Tabouret, fouet, penderie, bonnes idées - and a glimpse into the writing life
The Stranger, Part 2 (+ The Word the French say When Smiling for a Photo)

Haphazardly in French + Serendipitous Meeting with a Stranger, Part 1

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Experience a Lavender & Vine painting tour! Discover the magical light of Van Gogh this summer (lavender season) or fall (wine harvest). Join our small group with professional instruction to paint in Provence. Rates and tour info here.

Today's Phrase: au petit bonheur

    : haphazardly, randomly

Le bonheur, c'est de continuer à désirer ce qu'on possède. -Saint Augustin
Happiness is wanting what you already have.

January Book-A-Thon....
For two years now I have quietly read your blog, enjoying your triumphs and trials. Unable to sleep one night, I opened your email to find a request to buy your book. It was time for me to step out of the shadows and support your cause. What a delight! I have been unable to put it down. I wish you loads of success. --Jeanne
Blossoming cover
January book-a-thon: buy a book for a friend. Your purchase supports my writing and helps new readers find their way here. Merci! Available in ebook/Kindle or paperback.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

It was serendipity. How else to explain Saturday's meeting with un inconnu?...It was, as Madame said, not par hasard the way we ended up walking, one in front of the other on a cobblestone path at the same point in time....

Time! One minute more, one minute less and we'd never have met. Earlier at home, on our way to the car, Mom had said, Do you have any Kleenex? No? I'll go back and get some. Pockets stuffed with mouchoirs, and in town now, we were stalled another 5 minutes admiring the giant seed pods on a tree we could not name. Lolling about we approached le centre ville on our way to the art supply store, when a gothic church caught my eye. Let's go look! 
Church eglise la ciotat cathedral architecture gothic
To think all of these accidental adjustments in our schedule were not accidents, but were serving to line us up at an exact point on a geographical line of happenstance. There we were, meandering down a narrow street when Mom paused, colliding with the stranger behind her... 

Oh, pardon, Madame! Mom said. Apologizing, she motioned toward the historical buildings surrounding us. 

Ah, oui! C'est magnifique, Madame smiled. At this point she might have nodded and walked off. But she stayed...

Je suis
d'ici... she offered, her raspberry red lipstick drawing us in to such glamour: silver-white hair (I don't have a lot of it, she insisted) in a lovely twist, held up with a barrette. She wore wool pants, a jazzy, printed vest, black boots (they are hand-sewn, I got them at the farmers market!) a long foulard wrapped around her neck and big dark glasses.  She reminded me of one of those characters in Advanced Style.

Mom could not help herself: Look at you! You are so beautiful! The three of us huddled closer, and a conversation ranging from hair loss to the horrors of war ensued.  

(Stranger to Mom): Ah, you were born in '46, and I in '44--when bombs were falling over France! They placed my 4 siblings in various homes, but I was still nursing. The soldiers did not believe it so they squeezed my mother's enormous... (here Madame held out two widely cupped hands for effect...). To this day I am a skinny little thing, Madame concluded. When the Mistral blows through town it carries me away! But I'm out today... no wind! 

Mom was getting cold feet--not from the war story--no, it was the frozen cobblestones beneath her Converse hightops that were making her antsy. But before we moved on, Jules really wanted a photo of Madame ...
 
Je ne suis pas photogenic....Madame insisted--only to jump into my outstretched arm and smile ouistiti! Locking elbows, I marveled at the natural affection coursing through our hearts. Ce n'est pas par hasard...Madame repeated, as she looked up and flashed that heavenly smile.
 
 
*    *    *
 
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The photo in the opening of this post, and this one, are from Beth. I have personally experienced her hospitality during one of her organized trips in Provence. Do check it out, it may be just the adventure you are looking for in 2019! 

FRENCH VOCABULARY
le bonheur = happiness
un inconnu = stranger
par hasard = by accident
le mouchoir (en papier) = tissue, Kleenex
le centre ville = town center
le foulard = scarf, neckerchief
ouistiti! = cheese!

Kristi jules max in kitchen
Recent Instagram post: Three generations, with my Mom, Jules, and my son, Max.

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

Comments

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Muriel

Your Mom really is young! Born in 1946....and that part of the conversation amuses me as I have never had folks ask me my age here but they do ask me in what year I was born! Viva the baby-boomers! ...what about a blog with the vocabulary for the age groups....baby boomers, millennials, etc! Enjoy reading your blog posts. Keep writing.

Patricia Sands

These spontaneous moments in life are sometimes the best. I sense the beginning of a wonderful friendship here. Can't wait to hear the rest! Bon weekend!

julie camp

You've got me hooked, dear Kristi.

Gwyn Ganjeau

Kristin, your story reminded me of a great movie -- "Run Lola Run." In the first scene, a woman in her apartment gets a call that her boyfriend needs help. She goes out of her apartment and the plot unfolds with man incidental encounters. Then, all of a sudden, you are back in her apartment and the phone is ringing -- same call from her boyfriend. but this time, she forgets something in her apartment which makes the story unfold just a few minutes later. all the same people are there, but the encounters are changed just a bit -- perhaps overhearing a part of a conversation that tweaks the story. And then you see the phone ring a THIRD time and the process starts all over with yet different results! Fascinating. And a reminder that we are all connected, and we are always affecting and are affected by each other. it's a nice thing to be reminded of.

Bon weekend à vous!

Nancy

Hope this continues into a long friendship; too many times we don't follow-up on potential friends, but when we do, it's wonderful!

Anne Umphrey

Wonderful story, delightful writing. It reminded me of serendipitous encounters in my past. They are the best.

Joanne

Bonjour Kristi,
Une falaise-pendre. C’est très intéressant! Peut-être vous êtes une descendante de Scheherazade? Certainment l’inconnue deviendra moins mystérieuse dans votre blog prochain.

Leslie NYC

You are so good at finding the inherent magic in any moment you focus on, and your mother is so good at drawing in strangers! It must be refreshing for French people to encounter her openness and charm. They are not allowed to say, "you are so beautiful!" But human beings love true affection and admiration. How could anyone resist a 70-year-old
Beauty wearing high top sneakers?
It's who I want to be. I love striking up conversations with strangers. It almost always is fascinating, or at least puts each of us in a better mood

Gail in AZ

I can't wait to see the photo of Madame. The encounter is fascinating! She sounds like a treasure. :)

Suzanne Du

Mais, ou est le photo de Madame?????????

Joan

Looking forward to Part 2... Bon weekend a tout le monde...

Andrea Hughes

Gwyn, I remember that film and was also intrigued by the format. I thought it was a very successful movie.

Kitty Wilson-Pote

What a great experience and telling thereof, Kristi -- so wish that I (born in '45!) could've been there with you Three Graces for this wondrous encounter with unexpected magic-seeming recognition of each other;thanks so much for sharing it all. And please oh please do get Madame's permission to share that happy photo with us, as we embrace her too, clearly close to you and Jules in a previous lifetime or two!

Cheryl in STL

What a delightful encounter! Moments like this one make our lives richer. My best French friend was the first person I met when I got off the train in Grenoble for my junior year. I’ll see him again in a few short weeks! It was a God thing!

Katia

Kristi, what a wonderful story! I have always admired Jules's -- I do feel as if I have met her and known her forever because of your stories -- joie de vivre, the love she radiates toward everything that and everyone. I am not surprised that being alongside Jules, you meet the most interesting people. I hope you will share the photo you took with the delightful chic lady. By the way, I also meant to say that I love the backpack from your previous post, as well as your strategy for keeping your work under a beautiful scarf. Like you, my office is in my bedroom and I have been seeking a way to cover my work at nighttime. I just might borrow your tip.

Judy Feldman

Love the Advanced Style ladies! Hope you see your new friend again!

Judi

Best story yet! I just love those “chance encounters.” It’s such a great feeling - I usually get shy at the end and afraid to ask for another “on purpose” meet-up. I still have a loving memory but wishing I had taken it a step further-maybe next time! Looking forward to the second half of the story!

Jan Hersh

Quelle chance de faire la connaissance d' une nouvelle amie avec votre maman et maintenant me!

suzanne

Lovely as always. You transported me there.

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