Les Étrennes: This French new year's custom will have you digging in your pockets
Video Interview: Jean-Marc with Kristi at the vineyard in 2009

S’épancher: to pour out one's heart + Another grocery store encounter

fleuriste flower shop in Sospel France hearts on window niche
A flower shop in Sospel, France. The hearts in the fleuriste's window hint at today's word. The story below reveals the full meaning. Enjoy two sound files in today's post and thank you for sharing this journal with a friend.

Today's Word: s'épancher

    : to pour out one's heart

Example Sentence and Sound File
Retenir ses larmes, voilà bien, selon moi, le comble du " charnel " ; car lorsqu'on refuse à son coeur de s'épancher, le chagrin ne s'ancre-t-il pas en nous, pesant comme un fardeau? To hold back one's tears is, in my opinion, the height of the "carnal"; for when one refuses to let one's heart out, does not grief become anchored in us, weighing us down like a burden? -Jostein Gaarder, author of Sophie's World

Click to hear the quote in French

A DAY in a FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
"Life Unraveling as it Should"

I was blowdrying my hair when Mom knocked on the bathroom door.

"I'm not feeling well. I'm going to stay home," Jules said. I noticed she was hunched over.

Our plans were now changing and this rattled me--especially as I had waited an extra hour to wake up Mom (had I known she wasn't coming with me, I'd have left for the grocery store earlier). In my frustration, I couldn't help but wonder whether Mom was really sick or did she just want to ditch the shopping errand and get back in bed?

"Mom, stand up straight!" I said, assessing the situation. I had never seen her hunched like that and wanted it to stop. (My own kids have a similar reaction when I am not brimming with health. They don't ever want to see their parents weak.)

"I'm not going to the store," Mom put her foot down.
"Well, I don't want to go to the store either!" I announced.

"Then don't go," Mom challenged.  

"But I have to!"

In the 30-second standoff that followed, huffs and puffs could be heard...followed by a move on the more mature one's part:

"Here," Mom said, waving some cash.

"No. You keep it!" I thought Mom was giving me pocket money again. If she had 50 dollars to her name, she'd still give us l'argent de poche--no matter our age, for the joy it brings.  

"Just get me some grape juice and bread please."

"Don't worry. I'll get a bunch of goodies," I said, thanking Mom for le flouze.

When I got into my car I saw Mom walking toward me from her studio, reminding me to bring her the pommes de terre I'd cooked earlier. She needed them to make the fried potatoes we were having for lunch. I got out of the car, walked back to the house (pausing to pet our old dog) then back around the house, to Mom's place, patates en main.

Smokey golden retriever 12 years old
                                 Mom's hand resting on Smokey

"Oh, and the bacon..." Mom reminded. Right, les lardons! I hurried back around the house (pausing to pet Smokey) unlocked the front door, ran to the kitchen...then back to Mom's.

(Old Smokey needed more pats on the way back. And because his time is limited, I had to slow down.)

Finally, in my car, seatbelt on.... and zut! I forgot my phone! Oh, leave it. No, you need it or you'll forget what's on your list... One more dash back to the house, and up the stairs to my room.... I sensed at that moment that all the va-et-vient, though annoying, amounted to Life unraveling as it should.


At Monoprix supermarket I took a deep breath. You're here now. Take your time. Get what you need. You can catch up with everything else later....

In the frozen food aisle, a petite woman with soft platinum curls approached me. "Pardonnez-moi. Je cherche les épinards."

"Oh, spinach... there it is," I said, walking with Madame over to the display: "il y a des épinards en branches, épinards hachées, épinards à la crème fraîche...."

"Merci beaucoup," she said, "You are so kind. You are so kind."

"Oh. I only showed you where the spinach was," I smiled.

"I'm so lost." Madame said suddenly. "My husband just passed away. I don't know why I am telling you this."    

I stood there holding her gaze and reached for her arm. The widow now held on to mine. 

"And I lost my daughter. She was 45...."

"Oh, I am so sorry! I am...holding you in my heart," was all I could think to say. We stood there in our flimsy paper masks, clinging to each other. I gently squeezed la veuve's arm, hoping the tender gesture would make up for a lack of words.

"Merci, merci, vous êtes gentille," the widow repeated. 

"I will be here shopping for a while,” I assured her. “If you need me, je suis dans les parages."

I continued shopping, glancing here and there for the lost soul, but the widow had vanished. 


Back at home Mom was much better (hmmm....) and after lunch we sat together in the sunshine, Mom popping up from time to time to show me her ideas for our garden: “And I'm going to have Max dig a trench here and one there for flowers! Lots of flowers!

Mom sat back down in her favorite papillon chair, looked over at me at snickered. "Stand up straight! I used to tell you girls that when you were little."

Obviously, somebody was still irritated by the comment I made earlier. "Mom, I'm sorry if I was harsh with you," I apologized. “That was just Fear talking. I didn't want you to be sick. And also, I get frustrated when plans change. And then I had a hard time getting out the door. Back and forth, back and forth."

"To and fro, to and fro
, like the Holy Spirit," Mom smiled, in reference to our celestial helper.

It dawned on me then that every little change, every empêchement in my schedule, added up to the chance encounter with a stranger in need. It is a lesson the universe continues to teach: Everything is unfolding as it should, setbacks and all. Just trust that you are in the right place at the right time, right now. (And always be respectful and loving to your Mom!)

Mom  in jeans
Jules. My beautiful Mom.


Click here to listen to the French terms below

s'épancher = to pour out one'sheart
la pomme de terre = potato
les patates en main = potatoes in hand
le lardon = bacon strip
l'argent de poche = pocket money, spending money
le flouze = cash
zut = shoot!
va-et-vient = back-and-forth
épinards en branches, hachées, à la crème fraîche =
je suis dans les parages = I’m in the area
Vous êtes gentille = you are kind
Merci beaucoup = thank you
un empêchement = a delay

Words missing from the sound file:
le/la fleuriste = florist, flower shop
le papillon = butterfly (read about Mom's butterfly chair)

shopfront artisan fabrication sur mesure
I leave you with a photo from the archives, from the story «Faire Bisquer » (to rile someone) 

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety