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