Cheese needs to breathe and so do we
A funny French expression to help you respond "sur-le-champ"

Two celebrations + Langue de belle-mère (a funny word for a certain party favor)

Our garden in mayGiven Mothers Day is celebrated on different dates across the globe, I will take this moment to wish all caregivers a Joyeuse Fête! Photo: the tidy side of our garden. We'll talk about the weeds--and a mother's needs--in the following story.

Today's Word: Langue de belle-mère (f)

    : party blower 

literal translation: "mother-in-law's tongue" (photo below)

 Audio file: Click here and listen to three featured words in the following sentence, read by Jean-Marc

Une langue de belle-mère, aussi appelé sans-gêne, est un accessoire de cotillon utilisé dans les occasions festives. C'est un tube en papier (parfois en plastique) avec souvent tout du long une bande en plastique ou en métal souple, aplati et enroulé en spirale, muni d'un bec en plastique avec une anche ou plus rarement un sifflet. En soufflant dans le bec, le tube se déroule et l'anche émet alors un son caractéristique. A mother-in-law's tongue, also called without shame, is a party favor used on festive occasions. It is a paper tube (sometimes plastic) with a long a plastic or flexible metal band, flattened and wound in a spiral, including a plastic beak with a reed or on rare occasions a whistle. By blowing into the spout, the tube unrolls and the reed then emits a characteristic sound.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

I was standing in the party aisle at the dollar store, fighting back a wave of resistance about buying such throwaway items, when a bag of plastic sifflets caught my eye. Red, white, and blue with stars and stripes, these musical blowouts would be a symbolic addition to the decorations I was gathering. After all, Max, our soon-to-be 25-year-old, is half-American. If any more justification were needed for buying the cheap, single-use item, I found it in the giant description on the label....

"Langue de Belle-Mère" 

Sifflets langue de belle mere party blower mirliton

What a funny and delightful name for party blowers! As someone who appreciates the playful side of the French language, this was a find! Plus, I could share the expression with my blog readers. Vendu! 

Carefully setting the mirlitons into my basket, beside the Joyeux Anniversaire banner (reuseable, n'est-ce pas?), and the balloons, I now had enough festive trim to decorate our living room and surprise Max the moment he woke up! Hélas, returning home on foot from the store, any satisfaction turned to stress...there were a number of to-do's remaining on my list in order to be ready for Le Jour J. There was the birthday cake to make, the shortcrust pastry to pre-bake, the couscous to prepare... and the cadeau to wrap, the card to write, the guest bathroom to clean and...and...

AIDEZ-MOI! Who else was helping around here?!!

Recently, during a venting session (by the way, I googled "venting" and scientific studies show it does NOT help! Best to suck up and soldier on!) in which I unloaded my current frustrations about family life, my Mom said in so many words: Face it. You are not a caregiver.

Who me? Not a caregiver? Ouch! In protest, I cited all the things I do for everybody around here all the time....

"But you do them grudgingly...." 

That did it. I was ready to divorce my entire family! Bon débarras! Mom's next words eased the you-do-it-with-a-grudge sting: "It's normal you'd feel this way! You should be done taking care of kids by now. Mom went on to say I could use a housekeeper and a gardener. But I don't want those things. I'm fine here in the dust and the weeds!

Being somewhat of a rapporteuse, I went and tattled on my mom to my son--and I didn't have to travel far as we are three generations living under one roof.

When Max's reply amounted to the opposite (that I care too much about everybody and their business) I began to notice the varying feedback I was receiving came from family members who feel either neglected...or smothered.  I suppose I may never know the answer as to just what kind of caregiver/homemaker/wife/mother/daughter I am--but this much I know for sure: Domesticity is something I value and admire in others. And what we value says a lot. Our valeurs coupled with effort is what matters.

Recently, a letter from my dad revamped my domestic energy which has been deflated for some time. (The first words of Dad's email refer to a post he was forwarding on) Dad's note begins:

A well written essay on the importance of tending the hearth and giving substance and comfort to the ones we love.  We know how hard you work to take care of your family.

I love you,
Dad
 

Dad's words had a super transforming effect! I began polishing my bedroom window after months of staring at the dusty designs on the glass. From there, I started to see other chores in a new light: the light of matter (as in this so-called drudgery matters!)

As for tending the hearth, my sister Heidi is a shining example to me. Whether tucking homemade sandwiches into our carry-ons when Jean-Marc and I fly home to France, or waking early to decorate her living room to honor a family member's birthday, my soeur ainée truly enjoys and finds peace in homemaking and caring. I called Heidi to tell her about my birthday decorations for Max. "That's wonderful!" she said. 

"I learned it from you!" 

"Thank you for letting me know that," my sister said, touched by the recognition. 

It's time to end this essay somewhere.... I'm just not quite sure where. How about I pass out those party horns? Those langues de belle-mère? And we celebrate--via a needed second wind--all caregivers and those who love them!

 

FRENCH VOCABULARY

joyeuse fête = happy celebration
le sifflet
= whistle
le langue de belle-mère = party blower 
vendu! =  sold!
le mirliton = party horn blower
Joyeux anniversaire = happy birthday
n'est-ce pas = isn't that right?
hélas = unfortunately
le jour J = D-Day, the big day
le cadeau = present, gift
bon débarass = good riddance!
un/e rapporteur/se = a tattletell
la soeur ainée = older sister

*Corrections to this blog are always welcome and appreciated. Thank you in advance!

Max friends gift shoes
Max, trying on a pair of shoes his friends gave him. Also on the table, wines from 1995 -- gifts given to Max his birth year--enjoyed 25 years later! Jean-Marc says all the wine was still good, beautifully intact! I didn't have wine, but I can vouch for the cake--my mother-in-law Michèle-France's recipe is always good! Would you like to know the ingredients in a future post?

Birthday lunch for max
Max, center, with his best friends, and we, his parents.

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