Another way to say "Mind your own business!" in French
French Marriage advice, and weakness and sacrifice

Pillow talk, Ex-girlfriends and my Mother-in-law

Red sunflowers in a field of cinsault near Bandol, in Provence

My mother-in-law has discovered google translation as a way to read these posts in French.  I hope Michèle-France will enjoy today's story! (Picture of the red sunflowers growing in our field of cinsault grapes. To see the yellow tournesols, join me on Instagram.)

oreiller (oh-ray-yay) noun, masculine

    : pillow

Related Vocabulary
prendre conseil de son oreiller = to sleep on it (re decision making)
une taie d'oreiller = pillowcase
une bataille d'oreillers = pillow fight 
les confidences (f) sur l'oreiller = pillow talk

 listen to Jean-Marc read this sentence: Download MP3 or Wav file

Ma belle-mère m'a offert son propre oreiller. My mother-in-law offered me her very own pillow.

 BLOSSOMING-IN-PROVENCEBlossoming in Provence, "The sort of book the one can read many times and still find it a pleasure." --JH

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

At a beachfront café in Marseilles, Jean-Marc is buttering his mom's toast. "Honey or the confiture d'abricot?" he asks.

"T'es gentil," my mother-in-law thanks her eldest son. "Abricot, s'il te plaît." Taking a sip of her tea, Michèle-France turns her attention my way. "Tu es toujours si jolie," she says. 

Uplifted by her words, I send a grateful smile across the table.

"I will never forget the first time I laid eyes on you," my mother-in-law continues.

My thoughts race back in time. Guiltily I wonder, Did I remember the exact moment too? Little by little, I begin to see the Espinasse family's apartment, in the Roy d'Espagne neighborhood, near the end of Marseilles. I don't remember the pine forest or the sea. I do remember the shining white tiles in the hall entry. I remember that it was just Jean-Marc, his brother, and his mother who lived there in the three-bedroom apartment. I don't recall which floor of the high-rise they lived on—or even taking the ascenseur—though we would have had to.

I do remember the kitchen, where Jean-Marc's mother prepared an exotic-to-this-American dinner (or was it lunch?): lapin à la moutarde. I remember sharing the meal with Jean-Marc's friends, Rachel and Stephan. I do not remember Michèle-France eating with us. Did she discreetly withdraw to her room, to leave us, les amoureux, to dine?

As I reminisce, Michèle-France fills me in on where it was, exactly, that we met the first time she laid eyes on me: 

"I met you in the hallway, after you shuffled out of my son's bedroom!"

I vaguely remember the awkward encounter. Had I been leaving Jean-Marc's bedroom? Behind me, the disheveled sheets would have covered the mattress. You could just see the desk, where Jean-Marc had been showing me his brand new 1989 Macintosh—when we lost interest in computers. I could also see the hook on the wall, where a green robe hung; it was a gift from Jean-Marc's sister. Was I wearing that robe when I met Michèle-France in the hall?!

I must have needed the bathroom. I could almost hear Jean-Marc assuring me no one was around—just go on down the hall. The restroom was at the end of it....

That is when I must have come face to face with Maman. My fears were now materialized and I could not have been more embarrassed. Jean-Marc must have come out of the room, in time to make the introductions.

Any discomfort quickly disappeared when Jean-Marc's mother smiled an unmistakably warm welcome. I will never forget her words: "You can stay as long as you like. You are most welcome here with us. Bienvenue!"

I could not take her up on her generous offer at the time, as I would need to return to Tempe, Arizona, to finish another year and a half of school at ASU.


Taking a sip of my café au lait, it is 20 years later now and I do not seem to have overstayed my welcome. My mother-in-law's eyes continue to glimmer la bienvenue!

Michèle-France sets down her tea and looks at me softly. Next she shares with me, for the first time, what her thoughts were that first time we met.

"I remember thinking: this girl will make my son happy one day!"

I return my mother-in-law's gaze. Her words echoed in my mind as I try to etch them there, on a gray-mattered blackboard.

"Oui, je savais que c'était toi qui le rendrait heureux!"

Almost as soon as she's said it, I recognize the beginnings of a rascal's smile as it spreads across my belle-mère's face... evidence her mischievous side is waking up.

"Yes, you were une bouffée d'air frais—a breath of fresh air," she winks, "especially after some of the girls he brought home!"

Recognizing the direction in which we are heading, I raise my hands, quickly inserting my fingers into my ears. "I can't hear you! I can't hear you!" I laugh. Next I begin to hum.

When I take my fingers out of my ears, my mother-in-law is in the middle of reciting a string of sultry names, "Ma..." (MArilyn? MArie? MAnon?) but I will not listen to a word of it—just as I won't listen when Jean-Marc's longtime friends tease me about les anciennes copines.

Jean-Marc laughs as his mom continues her innocent taquinerie, and when it seems safe to unplug my ears I hear this doozy:

"Ah, and that one! What-Was-Her-Name? Je l'ai jetée de mon lit! I threw her out of my very own bed!"

I can't help but appreciate the colorful scenes my mother-in-law paints with her words, and I finally give in, picturing Jean-Marc's mom yanking some hussy, some fille de petite vertu out of her very own bed (sheesh, Jean-Marc—your mom's own bed!).

On a final, tender note, Michèle-France colors in a bright ending to the story:

"But for you," my mother-in-law says as she reaches across the café table and squeezes my hand, "for you I would have offered my very own pillow!"



la confiture d'abricot
 = apricot jam

t'es gentil = you're nice

Tu es toujours si jolie = you are still so pretty

la belle-mère = mother-in-law

un ascenseur = elevator

le lapin à la moutarde = rabbit with mustard sauce

bienvenue = welcome

le café au lait = coffee with milk

Oui, je savais que c'était toi qui le rendrait heureux! = Yes, I knew it was you who would make my son happy!

une bouffée d'air frais = a breath of fresh air

l'ancienne copine = old girlfriend

la taquinerie = teasing

   Jean-Marc and Kristi in 1993

In love in January 1993... only six months before Jean-Marc bought me a one-way ticket home! Find out what happened after that, in the intro to the book Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language (the Polaroid image includes Jean-Marc's notation "la cloche ) fromages"--which is the cheese restaurant where we ate that night.  

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


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Sweetest story Kristen . Loved it!

Eileen deCamp

I love this story Kristin! Thanks for sharing! Your belle-mère sounds lovely with a good sense of humor!

Ally Davis

You are so lucky to have such a welcoming belle-mère ! That ans q vert touching story!


Morning Kristin, thank you for sharing a part of your life with us and it was/IS such a wonderful & beautiful happening. Your belle-mere sounds like a fantastic person.. Take care Mollie


Oh oh..I used Google translate french to see how it was before I used it to translate something I wanted to write to someone in a language i did not know . Terrible translations! Bonne chance à votre belle-mère!!

Trina from St. Petersburg, FL USA

What a cute story! Such wonderful thoughts from M-F. And, sassy, too, that one. What a joy it must be to have her in your life!

I have never seen red sunflowers. Beautiful photo.

Thanks for sharing all.

Nancy Mulloy-Bonn

In the photo, you and J-M look much the same as you do today...happy, beautiful, and attentive to each other. It seems that the essentials have not changed. A happy story, an


One of my favourite stories written by you. Your les tournesols look so vibrant and beautiful!

catharine ewart-touzot

what a lovely story thank you for sharing it with us

Chris Allin

Dear Kristi,

Such a sweet story. Your genuineness is refreshing, Jean-Marc's expression is so adoring, and Marie-France is delightful. You mention she Jackie's godmother (of tomato tart fame)? Seems you were taken in by family and friends from the very beginning.

The red sunflowers are stunning! Even though our state flower is the sunflower, I have never heard of the red variety.

Your posts always touch my heart or teach me something new...a word, a phrase, a recipe or an insight. And it is amazing watching Jean-Marc's vineyard come to fruition. Thank you both for sharing your thoughts and experiences with your readers...

Kristin Espinasse

Chris, Yes! That is Rachel, who taught me how to make the tomato tart. Thanks for remembering her. She is doing great, by the way, and now has 3 boys!

Thank you all for these wonderful comments. Happy weekend!

Kathleen from Connecticut

Ta belle mère est très incroyable et très belle. J'aime ton histoire.


Patricia Sands

Another heart-touching tale! I'm glad you mentioned Rachel's tomato tart. It's time to make one!

Cindy Mc

Did she really Kristin? J'adore ta belle-mère... Elle est très belle !!


Our dear Kristi,
Oh! This is absolutely delightful!
Once again you have wrapped us in hugs!
What a wonderful way to start the weekend!
Natalia. Xo

Bill Facker

Beautifully written - Masterfully executed


Julie Farrar

What a sweet story. As for my own experience with in-laws I really don't understand where those in-law jokes or in-law horror stories come from because my husband's parents are just the best. And my family welcomed my husband with open arms.

Debra Amrein-Boyes

Kristin, I made the tomato tart last night, to rave reviews. Thank you for this simple delicious recipe. I think it will become a summer staple. The mustard is the key I think, it adds just the right amount of tangy-ness to compensate for the rich pastry and cheese :)

Christine Webb-Curtis

Your story makes me pine for a time when I could enjoy this same experience with my own three sons. One seems settled. The other two are, well, flitting around. I'd like to think that their mother sends no bad vibes the way of these young women and I'd be proud if they considered me as you consider your belle-mere.

Thanks for the happy tale.

Karen Cafarella

What a sweet story and such a beautiful mother in law!

Diane Young

What a beautiful story. You have a great belle mere, n'est-ce pas? And what a great husband she produced for you. Hope you two have a happy 14 Juillet. We survived the July 4 (and happy anniversaire to you) although the dogs in the neighborhood surely were unhappy. Hope your lovely chiens are spared all that noise that went on so late.


I was thinking the same thing as Elles. Better see what Google translate comes up with to make sure your belle-mère is getting the real story!

Eileen Burns

Please send all of our warm love to your mother-in-law. I am pleased to see that she is still enjoying her apricots! I will always and forever associate her with that fruit......Eileen and her father, Jack

Patricia Flynn

I always enjoy your pieces, but this one brought tears to my eyes. How very very fortunate you are to love and be loved by Jean-Marc and Michèle-France.

Cynthia P. Lewis

Your belle-mère is just the greatest! There could never be a dull moment while you are in her company; she personifies total love of one's family with a marvelous sense of humor. Please give her my best regards. Also, many thanks for another delightful post.
PS: Google is wonderful in many ways, but translation is not one of them. I think one of your readers would be happy to translate for Michèle-France.


I loved this one! My mother-in-law likes to bring up the old girlfriends she didn't like also so I can definitely relate! So glad Marie-France was right all those years ago :).


Kristin, I love your little vignettes - and
more so now that you mention ASU, as I am following in your footsteps: Mesa, soon heading to La Belle France! Now if I can only find my own Jean-Marc...

Carol Johnson

A beautiful photo of you and Jean can see how much you love each other !


Dear Kristin, a gergeous post, yet again!

A suggestion:
"us young amours" - nous 'les amoureux'
A typo: LA bienvenue

Météo pour l'Australie : "a major cold front system – a winter storm that’s escaped the swirling winter from Antarctica – and has swept north. With it comes freezing air, gale-force winds and a rapid change of conditions."
Temps glacial à Brisbane!


I just adore this story!!! I'm still smiling after re-reading it again! I've always loved that polaroid of you and Jean-Marc! It's a love affair! I, too, was blessed with a wonderful mother-in-law and she added so much love to our family, always making me feel like her own daughter.

On another note, I must add, that those maroon-colored sun flowers are to die for!!! And, on your previous post, I loved Smokey among the flowers!

Margie R.

Dear Kristi,
Your touching story brought tears to my eyes. What a beautiful photo of you and Jean-Marc - so young and in love!

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