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Entries from October 2021

A Strange Coincidence, “soul-daughter”, and wonderment in French

Jean-Marc and Jackie making cocktails
Pictured: Jean-Marc, who does the sound files for this journal, and our daughter, Jackie, whom today's story is about ♥ (here, she is making "The Lady B" one of the drinks she mixed for Baccarat).

Today's Word: émerveillement 

  : wonderment, amazement

Audio/Listening: Click the link below to hear all the French words in the following story. Then scroll down to the vocabulary list to check your French comprehension.

Sound file here


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Soul daughter

Last night I lay in bed wondering where my daughter was. I knew Jackie had a few rendezvous in Marseilles...By now she had surely finished lunch at the Callelongue calanque with cousins Clara and Mahé. She must have gone ahead with plans to meet up with Alice for a drink at l’Escale... Perhaps Jackie had posted an image from the popular seafront café?
 
Opening Instagram, ça y est, there was a video update from my 24-year-old.  I noticed bistro chairs in the foreground and a vibrant orange coucher du soleil on the horizon. My eyes locked on the young woman walking toward the blazing orb. Was it Jackie? I played the clip over and over, to where the girl takes off in a spirited gallop toward the setting sun. There was something about the image that stirred me....

Just then I heard the front door and the sound of steps in the stairwell. A gentle rapping on the bedroom door and Jackie appeared. A soft floral-fresh scent now filled the space between mother and daughter. I noticed her shiny hair, her new blazer, thick gold loops the French call créoles... 

“Come sit down!” I motioned to the edge of the bed. I couldn’t wait to hear all about my daughter's day. Did everything go smoothly? How was the drive all the way out to La Baie des Singes? Was it easy to find a place to park? Did the restaurant ask for un passe sanitaire?

With her fading French accent, Jackie assured me tout s'est bien passé. But how was I? she wanted to know. How was Grandma? What did we do all day? Oh, and did I see her video?

“Yes! I loved it! What a wonderful capture of the girl walking into the sunset...”

"I thought of you when I saw it. I knew I had to film it for you..."

Mon Âme-Fille
How touching that she would stop to think of her mom. Such love stirred me. Suddenly, I recalled being at that same place...and thinking of her—or the her that was to be or should have been. It was uncanny... déjà vu... the sunset, those bistro chairs, the girl running towards the horizon (Jackie or me? The image was superimposing, transporting me back to the summer of ‘93 when my daughter was but a twinkle in my eye)....

Twenty-eight years ago I sat alone at that very café, watching the sun go down on my life in France. I watched as a young mother parked her stroller at a table across from mine. She reached for her baby, hugging and kissing the child before settling into her bistro chair. I remember my heart sinking, tears welling up, and the thought of what might have been.... 

I recounted to Jackie the story of her parents' rupture years before she was born. "Little did I know then that you would be sitting here with me today. Isn’t it amazing?" Reaching for my daughter’s hand, I was replaying in my mind the image of the girl running toward the blazing horizon when Jackie looked at me, somberly.

"It is hard to think that we will only be here together for 50 years..."

"What do you mean? Here at the same time on earth?"

"Yah..."

"Well, that’s true, one day we'll be dust. But you know I believe in...."

"Heaven," my daughter continued.

"Yes! And I know you have your own beliefs. But one thing we both have to believe is that our souls are entwined éternellement." As my daughter listened, I thought I saw a twinkle in her eye. It brought me back to that glittering sea, the girl, the mother-child, the sunset, and Life's mystery.

“Nobody knows what comes next,” I admitted. “Not even the most brilliant scientist. All that is certain is dust and this soulful connection we have.” It is why, in the midst of a crowd, we think of our bien-aimée and sometimes even finish their sentences when we are together. Who can explain it? 



FRENCH VOCABULARY
émerveillement = wonderment, amazement 
la calanque = rocky inlet 
ça y est = there it was
le coucher du soleil = sunset 
les créoles = hoop earrings
La Baie des Singes = Monkey Bay
le passe sanitaire  = health pass, vaccination passport
tout s'est bien passé = everything went well
l’âme-fille = soul daughter
la rupture = break-up
éternellement = eternally, infinitely, without end
le/la bien-aimé(e) = beloved

RELATED STORY
Don’t miss the story “FRISSON” (“Chills”) - about a scary-cozy pastime both Jackie and I enjoyed when she was a teen. Click here.

Sunset coucher du soleil france
Girl running into the sun. A still from Jackie’s video.

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. PayPal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


"Regretfully" in French + to spin out of control + One of us moves out...

historic building La Bastide Marin La Ciotat France
Which family member moved to the historic grounds of La Bastide Marin? Read on, in today's chronique and learn a dozen more useful French terms.

Today's Word: à contrecoeur (or contre-coeur)

    : regretfully, reluctantly, grudgingly

Audio/Listening: Click the link below to hear today's word + a dozen more vocabulary words. Next, scroll down to the vocabulary list to check your comprehension.

Click here to listen to Jean-Marc pronounce a list of French words



A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Ever since our hen, Edie, lost 4 camarades (victims snatched by des oiseaux de proie, two died mysteriously), our poule has struggled with la solitude...which is why we let her out of her empty pen and gave her the run of the garden.

An unbridled hen in un jardin is a catastrophic thing (for starts she ate the artichokes, the favas, and the nasturtiums), but not as catastrophique as a hen in a home...
"I did not encourage her," my Mom swore, the day I found our chicken nesting in a corner of Jules's ADU, or "garage apartment". It was hard to hide the delight on her face (Mom's or Edie's) and equally hard to hide the trail of seeds leading into Mom's studio....

hen chicken in art studio
photo by my belle-soeur Cécile, wine bottles painting by Jules

For weeks we hid the whole pagaille from Jean-Marc (did my husband know but looked the other way?). But when Mom became ill 6 weeks, coughing night and day (a cold? bronchitis? Covid??), I wondered, could she be allergic to our big bird?

An online search for "bird flu" brought back chilling results: Avian influenza in humans can cause a range of serious and potentially fatal complications, including eye infections, pneumonia, viral and acute respiratory distress....

Enough was enough! Edie expulsé, I spent all day Saturday getting any bird traces out of Mom's place, vacuuming under the bed, wiping down the walls, tossing damaged things--rearranging everything.

Mom didn't speak to me for weeks. The invasion of her privacy! The violation! The eviction of Edie!

Had I crossed the line of dignity? 


Mom got better (though she still held a grudge at "Sergeant Kristi") but now there was Edie to worry about. No longer queen of the garden (what was left of it...) she was back in her empty pen--a dustbowl compared to the Garden of Eden she ate before moving into Grandma's. Alone she lamented from morning to evening. Have you ever heard a chicken lament? Our entire neighborhood has! I spent my days hurrying back and forth from house to hen, trying to appease our lonely chick with snacks and water...which only exacerbated another problem: all the neighborhood doves and pigeons had moved in to feast on the food and water (they were drinking from Smokey's bowl, too. Was this healthy for our dog?).

A Jumpity Sergeant
Slapping at my arms and legs (mosquitos!), I stood guard while Edie ate or drank, but the pigeons were determined. The food and water supplies dwindled along with my nerves. The situation became unmanageable...

...et là, tout est parti en cacahuète! Everything spun out of control.

I knew I needed to find a home for Edie, but what if our free-spirited hen ended up in a cramped poulailler? In full sun? Who would take good care of Edie, if I couldn't?

I remembered reading about a friendly farm, La Ferme d'Autrefois, here in La Ciotat...
"Located in the park of the classified domain of La Bastide Marin, the farm proposes ludique and educational animations in order to sensitize young and old to the protection of the environment in contact with the animals, to support the discovery and the learning of the activities of the agricultural world."

I knew this would be the only place for our cocotte, a pleasant environment to thrive in. Contacting the person in charge of the ménagerie, I was so relieved by Marion’s willingness to adopt Edie. And so it was, last Saturday, our hen nestled comfortably in a straw cabas, Jean-Marc drove us the 5 minutes to the historic and lively domaine. For Edie, it will surely be a change from Jules’s cozy studio (or from my tasty garden) but it beats an empty pen and a jumpity sergeant. 

Post-Note: since relocating Edie to the friendly farm, we've returned weekly to visit her and bring her treats (she loves tomatoes, and so do the roosters that follow her around. After living in a hens-only home, I hope all these new suitors are suitable for her! 

IMG_2249

FRENCH VOCABULARY
la chronique = column
la (le) camarade = friend
la solitude = loneliness
un oiseau de proie
= bird of prey
le jardin = garden
catastrophique = disastrous
ADU = Accessory Dwelling Unit, in-law suite, garage apartment
la belle-soeur = sister-in-law
la pagaille = mess, mayhem, chaos
expulsé = evicted
partir en cacahuète = to spin out of control
le poulailler = henhouse, chicken coop
la ferme d'autrefois = "The Days-Gone-By Farm" (or The Once-Upon-A-Time Farm)
la cocotte
= hen (in child's language)
la ménagerie = menagerie, small zoo, group of animals
le cabas = straw basket
à contrecoeur (contre-coeur) = reluctantlyIMG_2259

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. PayPal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


Name your favorite drink + What does the French “bredouille” mean in English? (Hint: it doesn't mean 'tipsy')

Jean-Marc at Le Vin Sobre wine shop epicerie in La Ciotat France
If you were to visit Jean-Marc's wine shop, what would you buy? Tell us your favorite wine, drink, or boisson in the comments section. It could make for a lively thread!

Today's Word: bredouille

    : empty-handed, unsuccessful

Audio/Listening: Click the link below to hear today's word + a dozen more vocabulary words. Next, scroll down to the vocabulary list to check your comprehension.

Sound File, click here


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristi Espinasse
"A Surprise Visit"

Following Sunday’s grasse matinée, I felt lazy and tempted to skip church. Maybe I could go with Jean-Marc to his wine shop instead? It would only be for 3 hours, given the store’s open from 10-1 le dimanche. And it would give us some time together. Allez! On y va!

Setting my coat and purse on the tasting table at Le Vin Sobre, I turned to peruse the small épicerie fine when I heard my husband say the very thing I was thinking: Help tidy the tea section? 

Compte sur moi!”

After the teas were neatly line up I began to clean the glass windows behind which Jean-Marc stocks les produits fraisla poutargue, la pata negra, les boquerones, les fromages… A woman, her young son and their spirited cocker spaniel blew into the boutique along with a few fall leaves. “Bonjour Monsieur. Auriez-vous un Chenin Blanc?”

After Jean-Marc had rung up his first sale of the day and the trio had left, he shut the cash drawer with a flourish. “Comme ça on ne sera pas bredouille.” 

Bredouille? That sounds like a cool word . Répète-le.

“J’ai dit, ‘comme ça on ne rentrera pas bredouille’.”

Ah! Now I wasn't leaving ‘empty-handed’ either! I was going home with a new expression to share with readers!”

Ah, quand on parle du loup! Just then, two Francophiles from Boise, Idaho walked in... Susan introduced herself as a reader of my blog. She and Larry were leaving their rental in Cassis, and heading north to the quaint village of Sablet. What a chance meeting this was on the very day I was ditching church.

“C’est une double coïncidence,” Jean-Marc smiled, “because we don’t always open on Sundays.” With that, on a fait connaissance. I leave you, dear reader, with a snapshot of our chanceux encounter. And a warm remerciement to Susan and Larry, for all the wine you purchased. Là c’est certain, on ne rentrera pas bredouille! 



***
Post note: I was going to use the phrase “speak of the devil” to segue into the final part of the story about when my readers appeared. But then, yikes! I didn’t want to inadvertently refer to “readers” (or to Susan and Larry) as les diables! That’s when I learned the popular idiom: Quand on parle du loup, on en voit la queue (when you speak of the wolf, you'll see his tail). It means when you speak of someone they will appear). 

A Wine Odyssey...
This fall marks the 2-year anniversary of Jean-Marc's wine shop. Bravo, Chief Grape! My husband has come a very long way in his wine journey. Read about the ups and downs in our memoir, The Lost Gardens. 

Jean-marc wine odyssey
2007 at our first vineyard, "Chief Grape," who records all sound files for this blog. Merci, Chief!

FRENCH VOCABULARY

la grasse matinée = to sleep in
le dimanche = Sunday
Allez! On y va! = come on, let’s go!
l’épicerie fine = delicatessen
Compte sur moi! = count on me!
les produits frais (m) = fresh food, refrigerated foods
la poutargue = a culinary specialty of Martigues, known elsewhere as “bottarga” (salted, cured fish roe)
la pata negra (“patte noir”) = Iberian ham
les boquerones = anchovies
le fromage = cheese
Bonjour Monsieur, Auriez-vous un Chenin Blanc = hello sir. Do you have a Chenin Blanc
Comme ça on ne sera pas bredouille = now we won’t be going home empty-handed
Quand on parle du loup, on en voit sa queue = when you speak of the wolf, you'll see his tail. 
C’est une double coïncidence = it’s doubly coincidental
on a fait connaissance  = we got to know each other
chanceux (chanceuse) = lucky
le remerciement = thank-you

6609ADBC-2EAB-4234-BF6F-AA1A38A8724A
Kristi, Larry, Susan, and Chief Grape

Bon weekend à tous. Don't forget to list your favorite wine or boisson in the comments, below. Merci! 

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. PayPal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


"Conciliabule" or how to say Pow Wow in French + Family dynamics: living with adult kids and Grandma

Le vin sobre cavea cave vin la ciotat vitrine window
A new window, or "vitrine", at Jean-Marc's wine shop. It depicts the local coastline, including Cassis!

Zut! There's a blooper, une gaffe, at the end of today's sound file. Listen for Jean-Marc, who tells me I've made two mistakes. Hear all the French vocabulary in today's story when you click on the link, below:

Audio file, click here

Conciliabule
(kohn-see-lya-bewl)
: conventicle

Conciliabule--what a cool word in French! A "conventicle" is a secret meeting of nonconformists, and it's perfect for today's missive about a recent family pow wow. Synonyms in French or English for consiliabule: tête-à-tête, conversation, entretien, chat, meeting, discussion

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
Our 3-Generation Household & La Thérapie Familiale

If ever there were 5 adult family members more challenged for multigenerational living, c'est nous! What with one ex-winemaker and wine shop owner (Jean-Marc), one bartender (Jackie), one wine salesman (Max), one wine thief (Grandma), and one teetotaler (moi...), le conflit est inévitable—even if booze has nothing to do with it. 

One thing we've been needing to do with is our new living arrangement. A recent visit to Jean-Marc's cave à vin provided an opportunity for such a meeting (which I like to call pow-wow if only to slip in one more English term for my kids to learn).

"What is a pow wow?" our son asks, stumped.

"C'est une réunion familiale," I answer, flustered to be speaking bad French when I mean to speak English to my kidults. Seated around a table at Le Vin Sobre, my husband’s wine shop in La Ciotat, we're here to support Jean-Marc in his latest inspiration: une pause déjeuner for customers interested in a simple lunch option at the store.  All family members are present, except Grandma, who is siesting at home (no worries, our wine cellar is locked!).

Last night’s storm has left us feeling out of sorts, so maybe this isn't the time for the conciliabule I have in mind but, with 5 strong personalities now living together (2.5 of us have short tempers and the other 2.5 wish to avoid conflict at all costs),  je me lance!:

"I need help cleaning la salle de bain!" I say.

One of our tribe, the elder fiston, speaks up, arguing that if the bathroom is already propre, why clean it? I feel my blood begin to boil. If it's clean, that's because I keep cleaning it!

Later, at home, after our tummies are full (blood sugar intact) there’s another attempt at group communication and already 2 of us (mother and son) are wrestling with a resurfaced rancune. "Would you please back me up?" I say, glaring at our Chief, who remains bouche cousue. This is not how I imagined our do-it-yourself family therapy session! Maybe we needed outside help?

Max and I managed to work it out all on our own, and what a relief it was. "OK,” I agreed, “I will work on being less controlling if you will work on...." (I let my son fill in the blank)...

"...not losing my patience," Max agreed. Très bien, a successful pow wow at last!

golden retriever dog chien sunflowers
Our 12-year-old golden retriever, Smokey, relaxing in Mom's butterfly chair

Now that the storm is past, instead of grumbling over qui fait quoi I can focus on and appreciate each family member's contribution (even if that doesn't include scrubbing toilets and washing floors...):

My Mom, Jules, waters our garden, and her free spirit (which I am always trying to tame) helps us to lighten up and see life from a creative perspective. Jules also takes good care of her roommate, Smokey, qui veille sur Jules aussi!

My husband, Jean-Marc, takes care of the bureaucratic paperwork we all avoid. Plus he is willing to do anything on my Honey-Do list (if only I'll settle down and write it!).

I take care of the house and yard, do the cooking and try to make everything run smoothly around here by keeping everyone in line when I should probably let go and go with the flow. (But we all should remember the saying: “walk a mile in my shoes!”)

My 26-year-old, Max, is "our supply guy." While on the road as a wine salesman, he sees all sorts of bonnes affaires: from free-for-the picking persimmons to retro bistro chairs (from a wine shop that was tossing them) to a giant antique mirror (found by the side of the road) he gifted Grandma. He's that family member who brings useful/abandoned stuff home for redistribution. Plus, he's a neat freak so he takes care of details I don't think of (like washing down our portable clothesline after the storm).

And my 24-year-old, Jackie, is the peacemaker. Calm, quiet, and thoughtful, she is the listener (and still the dreamer). I am amazed by her ability to simplify and express in words a complex notion or emotion. I've always felt she would be an excellent therapist or advocate given her innate sense of justice. Ironically she is currently recovering from a terrible injustice and this has brought her back to France, to the frenzied fold she escaped years ago.

"Mom," Jackie texted, after I was still spinning from our family meltdown, "everything will be fine, I promise. Everyone is under tension today. Don't blame yourself or anyone. Let's be patient...."

Late that same evening, worn out from emotion as we sat gathered around the salon, I had the last word: “Look, we may not be a perfect family... but would you trade ours for another and maybe a whole other set of problems? We have made it this far and that is a beautiful thing. And right now, at this time in our lives, for various reasons, we are living together again and I believe this is not by coincidence. We all need each other. And, just think, when will we ever have a chance to live together like this again—parents, kids, and Grandma? It’s kind of cool, isn’t it?”

Or, as Jackie said of our multigenerational foyer, “We’re  like an Italian family!” 

We all nodded in appreciation of such exotisme. Yes, indeed. C’est la dolce vita! I think Jules would toast to that...just as she did when she snuck into Jean-Marc’s wine cellar, dragging a neighbor down with her. She must have swiped a very good vintage (Domaine du Banneret, Châteauneuf du Pape?) because when her son-in-law burst into her room the next day, il l’a grondée!

 

FRENCH VOCABULARY
c'est nous = it's us
le conflit est inévitable = conflit is unavoidable
la cave à vin = wine cellar, wine shop
une réunion familiale = a family gathering
la pause déjeuner = lunch break
conciliabule = discussion, chat, pow-wow
je me lance = I go for it
la salle de bain = bathroom
le fiston = son, boy
propre = clean
la rancune = grudge, resentment, hard feelings
la bouche cousue = tight lipped
qui fait quoi = who does what
veille (veiller) = to take care of
une bonne affaire = a good deal
le salon = living room
C’est la dolce vita = it’s the good life 
il l’a grondée = he reprimanded her!
*At the end of the sound file, Jean-Marc is saying: "voilà 'gronder' c'est 'é'...Ah zut!" (I had spelled it 'gronder'.

076653C8-F8A7-4E5C-9675-9DD2CFA9CFED
A favorite picture of my free-spirited Mom, Jules.

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. PayPal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens