COVID-19, or Coronavirus disease 2019, is no laughing matter. The French (for the most part) are respecting les gestes barrières (wash hands, cough/sneeze into your coude, stand a meter apart, stay home #jerestechezmoi). Today, a light-hearted story from our family's confinement here in La Ciotat.
Today's Word célibataire
: single person; bachelor, spinster
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
Yesterday, Wednesday, I was in our garden watering the radishes, the lettuce, the fava bean plants, the patates, the blueberries, and citrus trees. There's nothing like la guerre* and the threat of rationing to get a lazy gardener to plant seeds and arroser!
Our postwoman, Marie, rang the bell at the front gate and three of us hurried to greet her. Max opened the portail and I held out my arm to prevent Mom from coming any closer to Marie.
With the gate wide open Marie glanced around the yard as Smokey bounded toward our postlady to say bonjour. "You are lucky to have a garden," Marie noted while waving hello. "A lot of families are cooped up in tiny apartments." After a moment passed in which we counted our blessings all over again, and turned our thoughts to those suffering, Mom broke the silence. It was her turn to greet our postlady:
"Marie! There's our Marie!" Jules sang, sending kisses toward la factrice with the wave of her hands. Marie seemed happy to see us too. That giant smile. That joie-de-vivre blue hair of hers. She had a scarf wrapped high around her neck, just missing her mouth and nose. It was tricky keeping the do-it-yourself mask in place while delivering mail all day.
"Don't they have a mask for you?" I asked, imagining the hundreds of people our post lady comes into contact with each day.
"There are no masks," Marie confirmed, not even for government or public workers. No masks for the police, no masks for the check-out lady at the supermarket, no masks for the pharmacist. And no masques de protection for the citoyens, not when hospitals need them.
Marie handed a letter to Max, instructing him to wash his hands after opening it. I noticed our postlady's own hands were gloved. "Are people respecting the one-meter rule?" I asked. Marie said some were not, citing one guy who tried to put his arm around her as a gesture of solidarity.
Speaking of guys....
"Hey Marie!" Mom said, "after this coronavirus is over, I need you to help me find a boyfriend!" Surely our postwoman knew where all the célibataires lived.
"Ah! That should be easy," Marie laughed. "After this confinement, there are going to be A LOT of divorces! That means even more célibataires on the market!"
We laughed and said goodbye to Postlady Marie, wishing her bon courage. On my way inside the house, I passed Jean-Marc who was watering his geraniums. Things had gotten frosty between us a moment early--during a disagreement over re-potting plants.... Rather than pick-up where we left off in our disagreement, we both smiled. Tight smiles. But smiles all the same. When this confinement is over, I know JM will be happy to get back to his wine shop, I'll be happy to have the garden (and all decisions therein...) back to myself...and Jules will hopefully find "son Jules."
* * *
Meantime, soyons patients with those around us. Water the seeds of love and forgiveness. Back to my garden now, where I will, as the French say, s'occuper des mes onions (or mind my own onions! Minding my own business has been the biggest challenge so far....when I have the urge to remind family members how to live during the confinement! If you, too, have this urge, you may need to surrender...just a little...in order to get along.).
EDIT ME: If you see une faute de frappe (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!
"Surrender" - a subliminal message from my clothesline? I dunno. But I'll take it!
* la guerre. French President Macron, in his Monday night address about the pandemic, used the word guerre 6 times: "Nous sommes en guerre....contre un ennemi (…) invisible, insaisissable." We are at war with an invisible, evasive enemy.
les gestes barrières = "barrier gestures"
le coude = elbow
le potager = veggie patch, kitchen garden
la patate = potato, spud
la guerre = war
arroser = to water
le portail = front gate
la factrice = postlady, postwoman, postal worker
le citoyen = citizen
le/la célibataire = single person
bon courage = good luck
son Jules = her boyfriend
amicalement = (see list of ways to say goodbye in French)
Another story, here, about our postlady Marie, who is as caring as she is funny. From our garden I can hear her talking to the rare person walking down the street: Bon courage! she'll say to one, and Oh! Une vivante! she'll shout to another ("there's a live one!"). Bravo for your sense of humor, your heart, and your courage to deliver mail to all the people who are confined.
A Message from Kristi: Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal week after week. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, I kindly ask for your support by making a donation today. Thank you very much for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.
Ways to contribute:
1. Paypal or credit card
2. Zelle®, an easy way to donate and there are no transaction fees.
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety