la confiture


Door curtains add to the charm of Provence (here, in Mirabel aux Baronnies)... more about doors in today's story column. All photos & text © Kristin Espinasse

Next Meet-up! If you are near Houston on 03/25 and 03/26, you are very welcome to join Jean-Marc for one of his wine tastings 

frapper (frah-pay) verb
  1. to knock, to slap, to hit, strike; to make an impression on, to affect, to move (emotionally)

(Note: The following story was written in 2005)

My son and my daughter have taped the following message to their bedroom doors:
(Knock before entering!)

This request for privacy came as a surprise. I would have expected the panneau* at 14 or 16 -- but at 7 and 9 years old?

I didn't care about privacy when I was their age. I shared a room and a bed with my soeur aînée.* My sister didn't seem concerned about privacy either -- only propreté.*

"Did you take a bath today?" was her main concern each night before I climbed into my side of the bed. "Did you use soap?"

My need for privacy came much later; somewhere between bidding adieu* to the States and shacking up with a Frenchman. It would take a while to realize that I needed a place to go, une arrière boutique* as Montaigne says, to replenish my spirit. So much friction with another people -- constantly absorbing "their way" while slowly stamping out one's own habits wears away at a part of the soul.

I could have used a "Frappez avant d'Entrer" sign on my door when I moved to France: more time and privacy as I sorted through the novel ways of this new people, the French, adopting those moeurs* that suited me, while honoring, polishing the habits that had worked well up till now. The "Frapper" sign would have come in handy. The problem was that I shared that door with un Français.* A very social and outgoing one at that.

His friends and family frapped* at an alarming rate. When they weren't stopping by, they were making plans to: "Oui! Passe au début de l'après-midi. On est là!" my fiancé would say.

I would think to myself: "Who was THAT on the phone? Did he DATE her? Just exactly what time IS 'the beginning of the afternoon?' anyway?"

The phone would ring and I would overhear, "Oui, ce soir -- ça marche. Allez, à tout à l'heure!"

"Why did you say 'à tout à l'heure' when you just told them tonight? Isn't tonight several hours away and not 'at the top of the hour'?"

But to this day, the visits that frap* me the most, are the "stop bys" or "Les imprévus".* You know, the TOC TOC TOC's* that have you running for the broom, shoving désordre* into the hall closet. Not that the dust and the clutter matter that much.

At that moment, paused before the peephole of the porte d'entrée,* trying to catch your breath, the pertinent question that we all ask ourselves, finally, is a universal one:

"Did you take a bath today?"

Comments, corrections, or stories of your own--always welcome and appreciated. Please use the comments box.

.......................Enrich your French Vocabulary.............................
un panneau (m) = a sign; la soeur aînée (f) = older sister; la propreté (f) = cleanliness; adieu = goodbye! farewell!; une arrière boutique (f) = a back room; les moeurs (fpl) = customs, lifestyle; un Français = a Frenchman; frapped = (Franglais) knocked; frap = (Franglais ) hit; imprévu = unexpected; toc toc toc = knock knock knock; le désordre (m) = mess; la porte d'entrée (f) = front door
Audio File Listen to my son, Max, read the following expressions in French: 
Download Frapper (Wav)
Download Frapper (MP3)

être frappé = to be crazy
frapper d'un droit (d'une amende) = to levy a tax (a fine) on
frapper l'imagination = to fire the imagination
frapper à la bonne porte = to knock on the right door
frapper les yeux = to attract attention
frapper du pied = to stamp one's feet, to get angry
une faute de frappe = a typo (a typing error)

Your turn to add a caption to the photo! How would you name this one? (Taken in the town of Villedieu). Write your caption in the comments box. Merci beaucoup.

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