bouée de sauvetage (booay deuh sove tazh)
: lifebelt, lifeline, lifebuoy
A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse
I sit and I listen. I try to ignore the temptation to go upstairs and work on the computer. Email can wait. So can senseless surfing. This is where I need to be: facing my belle-mère, listening. As for the internet, which beckons, it can be a black hole in which I can throw every "spare" minute. I don't want black holes. I want fountains of light; presently I see them in my mother-in-law's eyes.
If I look closely, aligning my pupils with her own, then, more than light, I see the very fires of her soul. Heat enough to purify my own pathetic wanderings until I am back on track, engaging in life.
I train my eyes on the seventy-one-year-old speaker. Keep focused! none of this nervous glancing around the kitchen to dwell on yet another dusty distraction. The dust will always win, winning our very bodies in the end!
Lifesavers... she is talking about life savers....
"Elles sont mes bouées de sauvetage." "They are my lifeline," my mother-in-law is explaining. And I hear, once again, about the wonderful women in her life. The selfless "sisters" who check in with her twice a week.
"Elles sont tellement occupées... mais elles sont toujours là pour moi." "They are so busy... yet they are always there for me." I hear about her dear friends Katherine and Eliane: two French women who are, to my mother-in-law, veritable heroines.
Their relationship skirts the boundaries of "race" and religion (my mother-in-law being a proud "pied-noir" and an unconvertible atheist). Her "angels" are evangelical but my belle-mère doesn't mind their differences just as long as they don't preach to her!
"Et qu'est-ce qu'on se marre! On se marre comme des petites vieilles!" Oh, and how we laugh! We laugh like little old women!" With that, my mother-in-law's eyes twinkle like sunlit drops from the Fountain of Youth.
She is laughing now, her heart 200 kilometers away, back home in Marseilles, where her angels are gathered with their own families. After a few more chuckles of appreciation for her friends, I watch her reach up to clasp her upper arm. Her shoulder is hurting her again; her laughing trails off and her mind returns to the present, where pain tortures her limbs.
My own heart is now light years away from the internet. I reach over to rub my belle-mère's back. I do not know whether she likes this outreached hand on her back, but I learn as I go.
la belle-mère = mother-in-law
le pied-noir = a "black foot" (a North African born French woman or man)
Keep up your French with Bien Dire (magazine subscription). A 52-page magazine to improve your French that you'll enjoy reading! Full of interesting articles on France and French culture, Bien-dire helps you understand what it is to be French order here.
Smokey: back when leftovers were rare! (pictured Smokey and his 5 sisters)
Did I tell you that my mother-in-law is the best cook in the world? Here is one of my favorite recipes of hers... one that Jean-Marc uses this time of year. (Currently the recipe is in French only... you are welcome to help translate it!). Click here to go to view this recipe.
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety