Lavender Factory is a big term, but then it is often all or nothing around here. Read on in today's story.

fuseau (fooh-zo) noun, masculine
    spindle, bobbin; time zone, time belt

[plural : "fuseaux"]

un fuseau de lavande or un fuseau provençal = lavender wand (hand-weaved lavender flowers... see today's story and photo)

Also: un fuseau horaire = time zone

Hear my son, Max, pronounce today's word and related terms: Download fuseau.mp3 . Download fuseau.wav

At a Tuesday night meeting that I attend, the gift recipient looked at me as if I had just presented him with a macramé widgit. There was that split-second hesitation, that... "qu'est-ce que je suis censé faire avec ça?"* befuddlement that the gifted one just cannot hide.

I was afraid of this reaction. After all, there was quite a bit of purple ribbon involved... and delicate flowers. It wasn't exactly a gift for a guy, not even for a French guy. But men have sock drawers, I reasoned, and sock drawers always need freshening.... and so this hand-woven wand (my third, and least dreadful,
attempt at weaving lavender) would at least be useful if not displayable. More importantly, it would be a respectable enough exchange for the gift that he had thoughtfully given me: a plastic two-ounce bottle of holy water from Lourdes (a bottle, I might add, shaped like the Virgin Mary).

"Je... je...." Monsieur with the thick bifocals stuttered, holding the unnamable object up to the light, hesitating with his remerciement.* It being my weakness to nip suffering in the bud--as quickly and painlessly as possible--I almost finished his sentence for him.

This gift exchange took place in my car, after I had picked up my nearsighted (and tongue-tied) passenger -- a retired Frenchman who, I imagined, had had his license revoked at some point, hence my occasional stint as chauffeur.

Seated there, in silence, the fragrant lavender wand suspended in the air between us, I had a change of heart. For a moment, my pride got the best of me and I had a mind to shed light on the situation, to point out one man's privileged position. "Listen here, Giftbuster," I thought to say... "Do you know just WHO I AM? Here, before you, is not some Macramé Missy who spends her days weaving organic matter... No! I, Emphatic I, don't normally have time for this sort of "passe-temps"! In fact, passing time is not my luxury, especially as I am perpetually projecting toward the FUTURE, to the land of crowning glory.

The last few words of the imagined tirade struck me back to reality, and I remembered my own not-so-privileged position. Truth was, I'd weaved the damn "drawer freshener" as an exercise in humility, in an effort to pluck myself from the futile fast track that is vainglory. I'd woven it as a prayer--or prayed it as I wove--intent on tapping into the present moment, the only true eternity.

As a recent pilgrim to Lourdes, where he'd stopped into a cramped souvenirs shop and thoughtfully picked out the two-ounce Virgin, I supposed Monsieur's intentions were the same as mine: we were reckoning with our pasts as best we knew how, there gathered together with the others, each Tuesday night. Of little importance were the light-weight, somewhat looney gifts: the key seemed to be in thinking of the other, for once, instead of the high-falutin' futuristic Me.

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Have you ever received a gift that left you tongue-tied? What was it and who gave it to you? Share your story in the comments box.

And, speaking of the new comments box, visit these links for:

1. Hilarious reader stories about French language faux-pas & mix-ups:

2. Fantastic tips, also by readers, on how to use lavender:
qu'est-ce que je suis censé faire avec ça? = what am I supposed to do with this?

The Ultimate French Review and Practice: Mastering French Grammar for Confident Communication

Un fuseau de lavande: Consisting of only lavender and ribbon, these unique fragrance wands are handmade in Provence and create an intriguing way to infuse your closets and drawers with a touch of freshness. (Note: includes one sea-blue wand)

More lavender wands, choose your color, here:

In French film: Earrings of Madame De (with Paul Azäis, Madeleine Barbulee, Charles Boyer, Danielle Darrieux, Jean Debucourt )

In French music: The Chorus (Les Choristes) : soundtrack

Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France

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