I wanted everything to be perfect when Tess and the artists arrived. But when I went to check my appearance in the mirror, after greeting my guests, there was pink toilet paper stuck to my eyelashes!! Read on.
le papier toilette
: toilet paper
ECOUTEZ/LISTEN - hear Jean-Marc pronounce today's word: click here or here:
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE...
by Kristin Espinasse
I am feeling pulled in every direction on this, a beautiful sunny October day! I want to be in the garden, where the saffron is blooming. I want to sort out lunch for our olive harvesters (a modest team of three), and I really need to vacuum this house and wash the dirty windows! And bible study! Oh my! I completely forgot about our weekly Skype bible study with Tami and Erin! I'll never be ready!
Forget about writing stories. There is no more time for that.... not if I must write perfectly and dust! So I will leave the housework, audit tonight's bible study, and take this chance to write an imperfect story with an imperfect name ("Toilet Paper").
* * *
"Le Papier Toilette"
One thing I began to notice, after moving to France, was all the pink toilet paper! The supermarket shelves were full of it as were all of the French bathrooms--at a friend's house, in a local restaurant, at the rest stops along the autoroute. In spite of being the biggest Francophile in the world, one who put every quirk of French life up on a pedestal, I could not relate to the French penchant for le papier rose. And as soon as I learned that le papier blanc did exist, I begged my husband to buy it instead. Like this, our house has been free of pink toilet paper for twenty years now.
But last week my daughter did the shopping, returning with a toilet paper value pack. 24 extra big rolls OF PINK TOILET PAPER. "They didn't have anything else," Jackie explained. So touched that she had noticed this quirk of her mother's, I all but embraced the purchase. But Jackie's brother downright hugged it!
"I'll take it! I'll take it!" Max--my son and starving student--volunteered. "I don't care about the color--ça coute la peau des fesses! Toilet paper costs an arm and a leg in Aix-en-Provence!" So the toilet paper problem was settled. It would return to school with a very grateful bachelor.
Then, yesterday, Tess came over with a lovely group of watercolorists, including one of my readers, Valerie, and three of Valerie's longtime friends from Washington State: Meredith, Marsha, and Trilby. I didn't make it to the store in time to switch the pink rolls, and so resolved that if anyone would be okay with pink toilet paper it would be these artists - to whom color is a vital medium (indeed many artists, like my feisty Mother, abhor white! But I am getting off topic...)
As Tess pulled up to the house and I saw all the new faces inside the car, I did my best to appear at ease, even whispering to Tess, as her group exited the vehicle, just how relaxed I felt this time. But my body was showing other signs and, as I spoke my eyes and my nose and my skin began to water.
Reaching into my pocket, I pulled out a tissue. Having no Kleenex in the house--and certain this friendly-looking group of women would take no offense--I proceeded to dry my eyes and nose and brow with the wad of pink toilet paper. "So lovely to see you all, " I sniffed. "What a warm group!" Meantime my body poured out it's anxiety, drop by drop.
Once the ladies were settled before their paint trays, I hurried up to the house to check my mascara. Given how my eyes had watered, I was sure to find black streaks running down my cheeks. But I couldn't have imagined the real disaster when I looked into the mirror.
My eyes were plastered with toilet paper! There it was--my old pink foe--stuck to my eyelashes and paper machéed to the crow's feet just beyond! Even more alarming was the realization that I had been posing with the group for photos with little clumps of pink TP glued to my eyes like far-out false lashes!
Using a cotton swap to clean up the mess, I rehearsed what I could say to my guests. But I never got the chance to explain. By the time I walked back out into the sunshine, to rejoin the warm circle of artists, I had completely forgotten about it!
And from this day forth, I shall stock my bathroom with rolls and rolls of pink papier toilette--and so honor the day that yet one more anxiety up and rolled away.
* * *
With our three cherished olive pickers - Evan, Max and Edward. I took the painters down to see the harvest underway. You can't see it, but I still had pink toilet paper stuck to my eyes here. And at least one person seems to notice!
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety