Accidental Cassoulet -- an update
French strikes--and Lunch at Chateau de Pibarnon with Eric De Saint Victor!

"Unfit mother" in French + A Celebration

Kristi Espinasse Max
The following is a curious choice for word-of-the-day on the eve of our son's 21st birthday, but the term mère indigne popped up in today's story. I then found an old word-a-day soundfile from when Max was 11 years old. So there you have it. An almost ready-made post! Here we go:


    : an unfit mother

ECOUTEZ: Listen to a then 11-year-old Max pronounce the example sentence for indigne:
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Qui ne continue pas à apprendre est indigne d'enseigner.
He who ceases to learn cannot adequately teach.
--Gaston Bachelard

"It may be broken but it tastes the same"

    by Kristi Espinasse

Dear Max,

In a matter of hours you will turn 21--and I will not make the mistake I made a few years back when I forgot to wish you Happy Birthday first thing in the morning.

(Quelle gaffe! And for the record: of course I knew it was your birthday! Especially after that first cup of coffee.)

Almost as soon as I gave birth to you in Marseilles, I learned a most dreadful French term: "mère indigne." It was used by parents in a seemingly joking sense: "Je suis une mère indigne!" French moms would say, exaggerating some oversight in the realm of nurturing (like forgetting to give their child homemade dessert, after the homemade main course). And there I was still trying to figure out how to make soup! (Water + veggies, Max. Don't sweat it.)

I won't go into the fears and regrets I had as a young mother in a foreign country before internet (where last month I learned how to make ravioli lasagna for your sister, who turns 19 in September). No! I would rather focus on my réussites, and one of my and your father's biggest successes (apart from your adorable sister) is YOU!

Now for a confession: I am still trying to figure out what to do for you on your birthday, and I thought, somehow, this open letter could be a part of that--if only to record noir sur blanc, my sincere intentions:

SO MAX, here's the agenda for MAY 17th....

1. Wish you Joyeux Anniversaire -- before the rooster crows! Before that first cuppa!

2. Take you shopping. While I believe less and less in shopping, this is one occasion where I believe in it BIG TIME ("big time," not as in "I'm gonna spend big on you!"... big time as in I won't make Mistake No. 2 again: appointing your sister as personal shopper (I was tempted to recycle last year's gift--the one Jackie picked out and charged on my card--that expensive activities "box" where you were to pick among skydiving, car racing, rafting...but I am not THAT desperate (if practical. And increasingly frugal). Besides, it came as a relief that you would not be jumping out of an airplane. Please choose the Romantic Dinner For Two for you and Mathilde. And hurry up before the coupon finally expires!!).

3. Make you your grandmother Michèle-France's gâteau chocolat! This year I'll use real birthday candles and not the ones I scrambled for in time's past (like those fondue candles--exhibit A, below--swiped from I Can't Remember Where...). And I'll try to make a more uniform cake even if, as I have always told you and your sister, "It may be broken but it tastes the same!"

                         A toothless Max

4. I've elected your Dad to cook one of his specialties: magret de canard with pears in honey! (I'll make the rice to go with it!)

5. Toot-toot! I'm going to ask readers to finish today's post and then come back and read this piece about you HERE.

And then I am going to brag to our guest, Chris--friend and wine importer from Portland, about what a wonderful son you are. I'm going to tell him--make that everyone!--about the rainbow-colored flowers you brought me, yesterday, out of the blue. And about how you and your sister dragged me out of the house, last night, to watch you two play tennis. And about how you taught Jackie all your tricks. And the complicité you two share. What a gift to a parent to see her children enjoying each other's company!

My favorite moment from yesterday, Max, was hearing you call out to me, as you have since you first learned to speak: "Mom look at me! Mom watch this! Maman! Regarde-moi!" Last night I watched you run up to the tennis net and--tucking both feet beneath you as you jumped--clear it! That smile on your face. That delight. That wish, want, or need to impress me. No matter how old you are my favorite words will always be: Look Mom! Regarde-moi! Say it at 30! Shout it at 65! I will be watching you forever--delighting in all you accomplish, whether that be graduating college...or urging your sister to call for a second interview (your encouragement worked! Jackie got her first summer job at the water park!).

Happy birthday, Mr Max. You know I love you. Now don't take me to the cleaners. I'll teach you that English idom when we go shopping later! Because if there's one place you and your sister are complice--or partners in crime--it's at the mall!

Jackie and Max in Aix-en-Provence.

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
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