Adieu George Whitman, owner of Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris

Motherhood & Max goes to driver’s school

Cabanon (c) Kristin Espinasse
The little cabanon, the one that makes a cameo in today's story...

habitude (ah-bee-tood) noun, feminine

    : habit


Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these words: Download MP3 or Wave file

prendre de mauvaises habitudes = to pick up bad habits
j'ai l'habitude = I'm used to it
d'habitude = as a rule
comme d'habitude = as usual

French christmas music
French Christmas Music: "Mon Beau Sapin", "Sainte 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 Evening Routine

At around 5:23 each evening, I rush down stairs to the kitchen, to make my son a triple-decker PB&J.  Tearing off a sheet of papier alu, I wrap the sandwich and set it into a brown paper sack, from the stack I am collecting from the fruit-and-vegetable stand. Small as the paper sacks are, I can even place a bottle of water inside, careful not to écraser the PB&J.

Smokey and Braise watch as I grab my keys, lunettes, purse, and run back to the kitchen for the snack I have forgotten.

"No, it's not for you!" I repeat to the dogs.  Arrêtez! Vous allez manger tout à l'heure—et vous le savez très bien! Alors, arrêtez de me faire culpabiliser!

I lock the front door and head out to the driveway. When I put the key into the car's ignition, the radio blares and I jump—seized with a fight-or-flight response! My hand slaps my heart to calm it.  "J'en ai eu assez! This time I am really going to have a word with him! I say of my husband, who has once again left the volume full blast. 

Never mind, time to get a move on! The clock reads 5:31 and my mind's eye shows my son standing at the bus stop waiting too long in the cold.

The road to the village is flanked with leaf-bare vines in wintertime. As I drive, I look out to admire a favorite stone cabanon, its roof fallen long ago. As always, my mind's eye sees newly painted shutters, in blue or green (I can't yet decide which). Inside the abandoned one-room abode, there is now a roaring fire in the hearth... red checkered cups and saucers dry on a quaint rack beside the sink. The floors are no longer dirt, they are covered with little earth-red tomette tiles. There is a cozy sofa facing the cheminée, blankets draped across the arms. A basket of yarn rests on the floor, knitting needles tucked into the wool. The simple, unhurried life.... 

My daydream ends as I coast into town, taking the busy boulevard to the centre ville. I see my son standing on the curbside, laughing with his friend, Antoine, with whom he will share his triple-decker PB&J

Pulling into the bus zone for an illegal 30-second drop-off, I lower the car window and prepare to do the nightly exchange in which Max hands me his backpack and I hand over the snack. 

"T'as de l'argent?" Max winks.

"You are persistent!" I answer with a smile, handing him his sandwich and his drink instead of the money.

Oh well, he isn't so disappointed, and by the gentle way he says merci beaucoup, Maman, he seems sincerely grateful.

I watch as the young man with the sandwich crosses the street, heading towards the auto-école for his night class. One day he will drive away and this evening routine will be no more. 

I will miss making the triple-decker sandwiches. I will miss my son's breezy attempts to pry money out of me. I will miss watching Mr. Merci Beaucoup walk off... looking like a dashing stranger.  And so I linger in my car another moment or two, letting the images transfer themselves into my mind's eye, to mingle with the painted shutters, the cozy fire, the basket of knitting and the checkered teacups... and even the forgetful husband and the dogs....

Oh, the dogs! Time to get home and feed them their dinner!

French Vocabulary

PB&J = peanut butter and jelly sandwich
le papier d'alu (d'aluminium) = aluminum foil
écraser = to squash
lunettes (fpl) = eyeglasses
Arrêtez! = stop
vous allez manger tout à l'heure = you're going to eat a little later
et vous le savez très bien! = and you know that!
alors, arrêtez de me faire culpabiliser! = so stop making me feel so guilty!
j'en ai eu assez = I've had enough!
le cabanon = one-room abode where farmers would rest and/or store their tools
tomette = a traditional floor tile found in Provence
la cheminée = fireplace
le centre ville = town center
t'as de l'argent = got any money?
l'auto-école (f) = driving school


Tis the season! Are you feeling a bit bah-humbuggy by now? Or is it just me?

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I too, have been feeling that my little routines will fly away when my girls fly the coop in about 5 more years. I wonder what I will do then? Will there be new routines to fill the space? Time will tell.


Hi Kristin, Yes, it is good to treasure the moment. The little every day moments are where the soul of life is hidden. Be well. Mary

Bill Facker

Good one, Kristin .. you are in the groove.

Pat, Roanoke, Va

How smart you are to savor these moments, fixing in your mind the images of your children. You are aware, enlightened, to see the beautiful in the mundane. The mindfulness we bring to living transforms all. You write in a way that I felt I could see this Mother -son exchange, and it brings bittersweet feelings as I contemplate my son Sam's day today, participating in water survival training (Air Force) in Pensacola. (eeyaaii!!)

Time flies, but attention and awareness, seasoned by the heart, give remembrance that endures forever. Bonne Maman!

Suzanne, Monroe Twp., NJ

A lovely vignette. Having been to your home and to Ste.-Cecille-des-Vignes, I could follow you on your drive in for your PB&J rendezvous with Max.

Ma from Brasil

My son is now 23 and out of home and I understand what you are sensitive it,Kristin!
Thank you for sharing!
Joyeux Noël!!!Greetings and hugs from Brasil! =)

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristin,
The time goes by too fast! I know exactly how you feel. This will be our last family Christmas with our son, Collin who will graduate college in May and will be commissioned a Second Lieutenant and then he will be off to start his life. I am looking forward to him arriving for his Christmas break this Thursday along with our daughter, Tara!

Larry W. Griffith


Just one correction. You said, " I will miss my son's breezy attempts to pry money out of me." Don't worry. THIS WILL NEVER HAPPEN! (or at least not for another few years). Even though his age will dictate that he is adult, he will continue to attempt to pry money from you for some time yet.

Julie F in St. Louis, MO

What a lovely post about a lovely moment. I'm surprising myself by being able to translate more and more of the French (except for the idioms, of course). I suggest you start dreaming of those precious cabanons not as they would look as a family home but as one would look as a writing studio for you.


Like others here, I have been where you are now, and now I'm where you will be some day. My (formerly) little girl just informed me by email that after her three-month stint working on a horse farm in Bavaria, she plans to go to northern Denmark for a similar adventure. Enjoy them while you have them!


Lovely! DO treasure these moments - what I would give to have the kids home again! Just for a wee while.....They have their own lives now and we skype and keep up...... but that family rhythm, the humdrum, the everyday, the predictable routine of the growing-up days, that is gone forever and I'm afraid I didn't respect it and value it enough at the time. Time! There is never enough of it!


Yes, they grow up and away so fast: the older they get the faster the time/years seem to go.
I adore those cabanons and am always redoing them in my mind!!

Jeanne of Maumee, OH

The free time you gain when your children leave home is bittersweet. I hated making daily lunch bags for my two - now they are in California, 2400 miles away, making sandwiches for their own children! Savor every minute.
And yes, I am a little humbuggey too right now!

Bill in St. Paul

Once Max starts to drive, you'll see less of him and have one less vehicle, and you'll now have two people to remind to turn the radio down when they "return" the car.

Robyn France

Ah la nostalgie de ces moments! Treasure them as you do--I fear I was always in such a hurry, I didn't savor those special times as you seem to do so well. I learned my lesson and do indeed treasure them with my little grandchildren.

Dawne Polis

have been reading you for several years, and have enjoyed watching Max grow. What a sweet kid he is! My husband and I were just lamenting this morning that our little grandson has crawled into bed with us every night for a week, and he's kicked and thrashed us out of a decent night's sleep. But then we remembered his mom at that age, and how quickly that phase was over, and how we missed that little girl's cuddly affection. So I guess we'll put up with a few more nights of some sweet Kung Fu, and do what we've started doing--videoing him on our iPhone...for future reminiscing. [You could video Max asking for l'argent!! He'll laugh at it one day]


When our youngest son came home from his last day of class as a senior in high school, he surprised me with a HUGE bear hug. "This is a thank-you for every single lunch you packed for me." The 12 years of totally disliking that chore melted away in that instant, and that is a wonderful moment I will never forget. Nor did I then regret packing lunch for a busy kid who so totally disliked school cafeteria fare!

I have a grammar question for you, Kristin. When talking to Smokey and Braise, you used the "vous" form. Is that typical with animals? I wondered if they would merit the more informal tu form.

Kristin Espinasse

Cyndy, we say tu: Smokey, tu viens ici! Here, I was talking to both dogs: Arrêtez-vous! 

Christine Dashper

Oh this one really tugs at my heartstrings Kristin! My son has just completed his last year of high school and we are in that 'limbo' between school and the next step...whatever that may be. All the routines are out the window.

I love your comment about the 'breezy' way he trys to pry money from you. That technique certainly knows no international boundaries! But I do get the Aussie equivalent of "Thanks ma..."

We just have to find new ways to be their mums. :)

Happy holiday season.


Oh, I get it... duh! My high school French failed me there. Thanks for explaining that.


Lovely post, it's a good reminder to treasure the moment.

Fred Caswell

Chere Amie,

So well written! So much YOU!

D'habitude -- affectueusement, Fred


Gorgeous writing! You had me rushing, imagining, savoring, and reflecting.
Merci, encore.

gail bingenheimer

After the kids left home I became an elementary school teacher.


Salut Kristin: You have a way with words, always so interesting. And your stories always bring back memories. J'étais là, driving my boys to school and to their after school lessons. C'était toujours la routine, pendant longtemps. Then, one by one took off, which had actually helped me slowly adjust. I’m now living with sweet memories and it has been fun times during their/our visits. Ce serait la même chose pour toi et JM.

Susan Carter

Those routines with your children will be replaced with new ones, which can be just as enjoyable and interesting.

Marianne Rankin

I didn't think your kids liked PBJ (remembering the "beurk!" entry from Words in a French Life). Maybe they've gotten used to it.

In today's post, you are just dropping off a needed dinner. At other times, you have written about picking up Max and Jackie from school. Isn't there a bus?

Yes, treasure all the milestones with your children. My son, rather belatedly, is also learning to drive. I admit, I'm looking forward to the day when he can run some errands for me, although one worries about drivers talking on cell phones, etc. - it's harder to drive these days than it was when I got my license.

It's kind of you to make a special trip to drop off a fresh sandwich for Max and Antoine.

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