pouet pouet
une histoire à dormir debout


"Frozen"... or the "permanent press" cycle in Provence. 

enfance (on fance) noun, feminine

    : childhood

Expression: vivre une enfance heureuse = to live a happy childhood. Audio file and many more expressions, here.

French christmas musicFrench Christmas Music: "Mon Beau Sapin", "Saint Nuit", "La Marche des Rois", "Petite Ville Bethléem", "Il est né Le Divin Enfant". Order CD here.

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

An Olive Harvest and The Fruits of Memory

Jean-Marc and I are picking olives. The sun is beginning to set out to the west, where leafless vines in a field recline under the weight of winter. We are standing along the dirt driveway that leads home. Our dogs are wrestling on the rocky path and every now and then their roughhousing is halted by breathy barks on either wrestler's part.

Hey-oh! Calmos! Jean-Marc calls, when the dogs whip past the backs of our legs and it's all we can do to grab on to the olives-laden branches or be knocked down by the bent backs of our knees!

As I drop olives the color of ripe raisins into a half-filled sack, I am thinking that it would be nice to have orange trees, too! Wouldn't oranges and purple olives go well together? I could just smell it now. There's something so Mediterranean about it... and yet it is the desert that wanders through my mind....

Though my hands continue to harvest olives, I am far far away... somewhere in the Southwest, in the Valley of the Sun. I can smell the citrus grove and see the puckered peels that cling to the fruit. I can see where the sparrows have snacked, leaving the oranges gaping from the attack.

Alone in the forgotten field, I am afraid, but the sunny scent of citrus fruit and the delicious adventure through the orchard emboldens me—as witnessed by the scrapes on my eight-year-old knees. Beyond the tortured trees, I can just perceive the back of a trailer park. Our mobile home is the last on the row, in the single-wide zone. 

To one side of the trailer park ran the Black Canyon Freeway, but to the other side, beyond the oranges, there was a vast wash where Palo Verdes flanked the dry creek bed. Therein was my childhood Never Never Land.  When the wash, or creek bed, was full I would sit on the banks and hunt indefatigably for guppies. And when it was dry, or nearly so, I would venture down its cluttered center, like Christopher Columbus in my own desert jungle. Here and there the banks were littered with beer cans and "skin" magazines. I guessed other adventurers had gone before me; I hoped they'd gone on, at least....

Frightened now, I would hightail it out and over to the open field beyond. There, I would stare up in the distance to Shaw Butte. In summertime the little mountain (some call it a "hill") was lit by the fireworks that seemed to fall upon it. My sister and I would climb to the top of the tin shed which butted our trailer and watch the sparkling Fourth of July show, a pint-size patriotism growing from within, as yet unbeknown to us. 

Back down at the field, past the wash, I remember kneeling down on the sweet-scented earth and studying a green patch. As the monsoon season and rains had just passed, the earth was soft enough for me to quench my curiosity. I tugged at the leaves, which resembled parsley, and out popped a carrot! 

Gnarled and thin, it didn't look like the carrots at the supermarket, but I recognized it as one and the same. Just to be sure, I dusted off the clumps of earth and sunk my teeth in. I felt the rush of rustic life course through my veins... as I feel it now... as my teeth sink into an plump purple olive! The taste is not sweet, but bitter. So unlike my memories.

Soon these olives will be crushed and lose their bitter taste. As for an Arizona childhood, what I'd give to return to such a magical time and place.


French Vocabulary

Hey-oh! Calmos! = Hey there! Calm down!
le raisin = grape



I miss my family back home... meantime, here's a French family that adopted me back in 92'. (I recently wrote about Baptiste, here.) Click to enlarge photo.

Passion of joan of arc Last night I watched, and was mesmerized by, The Passion of Joan of Arc (a silent film that was lost (to a fire) until a copy of the film was miraculously found -- in the janitor's office of a Norwegian mental institution). Joan of Arc and Maria Falconetti are two people I will line up to meet in Heaven. Read the reviews, here. Bilingual subtitles (to the screen images of this silent film) make this a great way to learn French!


Somewhere south of Grenoble, on the way home from Laurence and Philippe's.

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Yes, we all need to return at times to the state of magical thinking and adventure. Thank you for leading me back to those memories.



Thank you for sharing your childhood memories. It is interesting how it was the thought of color combinations that brought you to the memory. There is something about winter that makes me crave the taste of citrus. I am convinced it is the lack of sunlight that makes me yearn for this summer delight. There are also the fond memories of my father insisting that oranges or tangerines be tucked in our Christmas stocking. No doubt this was a childhood memory of his since he was raised in Florida - the land of citrus! My mother longs for the days of her childhood when her aunt (my mother's guardian) moved the family from Minnesota to an orange ranch in Southern California. You can imagine what a treat that was.

Fond memories often seem to focus on food. It is sad when we cannot recreate the exact taste of our memories. I am always in search of the taste of Santa Rosa plums that I loved in Southern California - no other plum will do.

Thank you again. Are you have snow yet?

Bill in St. Paul

Ah, those childhood memories, how sweet they seem in retrospect, but I think our childhood naïveté kept us from seeing a lot of the darker side of the world around us.

Great family picture, Kristin, can you tell us who is who and how they are related? There are definitely some family resemblances within the group.


God put eyes on the front of your head so that you will consistently look forward, not backward. In addition, think of all the wonderful memories you are creating for your children while to travel forward.

Suzanne Codi, Washington, DC

Kristen, that was so beautifully written!! It brought back some of my childhood memories, thanks so much for sharing, you're an American
Marcel Proust, if you haven't read A la recherche du temps perdu,do it, I'm sure your French is good enough to appreciate it!!!

Suzanne, Monroe Township, NJ

Kristi, Today's story brought back memories of my childhood in Southern California ... foothills fragrant with Pepper trees, orange blossoms and bowls of lemons from the tree in my great aunt and uncle's yard ... a Meyer lemon. when visiting you in the Haute Vaucluse I am struck by the many similarities between California and Provence. Orange trees and olive trees? Why not. If you cure any of the olives, combine them with oranges and toss with a light vinaigrette for a lovely refreshing salad. It's a wonderful winter treat in our home. Which reminds me, I owe you some recipes.

Suzanne, Monroe Township, NJ

I see from the post above by my sister, Margaret, that different memories come to mind for we two. But we both recalled two different great aunts, sisters, one who had an orange ranch and one who had a Meyer Lemon tree!

gail bingenheimer

J'ai vu le film "Joan de Arch" aussi. I remember in the end of the film the crowd stampeding because the government had burnt Joan to death.



I am a bit puzzeled by some of the comments today. Personally, I don't find fond childhood memories and living the joy of the moment mutally exclusive. In fact, the two are intertwined. I am thankful my mother and father provided an environment where I could thrive and look back on even as I move forward. Afterall, we live in the context of our lives. I think I will go quarter an orange and renew those memories!


Un petit chef-d'oeuvre. Merci.

Linda R.

One of my favorite authors, Corrie ten Boom, once wrote, “Memories are the key not to the past, but to the future.” I'm sure it must somehow fit in the context of today's post and discussion. : )

I love your stream-of-consciousness thoughts relating to your souvenirs d'enfance; your observations opens it up for ourselves as well. Interesting how those memories so frequently refer to our senses - colors, smells, tastes can immediately bring a place in time to mind.

Peggy Bruns

Your post today reminded me of growing up in the 1950's in Tempe, AZ. Our house (on the corner of Rural Rd. and Broadway, if you remember where that is)was as far as Tempe went. People wondered why my parents moved so far out from town. There was nothing across the street but tumbleweeds and my friends and I would make tumbleweed "forts" and Christmas trees. When the monsoon came our carport would fill with them so we couldn't open the kitchen door. Life was so simple and it was a magical time. Thank you for reminding me.


Herm in Phoenix, AZ

Salut Kristin,

Gal, you sure hit home with your story this time! Il est très bon! I live within walking distance and just the north of Shaw Butts. In an area called Moon Valley. I have climbed that mountain many, many times. In fact, I just climbed it a couple weeks ago. It was the first time since I turned 39 times 2 plus 2.

À bientôt


Hi Kristin,

This is a piece of writing so full of observations and emotions. It made me feel how magical it is for you to re-live happy moments of your childhood, so deeply encrusted in your mind and still so close to the top layer of your memory, ready to resurge in vivid 3D pictures, full of colours and sweet fragrance ... and animated with little games shared with people close to your heart.

Very interesting to notice what triggered the childhood scenes. Yes, I can imagine the complementing contrast with the colour of the mature olives, and the 'bridge' between past and present. What a pleasure to follow your steps along 'Memory Lane'. Oh! that refreshing citrus fragrance is leading us to the citrus grove near the mobile home where you used to live, and to the open field beyond, the familiar scenes and the innocent adventures - a whole world delicately chiseled out of your childhood ... The citrus fragrance is still lingering on and on, and yes, the orange colour would go together so well with the dark colour of your olives! Wonderful to feel the rush of rustic life still so deeply alive within you today.

Beyond the nostalgic trip going through your mind, there is the basic need for a strong emotional link between past, present and future.

The places of my childhood have changed beyond recognition. I am so pleased to have at least memories of those years, strongly rooted in my mind and full of minute details!

- Oh, the look and the taste of that wild carrot!..
- Exciting to think about your 'own' extra virgin olive oil, cold pressed, of course! Hoping the white frost doesn't affect the olives (all harvested by now?)


A great family photo. What a fantastic feeling to be with them 18 years later and celebrate Baptiste's birthday.
Oh dear! Les vêtements gelés sur la corde à linge!!!
Here, snow has settled down very early this year and the temperature outside is rather unfriendly!

Wishing you and your family a brilliant w/end!

Candy in SW KS

The frozen laundry, the warm family. What a great beginning and ending to your post! you are an inspiration to me:) I think it's wonderful to reflect on the past. Isn't that what formed the present? There's a difference between reflecting on it and living in it. You, my dear, have given us a sweet glimpse into a part of your past which has helped to create the lovely person that you are today. And we, your readers, feel honored that you included us in your memories.


Kristi,that was beautiful writing. It felt like I was right there with you. Thanks also for the new word for the day calmos.
When the standard poodles come hurtling inside I will have a new command to say! Hopefully, they will obey...


Lemons and avocados, bringing home bottles of guppies from the creek, every other person you meet on the street being a relative, riding the waves and then coming home to boysenberry pie in the oven. These are childhood memories that bring tears to my eyes every time I think of my adored grandmother and our wonderful summers in Carpinteria CA.

Kristin, the guppies did it for me. Thank you!

Bill Facker

... and those incredible September - October desert sunsets, unlike any other place. One can begin to enjoy their beauty early in the evening and sit forever .. until the sky is ablaze with stars. So spectacular, ethereal, and moving are they that the experience is actually a physical sensation. Once one loves the desert it is a forever affair .. no matter where our lives lead us. Aloha Kristin.

Eileen deCamp

Nice memories Kristin! Thanks for sharing them. I love Joan of Arc also. My children and I went to Lourdes and on the way home we visited Joan of Arc's birthplace and her village church where she was baptized. We also climbed the hill where she first saw her visions. There is now a cathedral there.

Karen from Phoenix, AZ

Loved the wonderful memories you shared of AZ. As I can relate to them since I have lived here since 1985. I had two grapefruit trees and an orange tree in the backyard. Can smell them now.

Herm, I live in Moon Valley also. What a small world.


Stacy, Applegate, Oregon

Dear Kristi,
Thank you for this offering of inspiration today. It was beautifully written. I, too, was so pulled in by your story I felt I was with you. Yet, it also led me straight to those magical moments of my own childhood. How grateful I am to have grown up in the serene forests of Snohomish with all my beloved animals.

I second Mary's opening comment and enjoyed reading all that followed. Your post is such a welcome break to the remodeling going on here, now in its fourth week. I look forward to the return of my peace and quiet in my much-improved 83 year old farm house. For now, I’m heading out to the tranquil forests for a walk with the dogs and some magical thinking. Wishing a lovely weekend to you and all your readers! xoxo


Wonderful post, as always! :-)

Do you pronounce the s on the end of calmos? Is that a Provencal word?

And speaking of family, how is Jules? I miss seeing her posts!

Herm in Phoenix, AZ


Hi, neighbor! My wife and I moved onto Seminole Dr in 1970. We might be rubbing elbows with each other and not realizing we have a “Kristin Connection”. I’d like to meet you. Send me an e-mail through my blog.

À bientôt


Charming. Your writing improves all the time. I could sense, experience and taste all that you wrote about, for that I thank you - the experience was lovely.

Betty Bailey

This was beautifully written, Kristin. Thank you for sharing such sweet and picturesque memories. And your "new" family is very handsome!

Sandy Maberly

Loved all the references to AZ which are sprinkled throughout the commments today. I first lived in AZ in the early 60's. My mom and sis and I lived in Mesa and wasn't that considered the ends of the Earth back then. None of the "burbs" ran together and Tempe, Mesa, Scottsdale, etc.. were all separate towns. I vaguely remember eating at a hotdog stand called "Dog-n-Suds" and if we couldn't reach the dates growing on the tree in our front yard, we could go down the road to Hi-Jolly's stand for a tasty sample. One could also find women selling homemade tamales on the street corners in a time long past. Our neighborhood was "flooded" each week as a form of irrigation long before people had automatic sprinklers. My memories of AZ are fond ones that not even my birth State of Oklahoma can supplant. Thanks, Kristi, for a nudge down memory lane!



What a charming French family you have. Thanks for sharing the photo!

Marianne Rankin

I enjoy hearing about Arizona, which I've visited 3 times, because my brother lives there.

I think one reason we appreciate memories of childhood is that our lives were less complicated then, and we, more or less "blank slates," lived in the moment and noticed the colors, smells, etc. so vividly.

I admit that I like the stories and scenes of Provence not just because it is the home of les Espinasse, but because about half of the time I've spent in France was in the south, along the Cote d'Azur.

Herm, you have a blog? Can you tell me more?

I've always liked this quote (sorry, don't know whose): "God gave us memory, that we might have roses in December."

Jennifer in OR

Mmmmm. Lovely. The carrot--how amazing that you remember that. Love it. Enjoy your olives!

Christine Dashper

That was such lovely piece of writing Krisitn, (not that all your others aren't!), but I could see in my mind, the scenes you described and almost taste the olives!

Thank you!


nancy Rial

Kristan, besides writing and traveling to France, I am a children's/teens librarian, and your childhood memories remind me so much of a book called, "Roxaboxan". Very different description, but prompted me to tell you about it as I think you would enjoy it- and maybe prompt you to do your own. Nancy


I too love the picture of the cold blue of the laundry hanging crisp and cold above the frost laden ground, in contrast to the picture of your family in the warmth and cosiness of the room and the warmth of each other.
As for the story - the memories of the senses are sometimes the strongest. Lovely post.


What a wonderful entry this was! I so enjoy reading all of them, but this one was bittersweet. Maybe since you wrote about Phoenix and I am here and can envision it. Especially since citrus trees are ripening and ready to be picked. So are the olives...I notice trees loaded with them on my walks. However...I've never known anyone personally who actually DID anything with them. What do you and Jean-Marc do with them?? I'm curious.
Would be happy to send you some photos or postcards, etc. of phoenix or arizona, etc.
Gail :-)


Someone's late... late late in sending thanks! Merci for sharing your own sensory memories of childhood, and more.

Margaret: yes! we did have snow here at the farm. It melted too quickly!

Bill, re the photos: I need to update the image with names... until then, there in the center of the photo is Baptiste (Jean-Marc's godson), to his right, his brothers and beautiful Corsican Mom. Jackie and I are in the background.. To the left, and moving left: friends of the family, then Baptist's grandmothers and grandfather. In the upper left corner is the photographer, Philippe, a childhood and dear friend of Jean-Marc. Philippe's father is next to him....

Suzanne C.: "I have not read A la recherche du temps perdu". Good to see your recommendation.

Peggy, loved your "tumbleweed forts"!

Newforest, we did indeed get all the olives in (it only took an hour and a half... just the two of us) -- and just before the freeze!

Candy & Kathleen: so glad you pointed out the photo contrasts (cold countryside/warm family) -- I had not noticed!

Stacy: hang in there! The renovation will be over soon. Meantime, would love to take a walk with you through the forest with our dogs.

Heidi: yes, Jean-Marc pronounces the "s" at the end of "calmos!" Not sure where the word comes from.

Herm and Karen: hope you two have a chance to meet up over coffee (make that over a mesquite mocha! I just read this morning that the beans of our dear mesquite trees were once used for coffee... when supplies (back when) ran out. Now I am intrigued!)

Sandy: thoroughly enjoyed your AZ memories - I am so homesick now!

Marianne: Herm's blog is here* and here*:
* http://humoriste.typepad.com/blog/
* http://up-ur-assets.blogspot.com/

Nancy: I can't wait to receive the children's book "Roxaboan". I have just ordered it. Merci!

Gaelle: please pick an orange for us! Re the olives, we take them to the co-op in exchange for olive oil (a mix of the olives of other modest olive farmers--or farmers with modest olives...or...) Several years ago, with the olives we picked from our yard in Les Arcs-sur-Argens, Jean-Marc cured the fruit. Delicious! Not sure if the instructions here are correct, but this link gives you an idea of how to cure olives: http://www.wikihow.com/Cure-Olives

Merci à toutes et à tous - thank you all for such lovely words!


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