siege auto
Fuir: A Story from Grenoble, France


Meet an extraordinary 8-year-old and a giant named Hefty in today's story. All photos by Braden (except for the one above...).

abracadabrant(e) (ah bra kah dah brahn [brahnt]) adj.

    : amazing, extraordinary

syn: invraisemblable (bizarre), extravagant

abracadabra : interjection , also, masculine noun for magical formula  

Audio file: Listen to "abracadabrant" at French Wikipedia...

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


When Jean-Marc needed to spend the day prospecting with an American wine importer, I offered to host the man's 8-year-old son, or traveling companion.

Doubtful about my decision, I ran to the phone and rang Jules, in Mexico.
"Oh, Mom. How will I do with him?!"

Jules told me not to worry. Instead she shared the story about "Hefty", the giant carnival hand:

"When I was a little girl," Mom began, "I had a horrible wart on my thumb... I was always trying to hide it. One day I was sitting on a tree stump, outside the carnival grounds, staring at my thumb. That's when Hefty appeared. The giant, noticing my sadness, assured me I would never shed another tear. I watched Hefty disappear into the carnival tent and, fast as that, return with a secret ointment. Abracadabra! The wart disappeared!"

As Mom told the story, I could sense her wonderment. The kindness of a stranger... it was such a small detail in the grand scheme of a child's being, and yet the carnival hand's caring gesture never left her.

I considered Mom's words. I might not be as giant, or giant-hearted as Hefty, but there is that unmistakable oddness, or rather, that awkwardness that amounted, did it not, to no more than self-doubt? 

I began to hope for a genuine gesture, like Hefty's, to somehow surface from deep within me. Maybe in this way my eight-year-old guest and I would enjoy the same simplicity?

"Don't worry," Mom assured. "And what an exciting thing... just think about your visitor and wonder just whom, after all, you are hosting."  Thinking about it that way... perhaps Einstein was coming for the day? Or Victor Hugo, or Gandhi, or some other hero... or hero-in-progress!

When Braden arrived I was as nervous as a bride. "Would you like orange juice? Milk? A pain au chocolat?" Our hero was not so hungry and, after a bite or two, I was wondering what to do? what to do? 

I spotted my camera on the comptoir.... 
"Would you like to take some photos, Braden?" 

     Braden enjoyed "styling" the subject before taking the pictures.

And—voilàwe were off! The rest of the day I spent in the privileged presence of an artist and visionnaire. As I followed the intrepid ingénu...  I began to notice ordinary things anew! And oh the possibilities... of pairing grapes with flowers and pumpkins and trees!



By the end of Braden's stay my narrow world was as wide as the Milky Way. And it's all thanks to Hefty whose heart went out. And to the child he helped, who then pointed the way to me:

"The potential of a child... is as endless as a giant's smile."


:: Le Coin Commentaires ::
Corrections, comments, and stories of your own are welcome here, in the comments box.

Sign up a friend or family member to French Word-A-Day


            The artist's self portrait. "Looking in" by Braden.

French Vocabulary

le comptoir* = counter

voilà = just like that! 

*Newforest, whom many of you know via "Le Coin Commentaires" offers these notes:
Originally, "un comptoir" (from the verb "compter") was a table used by a shopkeeper, on which he showed the goods you wanted to buy - he also used that table to count his money which he kept in a drawer. 

Nowadays, "un comptoir" can be found in shops and bars, in banks, post offices, libraries & commercial places.

For a kitchen: "un plan de travail", "une surface de travail" (I heard French people saying "la table de travail" but I believe "un plan de travail is the most common expression) 


Thank you, Braden, for a wonderful day! And thanks for taking the photos here.

 Gift Ideas...

Paris Hook PillowHand-hooked, heavyweight 100% wool face. Soft cotton velvet back. Order one here.




Eiffel lamp Eiffel Tower lamp: see the reviews, here.




Pie dish Emile Henry 9-inch Provencal pie dish in cerise red. Order one here.




Shalimar Shalimar Eau de Parfum by Guerlain. Introduced in 1925. Fragrance notes: an alluring, classic fragrance of exotic florals and vanilla. Order here.




A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Anita Cook

What a wonderful day, and what a delightful child! The last picture, with Smokey and Brise, has really piqued my interest in words. What is the word on the terracotta- colored container next to the cereal box on the counter? It couldn't be "moutard," so I'm stumped. What ends in -ARD and sits on the comptoir? :)

Herm in Phoenix, AZ

Braden, le garçon avec un sourire d'oreille à l'oreille (the boy with a smile ear-to-ear), seems to be enjoying the photo shoot.


Braden's photos are fabulous! What a great idea and how fun to see your world through a child's creative -- grapes on pumpkins -- eyes. A wonderful memory for you both.

Have been enjoying looking at all your book suggestions on the borders, Kristin. So many I would like to read.


Braden is a really talented young man.
As for the item on le "comptoir," I believe that it is a water pitcher that says "Ricard."


It is always great to get a different perspective on what we see every day. I always feel that that is nothing new to photograph chez moi, but I'm sure that Brandon could find many things.
It really wasn't that hard to have a young companion for the day. You brought up 2 wonderful children and you have such a friendly way about you.

Jeanne Robinson

What a sweet story. Reminds me of the words from Hebrews 13:2 "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." How touching that you took the time to make this a special day for Braden. In doing so, both of you were blessed.

Marianne Rankin

I believe every person is like a separate facet on a multi-faceted gem, each with its own angle and reflection. This is particularly true of children, who haven't yet been conditioned to think or look a certain way, or to be inhibited. Tell Braden I liked his pictures, and encourage him to take more. Photography is actually a good hobby for anyone.

Julie F

First, I was in shock when I opened up FWAD because I thought you had somehow snatched from my computer a picture of my own son when he was eight. Nicholas and Braden could be twins. But please pass on to the young hero of this story that I am in love with his photograph of the chrysanthemums and grapes. And your story is just a reminder to all of us that the children will show us the way sometimes if we just learn to step aside for a moment.


I loved the story about Hefty. Braden took great photos and your day sounds quite fun. Eight years old and he takes better photos than many grownups including myself. Have a terrific weekend.


I am so envious of Braden that he got to spend a day taking photos with you. The grapes reminded me of the gnome in Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain. And Jean Marc's day with an american importer reminds me to send you both by email a story about our pleasant experiences with importer Tim in Texas.

Nicole lidji

Someday I wonder how a word would translate in english . Abracadabrant is one of them
Thank you again for being so informative in a fun way! !


Chere Kristin, once again(!) a wonderfully sweet story and one which points out a lesson for all of us to remember: always keep an open mind to to view things through someone else's eyes!
(Whether they be 8 or 80!)
Bon journee!

Joan Linneman

Creative all-around!!!
Joan L.:)


Hey Braden...

you are certainly a
with that camera!!

Lynn McBride

Now that is a beautiful story. And boy is he a cutie. Braden, felicitations, those photos are fabulous!


How wonderful to see the world through another's eyes. Braden is darling.

Sarah Hina

I just wanted to thank you for featuring my book (Plum Blossoms in Paris) on your sidebar! I love the premise of this blog and am so happy I stumbled across your writing. You have a beautiful style and a truly gorgeous family.

Pat Cargill

This was so much fun - to see you passing along this photo opportunity to young Braden. Braden, you have a creative Eye! Much fun. Thanks to you both. Happy weekend from a getting-cold Roanoke. Now, where ARE my long-johns?

Voie de Vie

What a cutie, that Braden. I like all the photos, but especially the one where he's looking into the glass. I do hope his dad was pleased that you took such good care of him - and received the feature treatment on the blog!


Kristin, you so beautifully captured Braden's angelic smile and his "frimousse a-do-ra~~~ble"!... Exquisite photo!
Who would have imagined all the photographic "montages" eight-year-old Braden so easily and innocently created with a bunch of grapes and a camera in his hands?

A big BRAVO for the black grapes caught between two bare branches. Smart balancing act against a bright blue sky. "Abracadabra"! "Clic"! "Photo véritablement magique"! I love it.
In your hands, grapes can become rows of little black marbles ready to play a game with the yellowy pink flowers emerging from a bluish-grey dreamy corner... "Très astucieux"!
And now, wooow! Look at that! They landed on Big-and-Proud-Pumpkin. Here they are, sitting comfortably all around the 'tail' at the top of its head. Pumpkin and its charming 'visitors' look so happy in that beautiful light.
The blurry reflections of trees and kitchen 'objects' created "une vision abracadabrante" of yourself -> the little artist whose face is transformed into a big camera with a red nose! Brilliant!
Oh, Braden... the free use of your friendly hostess' camera and your discerning eye worked their 'magic'... I look at your photos as the delightful expressions of "un artiste-en-herbe".

un/une "artiste en herbe" = a 'budding artist'

Kristin, we have the impression you are a person close to children... besides, your own children were Braden's age not that long ago (indeed!...) Did you need to be told what to do with your young guest?... Probably not, but ..., your phone call to our dear Jules provided the perfect magic story for the scenario that would take place between you and your young guest!

"Abracadabra"! This morning, when I looked at my bedroom window, I saw a fine layer of powdery snow all around the garden - an unusual treat for us in Dorset at this time of the year.


Oh, the magic of a child's limitless imagination! Wonderful.

Beth Fiore Kral


What a fun blog entry, and thanks for highlighting Braden and his photographs for that day! He told me he had a great time! And placing a great camera in his hands has obviously opened a door to his creativity, and gives us, his parents, an idea for future gifts and opportunities to offer him!

Thank you so much!

Penny Hakkila

Kristin, I am sitting here having a glass of Rouge-Bleu Dentelle....yum!! A year ago I bought three bottles of Jean-Marc's wonderful wine..I had bought it than hoping for my special friend to enjoy with me but it didn't I said to myself what am I waiting for a year later what a perfect time to open,no one special to enjoy with, but that's I wish I had a case of this one I love it!!can't wait to try the other ones I got.Merci,Merci
Penny Hakkila.....from beautiful Fountain Hills,AZ

Vicki Grecula

I love the photo of Smokey tugging on Braise's ear! (and your other photos as well!) Keep taking pictures!

Natalie Thiele

What a brilliant idea! I taught first grade for years, yet always go brain dead for entertainment ideas when my husband's granddaughters come to visit. You and Braden created magic together.

Natalie Thiele

I'm liking your blog more and more. I just noticed "Annette Vallon" on your sidebar. It was written by James Tipton. He and I grew up together, I just saw him last Friday at our 40th high school reunion.
Your blog is great!

Sandy Maberly

Nothing better to bridge the generational gap than photography. Braden will probably be talking about this experience in years to come and how it was the beginning of his interest in photography.
A note to Anita....I would make a guess that the pitcher on Kristi's counter is for serving the water that one mixes with "Ricard"....hence the "ard" that you found so mysterious. :-)


yes, RICARD, that's right!
and the "ette" underneath is for "Anisette"

See the one on the second row here:

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)