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)

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

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