My brother-in-law leaves us with countless memories of his generosity, big heart, and Tell It Like It Is character. In today's missive, a few French souvenirs, in memory of Doug.
Today's Word: inoubliable
2. never to be forgotten
Merci pour ces inoubliables moments en famille, Doug.
Thank you for these unforgettable family moments, Doug. Click here to listen to Jean-Marc read the French
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
My brother-in-law passed away eleven days ago, Sunday. He was fifty-nine.
My sister is currently helping to write Doug's obituary. I wish I could be there with Heidi, in Denver, to help her find the words, to sit beside her as we rifled through old photos and said a lot of Remember That Time Whens....
One thing I'll always remember about my beau-frère was his no BS attitude. And when it came to his belle-soeur in France there was plenty of nonsense to call out! Take shower curtains for example. Years ago, when Doug and Heidi came to visit, Doug left a pool of water on our bathroom floor. It just wasn't like him - he was tidy, in an everything in its place way. And water’s place is in the tub. (An impossible feat to keep it there when your hostess has no shower curtain!)
As we mopped up the salle-de-bains, using thick square cloths (des serpillières gaufrées) and a broom, Doug offered to buy us a plastic curtain...and a decent mop, for crying out loud! I can still hear my brother-in-law's voice, a bit sarcastic, often blunt, it cut through the nonsense and revealed what it is we were hiding behind (certainly not drapes!).
“Kristi, why don’t you guys have a shower curtain?”
“Uh... they don’t have shower curtains in France.”
“What? You don't have shower curtains in France? Oh, come on!”
At that moment in time (newly arrived in France, living in the countryside of St. Maximin), I believed it was true. After all, there wasn’t un rideau de douche in any of the homes I'd visited so far. I never saw them for sale at our tiny quincaillerie, but you could find dainty curtains (les brise-bise) at the hardware store. And they were nowhere to be found at our supermarché, (which, incredibly, began selling Halloween costumes one year!). It seemed to be yet another commodité moderne the French hadn't yet discovered--such as tumble dryers or drive-thru banking or one-hour dry cleaning...remind me to tell you about my beau-frère’s run-in with the sassy lavandière who refused to press more than 3 of his shirts. Doug was perplexed: “I guess they don’t have a business mentality in France either!”
There began a decades-long joke between my beau-frère and me. The ribbing always ended with some encouragement: “Kristi, I am sure France has (such and such). Go find it!”
Apart from Doug’s skill at calling out people’s BS, my brother-in-law was an excellent chef. He went all out on Thanksgiving (best turkey and stuffing bar none!) and his Christmas dinner was Michelin-star superb. But the simple fare, eaten casually around the kitchen island, in our pajamas, made me feel truly home again! We Froggies (as Doug called us) relished these American brunches which Heidi and Doug prepared as a team, serving up sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs, toast, and waffles--and Mimosas and Bloody Marys too.
Doug's smoked ribs were another quelque chose you could not find in France! “You could make this, Kristi! Don’t give me that BS that you don’t have BBQs in France!”
“Well, we don’t have Green Eggs ® in France!”
“No, you probably don’t!” Doug smiled, proud of his new cooker.
The last time I saw my brother-in-law we were having breakfast together at Pancake House in Denver. This newly-forged tradition was a chance to reunite with The Froggies, Payne, Reagan (my niece and nephew), and Heidi (even after le divorce, the two were committed to family). Catching up over coffee and stacks of buttermilk pancakes, I told Doug about our recent predicament: "We keep getting locked out of Heidi's house," I laughed.
"You need an extra set of keys!" Doug said, offering to take we Froggies to the hardware store after breakfast. There at the quincaillerie, waiting for the key to be copied, my brother-in-law snickered. I'll bet they don't have Hide-A-Keys in France either!
I snickered back before a wave of nostalgia hit. Looking over at Doug, I saw his tired face, his baseball cap pulled low over his brow. He was not doing well. (In addition to sharing jokes about France, my brother-in-law and I shared the “Better Off Sober” etiquette…). Remembering all of my brother-in-law's caring gestures over the years, as well as his growing struggles, I didn't want our visit to end without due appreciation.
"That’s so like you to take care of these nagging details!" I blurted, waving the shiny new key in the air. "Thank you...for everything."
"Yah, well, if I didn’t do it you guys wouldn’t!" Doug laughed, before hugging us goodbye for the very last time....
* * *
Comfort Food. This morning I wanted to make meatloaf when I realized one ingredient was missing: Worcestershire sauce. In all the years I’ve been in France I have never bought a bottle. I am, finally, on my way out to search for it now. In a quincallerie? Beside the dainty curtains? Well, maybe not... I've gotta look harder!)
Thank you, Doug, for this and for your generous heart. PS, I know what you’re thinking: “Meatloaf? Oh, I get it: now you’re going to tell me they don’t have steak in France!”
New York 2008 Jean-Marc, my sister Heidi, Doug, me.
At the Pancake House in 2018, with Reagan, Jackie, and Payne.
inoubliable= unforgettable, never to be forgotten
le beau-frère= brother-in-law
la belle soeur = sister-in-law
la salle-de-bains= bathroom
les serpillières gaufrées= waffled cloths for washing floors
le rideau de douche= shower curtain
la quincaillerie= hardware store
le brise-bise= half curtains (pictured here)
le supermarché= supermarket
la commodité moderne= modern convenience
la lavandière= washerwoman
quelque chose= something
une étiquette = label
Years ago. I'll never forget Doug demonstrating how to open a bottle of champagne with a sword! "Sabrage is a technique for opening a champagne bottle with a saber, used for ceremonial occasions."--Wikipedia
Max and Jackie will miss their Uncle Doug, who took them to sports events and spoiled them with fun times--memories they will always have.
That time Doug and Heidi brought Grandma Audrey to France! And treated us to dinner at Le Louis XV and a stay at l'Hôtel de Paris!
Old photos, wonderful memories. We are still digging through pictures--bye for now....
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