My mom (in hat) swishing, scrubbing, and "swiping" a moment with strangers along a country road.

(October 5th 2007) Just a story for you today, on the eve of my mother's departure. Today's word, and the theme of the following chronique,* is "piquer" (pronounced "pee-kay"). While the verb means many things, it mostly means "to sting" (like what happens to the eyes, just before they water, upon a loved one's leaving). "Piquer" can also mean "to steal". Read on...

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

The French word "piquer" means "to swipe." It is my mom's favorite verb in French or English--not that she's a klepto--though you might call her a "clipper"...

In the town of Orange, Mom and I are studying plant life. Those municipal planters that lead up to La Place Aux Herbes are thriving and throwing out their green abundance from the suspended pots which line the neatly kept ruelle below.

"I always keep a little pair of scissors in my pocket..." Mom explains, regretting that she forgot her shears this time. She approaches a sumptuous planter and picks up an arm of ivy. When the green leaves feel like rare emeralds in her hands, I begin to have that uneasy feeling that Mom is close to committing another of her clippety-clip crimes. I look both ways, the awkward accomplice, while my mother reaches up and snaps off what she calls a "start".

"Mom! There is a policeman just around the corner!"
"Oh, pffft! To him, I am just an old eccentric woman out picking flowers. It's not like he is going to throw me in prison."

I take a good look at my mother, who I decide is indeed eccentric, though not old. From her silver crown to the soles of those stolen shoes she is the living, breathing definition of original--never mind where those soles originated from... She has swiped my son's tennis shoes, my husband's sweatpants and my very own T-shirt, which she wears as one of many layers under a tan windbreaker (I am not sure where she got the jacket, only that it is not her own). None of the items belong to her, least of all the conspicuous green branch hanging out of her (or whoever's...) coat pocket!

I decide to not worry about Mom. After all, she soon will be boarding a flight to Mexico, returning home, safe from the French flics. Meanwhile, all those parched plants out on my front porch have disappeared... in their place I now see a sumptuous emerald garden. As I look outside to those once neglected pots-now-come-to-life, I feel sick with sadness at my mother's imminent departure. Until she goes, I will steal, swipe and pocket as many moments as I can with my favorite thread and flowerbed thief.


French Vocabulary

la chronique = column, story

la ruelle = alleyway, lane

le flic = cop, policeman

Mom's favorite book... and wouldn't you know the hero's name is piquer ("Peekay"). Run, don't walk, and buy yourself a copy here.

French Before You Know It Deluxe--quickly learn to understand and speak French

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety