years now, ever since I first imagined life in France. In 1985, back in Des Moines, Washington, where my father and I shared the turning of a page in our lives, I spent a post high school summer taking long aimless drives in Dad's sunshine yellow VW bug, Claude Bristol's "The Magic of Believing"* in the tape deck. By August's end, now 18 summers old myself, I would return to Phoenix, Arizona, driving the VW across the country, eventually to enroll at Phoenix Community College, the future still a film, the dream intact.

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My, oh my! Like the uneven dresser drawer in my bathroom, I have gotten off track. I had set out today to tell you about the not always picture-perfect reality of this French dream come true. I meant to write about the demolition crew (which, as I type this, is still giving the walls around us a good shake), and to fill you in on the enigma of French plumbing. I wanted to point out the inch thick fissure that runs along the wall at the west end of the house and the crooked doorless frames beneath. Then there are those unfinished cement block stairs (minus a needed guard rail!) that the kids and I run up and down several times a day, as we head out of the building, across the patio, and beyond a stack of plasterboard to access the make-shift kitchen (which even has running water, albeit cold). And, speaking of placoplâtre,* there is the wet plaster that we tip-toe over on our way in and out of the rooms (living areas that I have just vacuumed in vain). I should mention that while many southern French women hang delightful beaded cords or colorful ropes in front of their front doors (to keep the flies out) I have just parted a curtain of electrical cords and tubing which hangs in a lonely threshold that will one day house our front door. And--whew!--looking out a duct-taped French window, I am startled by the proximity of a heavy metal monster--a tractopelle* (the "pelle" or "hoe" of which looks as if it will add another crack, or ten, to the fragile window). I hope we have more duct tape handy...

My eyes leave the pit outside, where the tractopelle is digging a waste canal, to refocus on the pretty green window frame. It may one day match those "just the right shade of green" shutters--and wouldn't that be charming? In the meantime, I will continue to believe; for believing, in my experience, is being.

References: mis (mettre) en place = shelved, arranged; le radassier (m) = (type of) bench; le potager (m) = vegetable garden; le haricot (m) = bean; la soupe (f) au pistou = vegetable soup with basil and garlic; le rêve (m) = dream; douillet = cozy; The Magic of Believing (order it here); le placoplâtre (m) = plasterboard; le tractopelle (m) = backhoe

:: Audio File ::
French pronunciation: Hear my son, Max, recite today's word & quote: Download douillet.wav
Douillet. L'amour est un coussin douillet et une épée posée sur la gorge.

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