"Conciliabule" or how to say Pow Wow in French + Family dynamics: living with adult kids and Grandma
Thursday, October 07, 2021
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:
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!
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!
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'.
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.
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety
I would like to donate - I enjoy your posts and have donated previously. But I'm sure I've donated in Euro via Paypal. The only option now seems to be US dollars. Can I donate in Euro, please? Thank you!
Posted by: Roisin McAuley | Thursday, October 07, 2021 at 11:33 AM
Roisin, thank you for the helpful information (I will look into other options). This link may work for now:
Thanks again for your longtime support!
Posted by: Kristin Espinasse | Thursday, October 07, 2021 at 11:54 AM
Another excellent story! Thanks for sharing your writing with us, Kristi. It's always such a pleasure to read.
Posted by: Allyson | Thursday, October 07, 2021 at 12:19 PM
Thank you, Allyson!
Posted by: Kristin Espinasse | Thursday, October 07, 2021 at 12:35 PM
Enjoy having your family all together! My son is in California with the granddaughters and my daughter Tara is in KY! It's tough to get everyone together!
I love the window mural at the shop and of course the photo of your mom!
Posted by: Eileen deCamp | Thursday, October 07, 2021 at 02:19 PM
Doesn’t “gronder” mean “to scold”? So Jean-Marc scolded Jules, he didn’t ground her.
I wish your family the best! Le vivre-ensemble n’est pas facile. But you ARE lucky to be three generations together.
Posted by: Rina | Thursday, October 07, 2021 at 02:36 PM
Sounds like a Pilipino family back then. Imagine a couple, their daughter, two aunts, grandma, a cousin, and a maid all in one place. Somehow it worked. I don't know if this is still true these days. A nuclear family was unheard of then, and senior residences didn't exist.
Posted by: R.B. Roll | Thursday, October 07, 2021 at 02:40 PM
I don't think a pow-wow is necessarily a family discussion; it could be any group. I believe the term originated with Native Americans, or an Anglicized version of an Indian word.
You are doing well living together, partly because you are keeping the lines of communication open.
Posted by: Marianne Rankin | Thursday, October 07, 2021 at 03:35 PM
Beautiful window and beautiful Mom!
I was wondering how I can read and/or purchase the book you and your husband wrote together?
I didn’t see a link to buy it on your post.
Posted by: Heather | Thursday, October 07, 2021 at 03:53 PM
I love that you recognize la dolce vita! Even when there is tension in the home, at least you are all together. These are the good times! Wisdom recognizes this! ♥
This is also a picture of my life with my parents. 8 children, 2 parents, a Nana, and some other relatives living with us here and there. It was a lot at times, but it shaped us in a good way! And then in our marriage, my husband and I had my mom living with us. What a blessing for our kids and us and her! La dolce vita! Ça c'est sûr !
Posted by: Beth Fiacco | Thursday, October 07, 2021 at 05:22 PM
Absolutely wonderful..from the vitrine to the vocabulary.
Posted by: betsy foree | Thursday, October 07, 2021 at 05:52 PM
I've got a few bottles of Domaine du Banneret in my cellar, and I plan to open up one soon and give a toast to all of you, as you continue to 'blend' generations.
Be thankful that you have each other, please. Partial isolation continues here in Portland, some of it imposed by others' fears, plus common sense, avoiding crowds of potentially unvaccinated folks (ah, the independent spirit of the Wild West).
Sending hugs and love, and an envious glance or 2, to all of you, Carole
Posted by: Carole Alexander | Thursday, October 07, 2021 at 06:09 PM
Came back to read this post after a week with one of our sons and his wife and 3 teenagers. What you write is, as always, so poignant.
Thank you, Kristi.
Posted by: Mike | Thursday, October 07, 2021 at 06:43 PM
"Use of the word powwow to refer generally to a social get-together or to a meeting for discussion is considered to be an offensive appropriation of a term of great cultural importance to Indigenous Americans."
Posted by: Wayne | Thursday, October 07, 2021 at 07:09 PM
Loved this post and photos!
Please don’t worry about using politically correct terms. We know what’s in your heart. What you are doing is to be applauded and celebrated! Good luck with everything.
Enjoy and “love one another” ❤️❤️ 🙏🙏
Posted by: K. J. Laramie | Thursday, October 07, 2021 at 08:20 PM
Enjoy every single messy and wonderful moment. It is a gift life has given to all of you. Thank you for sharing this glimpse into your discussions on how to navigate living together.
Posted by: Frances | Thursday, October 07, 2021 at 08:21 PM
Fully agree with K. J. Laramie's comments. It s rare that people use words from another culture with meaning to denigrate that culture. The Love and Caring you have for each other will win out over all else. Peace and patience in Christ to you all. God bless, C-Marie
Posted by: C-Marie | Thursday, October 07, 2021 at 09:55 PM
Maybe it's time you realised that being PC (politically correct) also translates into being polite and considerate. We should all take care not to denigrate others and their cultures.
Posted by: Beverly F | Thursday, October 07, 2021 at 11:47 PM
Your mom always looks so beautiful and Chic! And Smokey is so handsome.
Our Mulligan is almost 13 and really slowing down.
Posted by: Sheryl Wells | Friday, October 08, 2021 at 12:41 AM
Thank you for sharing stories of your family in the context of the French landscape. I like it that you sprinkle French words throughout and also include a vocab list. I've recommended your website to many of my adult French students.
BTW, we lived in NJ for many years as FOUR generations under one roof (and we really are Italian!): great-grandmother, my husband and me, our daughter, her husband and their 4 children. Quite the village! Not always easy, but always fun. Hang in there!
Correction: The word "gronder" means to scold or reprimand. Il l'a grondée = He scolded her.
Posted by: Chérie Pecorella | Friday, October 08, 2021 at 01:20 AM
But what if you didn't know that? In that case, it's just a set of sounds with a certain meaning. For sure, once you know the background, you're in a position to choose not to use the word. But when seeing or hearing it used, why not make the more charitable assumption about the person who's using it? Everything about Kristi's posts is respectful of people. Why rush to judgement?
Posted by: Chantal | Friday, October 08, 2021 at 01:24 AM
Reading this post I kept thinking how privileged I was to have met all these "characters," even Smokey. And I've even had a significant pow wow with you around that big table in the wine shop. It is clear both from your stories and from personal observation, that you are the glue that holds everything together.
Posted by: gary | Friday, October 08, 2021 at 01:25 AM
I lived in Hawaii where it was common to have a multi-generation living situation. They call it “Ohana”. Count yourself lucky to have this time together…my parents lived with me there and I have fond memories of the time.
Posted by: Jeanne Crane | Friday, October 08, 2021 at 02:50 AM
I never knew using the word ‘pow wow’ was denigrating to anyone, but I think the Native American Lakota children would forgive me! (Perhaps they would even be honored to have such a term connected to peaceful problem-solving!) My husband and I have donated to the St. Joseph’s Indian School for many years.
More Love and Joy to all!
Posted by: K.J.Laramie | Friday, October 08, 2021 at 01:45 PM
I loved reading that PC means POLITE and COURTEOUS. That kind of pc is a good choice to make. I know these are difficult times but being able to see your Mum each day is such a privilege and adult children, such a joy to see them daily. Perhaps you could post a “cleaning” schedule on the fridge door with week long assignments and expectations. Another family pow-wow….include some dancing and it will be a more lively pow-wow. I have been to a pow-wow and they always include dancing and music.
Courage for The Journey, Muriel
Posted by: Muriel | Friday, October 08, 2021 at 07:19 PM
.....Bon courage, Kristi! I like Muriel's idea of a work schedule. It can be rotated on a weely basis, so that everyone gets a chance to do the 'scut work'! As for your darling daughter having been treated 'unjustly', it will be another life lesson for her. Unfortunately, people can be incredibley mean and cruel
and hateful. She will need a lot of support and love from all of you for a while.... until she recovers her 'inner strength'. You have been through quite a lot in your life already, however, you are a strong survivor. She will draw healing srength from you! You are so fortunate to have such a unique and loving family...... 'all's well that ends well'. Judi Dunn, Tallahassee, Fl,
Posted by: Judi Dunn | Friday, October 08, 2021 at 08:25 PM
These are the types of replies one would expect from white middle-class people who are self-entitled. Read and learn about the world around you. There is more to life than your own neighbourhood.
Posted by: Wayne | Friday, October 08, 2021 at 09:16 PM
A wonderful posting of French Word-a-Day, even if the family affairs are not all settled and require a conciliabule!.
In case no one else caught it, “conflit” in English has two ‘c’ s in it: conflict.
Thank tou for continuing all your stories and opportunities to learn French. I've been a fan since the beginning - almost 20 years now! Merci beaucoup, mon amie!
Posted by: Karla Ober | Saturday, October 09, 2021 at 06:58 PM
So many young adults return to the family fold now a days, either because of finances or other circumstances. You have a house full, but cherish it for the time being. There are many strong people, personalities living under one roof. You will survive.
Bless the time together, because eventually the kids will leave and you will be left worrying about them.
Posted by: Kathleen Bidney | Sunday, October 10, 2021 at 03:58 AM
Thank you for sharing yet another real life story with lessons from la vie de ta famille! Having Pow Wows is so important in families to help communicate and live peacefully. Merci pour le nouveau mot, conciliabule. Mes priers pour Jacqui pour la guérison et confiance. Et bon courage toujours, Kristi- tu est une inspiration!
Posted by: Jeanine Woods | Monday, October 11, 2021 at 02:44 AM
At least y’all are discussing instead of huffing & puffing around in anger and frustration! Love ve this post and your family. 💗
Posted by: Laura | Wednesday, October 13, 2021 at 09:00 PM