Le printemps has come early to France and promises to bring a beautiful late spring and summer, if you are thinking of a wonderful and different sort of holiday why not come on one of my painting trips. All-inclusive from pick up to drop off, you get to see some of the most beautiful places in Provence and beyond. Eat gourmet food and have one on one teaching. The groups are small and friendly. Don’t miss out!! www.paintprovencewithtess.com
We were bundled up and heading out for our walk when Mom reached into her poche and pulled out a plastic baggy: "I've got cat food!" she sang.
Oh no! I thought, before auto-correcting, "Great. That's great, Mom."
(I DO think it is great Jules cares for the needy here in France--just as she did in Mexico, and back in the Arizona desert where she raised us. Even as a struggling, single parent, Mom encouraged us to "give away 10 percent"... and so showed my sister, Heidi, and me the importance of tithing. It's just that now we've got to watch out for our Mom, because she gives what she herself might one day need--to homeless men, stray cats, and les démunies--and we fear some take advantage of her. And when I say les démunies, this includes her 3 rescued hedgehogs and her growing flock of tourterelles. You'd be surprised at just how pushy doves can be! All but knocking on her window with their beaks!)
Some might say we have enough cat ladies in the neighborhood. I've spotted at least three sprinkling croquettes across fences, driveways, or along the trottoirs. One of the women is very discreet, posing as a kind of mail-carrier, scooping kibbles out of her satchel before moving on, comme si de rien n'était. (which, BTW, is another lesson Mom taught: Give, without anyone seeing you do it!)
A few blocks into our sortie, and Mom was eager to show me her latest adoptee: a hefty black cat who lives across from the surf rental shack, where an SDF sleeps at night. As Jules sprinkled dinner along the stairs beside the digue, I spied several empty gamelles on the other side of the bushes.
"There are 5 plates over there!" I pointed out. Ignoring me, Mom went about her joyful occupation, adding more cat food to one of the empty bowls.
"Look! The pigeons are coming." I warned. In 2 seconds flat the cat chow Mom had purchased disappeared beneath a flurry of feathers. "See! The pigeons get to it before even the cats! And look, here comes another woman with a box of croquettes!"
Unfazed, Mom and the stranger raised their kibbles, acknowledging one another and their common goal of comforting the homeless.
One of the stray cats in our neighborhood.
Aware now of my grumpy mood (this hayfever and spring lethargy is severe this year!), I relented: "I'm being a buzz kill aren't I?"
"You sure are!" Mom laughed. "You're just no fun!"
"The French have a word for party poopers," I offered. "It's casse-bonbons. Literally, a 'candy breaker'."
(Update: Boy I was wrong with that translation. Bonbon also refers to testicles! Too late, Mom was already calling me this!)
"Come over here, Casse-Bonbons. I have a surprise for you!"
A surprise? What could Jules have up her sleeves apart from cat food? Mom took my arm and guided me down to the waterfront. When I recognized the building towards which we were walking--the members-only sailing club--I panicked. "We can't go there!"
"Yes, we can," Mom smiled. "I've already been..."
"No. We can't," I said, digging my heels into the ground. "You have to be invited by three club members" (an exaggeration, it was really two members, but anything to dissuade Mom).
As if she could be dissuaded. Mom tugged on my arm. "Come on!"
A few steps later and I saw the sign, Acces public à la mer, and an arrow pointing to the opposite way of the yacht club. Mais bien sûr. Most beachfronts in France are open to the public! I had just never ventured far enough to see the sign!
And that is how I learned about a little known gem of a plage--a flat-rock beach--in my own town--thanks to Mom and her trail of croquettes. And why am I surprised? It was Jules who always told us, back in the Arizona desert: to take a new path each day... (and to feed the cats and the homeless along the way).
I leave you with a few pictures of the passage we took to get to the beach, and a meaningful quote at the end of this post.
EDIT ME: If you see une faute de frappe (a typo) in French or in English, I would greatly appreciate it if you would point it out in the comments or via email. Merci beaucoup!
la poche = pocket
les croquettes pour chat = dry cat food
la tourterelle = turtledove
démuni(e) = needy, destitute, the very poor
le trottoir = sidewalk
comme si de rien n'était = as if nothing had happened
la sortie = trip, outing, excursion
la gamelle = dish, bowl
la digue = seawall, embankmentOuvert au public
SDF (Sans Domicile Fixe) = homeless
le casse-bonbons = pain in the neck, pest
la plage = beach
My mom loves magpies, so it was a treat to see this one on "Mom's beach." Also, notice how the rocks above the magpie form a face. Here, below is the full picture of our view from the little beach.
I leave you with the words of Thomas Merton, which may sum up my Mom's philosophy when it comes to giving, loving, sharing. If you'd like to translate the sentence in the comments, that would be lovely: Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy.
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