Today's Word: une éclosion
: blossoming, burgeoning
Audio/Listening: Click the link below to hear the French words in the following story. Then scroll down to the vocabulary list to check your French comprehension.
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
There were a handful of letters I meant to include in our vineyard memoir, colorful cartes postales from Provence saved from when Jean-Marc and I fell in love. I never did find the right chapter in which to insert ces déclarations d'amour and, finally, the cards were set in a box of "things to find a place for" beneath our bed.
Last summer I took several months off from this blog to organize my thoughts and my life. Jean-Marc spent August at his man cave in the Alps... During la pétite separation I continued getting rid of the surplus in our home, trying to decide what to keep...while mindful not to toss the baby out with the bathwater. (Perhaps my husband of 27 years was safer in the mountains while I navigated "le retour d'âge"*?)
While tossing or donating "7 things a day" I uncovered more letters from Jean-Marc, dated 1990, '91, '92, '93, '94.... Turns out that handful of correspondence under our bed was but the tip of the iceberg!
Speaking of ice...
My husband returned from the mountains. Damn, he looked good! All tan and a dashing grin on his face. I began to melt all over again. He even had a gift in hand (an antique moulin à café to perk me up). Any complacency flew out the window and we quickly began revamping our efforts "not to take things for granted." But we would need more than appreciation to jumpstart a new season in our lifetime commitment. Sometime midsummer I began watching YouTube videos by a couples therapist. His tip? "95/5": you assume responsibility for 95 percent of the relationship (your spouse is responsible for 5 percent). To add to this injustice, cette iniquité, the therapist dared suggest I write down each day 25 things I like about my husband or our marriage. I did this for one day...when I had a sneaky idea: why not incorporate the "gratitude" practice into our morning ritual?
Je t’aime parce que...
There began a morning ritual of noting down one thing we like about the other. The gratitude pages grew and another chose was added to our early morning routine: “read one of Jean-Marc's mots doux from the past.” I dug out his cards and read them aloud. Lingering in bed, coffee on our respective nightstands, the sun rising beyond the window shutters, we relived our courtship days, as chronicled in the letters. So many details had been forgotten, like the “Morse” code we used for our international telephone calls (to avoid an onéreux phone bill). And other particulars regarding our jobs, our wish to fonder une famille and notes on how to care for a lifelong commitment as explained in the following excerpt:
Amour, One thing I consider important is to talk, every day, even if we are tired, even if you don't want to for any reason. Talking sincerely is the best way to reinforce links and to prevent. Moreover, we will have this language problem and talking will help us to perform communication. Don't you think so?
Perform communication...That was Jean-Marc writing in English, 30 years ago...but it might have been me talking today: We need to communicate! We need to communicate!
Speaking of me talking, where were all my letters to JM? Qui sait? We didn't have to wait long to find out. One morning my husband appeared at the door of our bedroom, un sourire enjôleur on his face and a thick manila envelope. "Tu veux lire tes lettres aujourd’hui?"
He found them!
We now poured over postcards from the Arizona Dessert (Saguaro cacti and yellow poppies contrasted with his postcards of lavender fields and old stone farmhouses...), and letters long and short written on company letterhead (mine from the French travel company I worked for, his from the accounting firm qui venait de l'embaucher) taking turns to read or to carefully file the correspondence in a "his" or "her" pile, by date. On hearing JM read the date, I always pause to tease him, “So this was before (or after..) you bought me my one-way ticket home...” It always brings a chuckle...before we are gently quieted by the reminder that rien n’est acquis!
In addition to the thoughtful cards, Jean-Marc sent me tape cassettes of French news "to help you keep up your French...." I sent most letters from the office, where I worked as a bilingual receptionist. One day, so deliriously in love, I stuck my head in the office photocopier just to have something interesting and passionate to send him.
In big loopy writing or small hard-to-read cursive, our billets doux progressed and so did our plans. In a postcard of an old French mas from the winter of winter '92, Jean-Marc wrote poetically:
It is in a house like this that I would like to live, when the passion of work and when age will have reminded me that nature is truly beautiful. And if in 30 years you will share my life, I hope you will be happy in this kind of landscape. (See postcard below...)
And here we are, 30 years later dusting off our histoire d'amour. There are dozens more letters to read and enjoy. We’ll be careful to keep them, and us, together this time.
une éclosion = blossoming
la carte postale = postcard
déclaration d’amour =declaration of love
la petite séparation = little separation
le moulin à café = coffee mill
je t’aime parce que...= I love you because...
une iniquité = injustice, unfairness
une chose = thing
le mot doux = love letter
onéreux = pricey
fonder une famille = start a family
Amour = Love
qui sait? = who knows
tu veux lire tes lettres aujourd’hui? = want to read your letters today?
qui venait de l'embaucher = that had just hired him
rien n’est acquis = nothing can be taken for granted
le sourire enjôleur = charming, beguiling smile
le billet doux = love letter
le mas = Provencal farmhouse
l’histoire d’amour = love story
*"Le retour d'âge": I slipped this term in later, in place of "menopause". The term is slightly dated, but the literal translation is interesting: "the return of age"; poetically means: "the change", the change of life
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety