Homeless in France
Doggy bags in France: how the French react to this foreign custom

Etat des lieux + homeless in Aix-en-Provence

The handy-dandy serpillière, or French floor rag. If you have ever rented a place in France, you know the frenetic tidying up that takes place before you hand back the keys and hope to recuperer la caution or get back your deposit check!

état des lieux (eh-tah-day-lyuh)

    : an inventory or a walk-through to assess the condition of a property 

AUDIO FILE: Listen to our son, Max, read the following sentence
Download MP3 or Wav

 Etat des lieux: Avant de faire l'état des lieux pour rendre mon appartement, je croise dans la rue une femme sans-abris.  Comment l'aider? Before showing up for my apartment check-out, I walked by a homeless woman.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

While packing up his rental apartment in Aix-en-Provence, my son telephoned me. As is often the case, I only caught a part of what he was saying in French. 

"...et désolé pour ton Tupperware."

"Max, what are you talking about? Speak English!"

I could hear the tap running as my 19-year-old hurried to finish the dishes and return them to the cabinet before the realtor arrived for the état de lieux (that's French for this rental apartment better be in the same condition as you found it in or you are not getting your deposit back!).

Max shut off the tap and cleared his throat. "Mom, I can't pack your Tupperware because I gave it away."

"I hope you are not talking about the glass container I gave you? I really wanted to get that one back."

I'd sent the newbie bachelor home, that first week of université, with some slow-cooked chicken made in the mijoteuse--chuffed at my new organizational skills. Only, as soon as Max left home, the three of us remaining here reverted to snacking instead of dining. Max never did get another home-cooked meal to take back to his pad.  Instead, he became creative in his own tiny kitchen.

"There was this homeless woman..." Max was now explaining what happened to my Tupperware. "I saw her on my way back to the apartment.  While packing the kitchen I noticed I had some leftover pasta and so I cooked it up for her."

"How old was she? What did she look like?" I tried to imagine a woman sans-abris sitting on the sidewalk in the cold of winter.

"She was between your age and granny's. She wore a scarf."

Max was not in the mood to talk so I quit firing off questions, even if I was curious about his "left over pasta" reasoning. It wasn't left over at all, it was still uncooked in the box... which made his gesture all the more loving. It all reminds me of a tender quote:

Le cœur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point.  The heart has its reasons that reason does not know.  -Blaise Pascal

Happy to have my son home again! Now to keep up with the cooking.... Went to the farmers market, this Friday morning, and bought a large green cabbage. Stuffed the leaves with sausage meat, breadcrumbs, egg, onion, garlic, carrot and kale. Baked it in white wine. He liked it! See more photos here at Instagram (scroll down to the farmers market pics)

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Marika Ujvari

Yummy!!! How much wine and dry or sweet?

Devra Long

Bravo Max!

Leslie NYC

To never forget that "The Homeless" are people is a challenge. Bravo, Max, indeed! We who have homes are so lucky, and I forget my fortune and wallow in self-pity sometimes and then pass someone collecting deposit bottles in the freezing cold, or huddled up by a building--then I snap out of it.
I was inspired by Mychal Judge, a fire chaplain who died at the world trade center. When he left his home, he took a wad of $1 bills and gave them out to people who asked or needed them. No judgment. I try to keep a bill handy in my outside pocket. There is a middle ground between giving away all your money and walking by stiffly, eyes averted. The goal for me is to keep my heart open at least a crack in this big city.
What Max did is much more personal and open-hearted and human. Like Devra, above, I applaud him!


You must have done something right to have raised a thoughtful and generous son. When you're feeling a failure, remember that! And that meal!! Recipe, please?

Trina, St. Petersburg, Florida, USA

Heart-warming story. And I always enjoy photos of doorways; simple elegance that says so much.

Cathy - California

If there is a good reason to lose Tupperware, that is the best reason.

Perhaps I don't understand the French university system, so I am wondering why Max needs to return home at this time of year? Is it for a break in his studies? Is he changing living locations?


Yes, I would like the recipe too! It sounds delicious!


What a sweet, caring young man you and Jean-Marc have raised!


Chris Allin

Genuine kindness shines through a tender heart. Such a thoughtful gesture from Max~


Thoughtful boy. You can be proud.

Connie Venskus

Kristin, Max has your tender heart.... You have taught him well! You must be very proud of this kind young man!

Cricket Hile

Bravo Max indeed. You and Jean Marc have obviously taught your son values and to be a caring young man.

Kristin Espinasse

Cathy, we decided it was best for him to live at home these next three months, before he leaves for the States. He was lonely in that studio apartment. Next semester, hell get a roomate!


Kristi, you and Jean-Marc are great parents for having brought up your kids to be so kind and compassionate. They have good role models.

Kristin Espinasse

Lynne, I hope to post the recipe soon. You can see it on my Facebook page (via the link in is post. The recipe is posted within the comments, on that particular Facebook post. Enjoy!)

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you for your thoughtful comments about Max. I will make sure he sees them. Positive reinforcement!

GwenEllyn Anderson

J'adore vos histoires, Kristin !

Et Max, il est rentré pour des vacances ou est-ce qu'il a finit ses études ?

GwenEllyn Anderson

p.s. Your fans may inundate you with Tupperware....

Vicky from Athens

As we say here in the South . . . he was "raised right". Well done!

Mary  Lou Johnston

I agree that Max has a kind heart and obviously has been well brought up by his parents. Felicitations!

I would like to add that the French serpilliere
(can't seem to do the accent here) is a marvelous, sometimes yucky and probably ancient invention. I have never understood why one doesn't see them in the U.S. They are very useful and handy.

Denise L.

So happy to see you are still posting three times a week. I so enjoy your writing. And the mijoteuse made a re-appearance! I made the "roasted" chicken recently in it and it truly did turn out terrific.

What Max did for the homeless woman is admirable and heart-warming. Good acts are reflections of good parenting. Kudos!


One of the things that means the most to us as parents is to see our children grow to be compassionate adults. In His great love, God has done so much for us, and it's such a joy to see our children learn to share some of these gifts. I'm so happy for you guys to have the joy of seeing that Max has grown into the kind of adult you always hoped he'd become.

Joie in Carmel

you raised your son well.


Quote one of my favorites....always confused by connaître & savoire.
Cabbage rolls sound delicious !


Our dear Kristi,
Another wonderful post and one to wrap around our hearts.We share your joy and pride in Max.
What a kind and compassionate young man,and very definitely your son.
Pascal's quote here could not be more perfect.
Natalia xo
PS What yummy cabbage rolls! :)))))

Julia ~ Falling Off Bicycles

Sweet story and love that first photo! <3 Enjoy having everyone back at home.

Leslie in Oregon

You have raised a kind and compassionate man...bravo to you and him!

Nothing happens when I click on the link to download MP3 or the link to download Wav. Is there an easy solution at your end...I listen to all your recordings, and this has never happened to me before.

Thank you, Kristin!

Karen Cafarella

What a sweet and giving young man. You both should be very proud.


Betty Gleason

I agree the motive was excellent, except the Tupperware was not his to give away. Pasta is cheap; Tupperware is not, especially the new glass ones. In this case he was robbing from Peter to be generous to Paul. I believe he has more of an obligation to his mother to return her dish than he does to a stranger. One of the rules of accepting leftover food is you always return the container unless specifically told to keep it. Bottom line is he owes you a new container.

Marianne Rankin

Yes, the audio files didn't work in this post.

I think Max did the right thing. I've hesitated to give money to "street people" because I am so afraid they will use it for alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs. And some try to take advantage; there was a woman on a corner near my office for years, with a sign "Mom of 3 kids needs help." The kids must be long grown by now.

On the other hand, it helps to put oneself in others' shoes. Three times in the past couple of years, we have been without heat for several days while repairs were done to the house, and a furnace eventually replaced. The temperature eventually got to be about 40 F inside the house. That is nothing compared to the outside temps the D.C. area has had the past week or two, hovering between 10 and 20 during the day, and even below zero at night, with gusty winds. I am willing to take a chance on what someone will do with money, but the thought of no way to keep warm is (no pun intended) chilling. I've bought a warm hat which I plan to give to the next homeless person I see who doesn't have one. Today I gave a small amount of cash to a fellow with a "recently homeless" sign, who also noted he would "pay it forward" when he could. Turns out he is a college-educated war veteran who has been having trouble finding a job. He said he would take anything, but employers of companies with minimum-wage jobs say he would leave as soon as he could, so don't want to hire him. The economy is better, but still not so great. Anyway, it's easy to think folks are just lazy, but that's not always, or even often, the case. Three and a half years ago, I was also jobless, and hoping I could keep my house.

Yes, normally you return a food container (maybe the homeless woman would do that if she saw Max again), but I still think he did the right thing.

Kristin Espinasse

Enjoying your comments this rainy Saturday morning. A few of you mentioned the Tupperware container. Once I found out where it went, it was no worry at all and I didnt expect it back (I think Max understood this or would have found an alternative). Also, it turned out to be the non-glass container :-)

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks for the reports about the soundfile. I tested it again, by going to the blog and clicking on it there. It did work for me. Is anyone still having issues. And which link did you use? Was it the one at the bottom of the newsletter? 

Betty Gleason

How many people have loaned something to someone, assuming they would get it back, and it has been lost, passed on to someone, returned broken or just not returned? Communication can sometimes be at fault for not stating clearly enough that one would like the item back in good shape. Sometimes children assume that what is their parents is their's also. But with such small transactions is one's integrity based in the world & before Max goes to live far from home, it is a lesson that should be learned.

Gordon Lyman

How could he not have a good heart?

Mary Keates

Oh tears come to my eyes....your son is so kind.

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristin,
Love your post today and the photo of Max enjoying his meal you prepared. Isn't it nice to have your son home? I am out visiting my son before he deploys next month to Baghdad. I'm treasuring this time together!

Marie La Salle

Telle mere tel fils.

Nancy Mulloy-Bonn

I admire your family values, and now I see that Max has absorbed his mother's teaching. I have occasionally been momentarily annoyed to learn that lunch money or 'just in case' money was used by my daughter to buy something for another student. Perhaps even a student with greater resources. But I preached when she was young to be generous, and to never regret being generous. So what did I have to complain about? I know you are proud, too. Max is kind and generous.


Encore tu me a donne deux cadeaux -- private tears and audible laughter; a most touching blog! Your son and daughter reflect your (plural) outstanding genes and abundant love. You and ta famille have been so richly blessed. Affectueument toujours!


Our little ones grow up all too fast, and just as we begin to despair, they show us what wonderful adults they are becoming. Félicitations to you and your husband on a job well done.

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