La Chandeleur: Candlemas, Santons, Crepes (and a Sobriety update...)
To chill or relax in French + allergy season in France

Chapeau bas and Froissé (do you know this emotion in French?) + Ski Lessons from Mom

Table for two in Le Castellet France Provence valentines day hearts
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Today's Word: chapeau bas

    : hats off!, bravo!

When we say "chapeau bas!" we recognize the merit or the value of someone

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

Click here for the MP3 soundfile


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Carefully entering Jules' studio, I notice Mom seems relaxed. Last night when we parted we were both froissées. The subject of our little clash, our escarmouche?: a project Mom shared with me, one she was excited about before I added mon grain de sel...and dried up her enthusiasm. 

(Not to worry, Dear Reader. The Universe, or Our Heavenly Father, as I like to refer to that mysterious force guiding us all--would straighten me out, tôt ou tard. And I reminded Mom of that much, lest she thinks I am blind to my own faults. It never fails to amaze me how we must learn the lessons we so forcefully try to teach others.).

Tiptoeing over to Mom's bed in the corner of her studio, I asked if I might sit down. "Sure, grab some pillows," Jules said, straightening her wool hat. She was wearing a down-feathered coat, too, which meant she was leaving all the windows open again, en hiver, to accommodate our old dog who now lives chez elle. "He gets too hot in here," Mom explained. Just when I thought Mom, who brought us up in the Sonoran desert, would never get used to this colder climate, here she is bundling up for another's comfort. Chapeau bas! Mom has my full respect (even if she doesn't always know it).

Smokey shuffled up to the bedside, his queue wagging in that special way of his. "There goes that helicopter tail," Mom smiled, patting our golden retriever on the head.  With that, Old Smokey backed up several yards... and charged forward, picking up enough speed to hoist himself onto the bed. If only his helicopter tail could lift his body (just as it lifts our spirits)! 

"I'm going to need to lower my bed. Smokey is getting too old to jump up here." 

"Yes, we'll do that, Mom," I said gently. And, on saying so, I became of aware of a lot of "Yes, we'll dos" that we haven't yet dones:

We'll do the art supply store (to get some needed "medium" for Mom's paints)
We'll do the bus terminal... (to look into a bus pass for Mom)
We'll do Van Life (one wish of Jules's is to hit the road with Smokey and me. Oh the places we would see!)

"Are you leaving this afternoon for the mountains?" Mom asked, waking me from my rêverie (in which the three of us were cramped in a van, looking for yet another road stop W.-C.).

"Uh...oh yes, we’ll  be away 3 days."

"Why don't you take ski lessons this time?" Jules was right. At 54, it was never too late for me to learn to ski. 

(I would like to preface the next few paragraphs by pointing out that I may have misunderstood or misremembered Mom's ski tips, so if anything seems off, blame the writer and not the instructor...)

"Roll your ankles when you want to turn," Mom began, and with that Jules offered an on-the-fly ski lesson from bed, where, with her woolen hat and doudoune she was already dressed the part of La Monitrice de Ski.

Tip No. 2 had something to do with the skis' edges. "Put all your weight down on them to turn. And remember your ankles!" Tip No. 3 "Lean forward!" and Tip 4 "Get an instructor whom you don't know. And one that's cute!"

Mom reminded me that when everybody else goes off to ski, instead of ambling around town in the cold... waiting to join my family for lunch, I could be taking lessons

"This can be your secret," Mom concluded. "Never share your dreams or people will stomp on them!"

Oups! It was clear Mom was still smarting from last night's mère-fille melee. If there was any tension in the room now, Smokey felt it first. I watched as his gray-whiskered face moved back and forth from mother to daughter, anticipating what would happen next.... 

"Mom!" I said. "I didn't mean to stomp on your dreams. I only wanted to help you with the details. I realize now that you weren't asking for my help, you only wanted me to listen and to share your enthusiasm. I get it."

And I realize I want the same when I share my plans with others (my husband, Mr. Fixit, comes to mind...).  That's what we all want, isn't it? For someone to listen to our dreams, our goals, our projects...and not interfere via their own doubts, negativity, or concerns.

“..and if they do have anything to say," Mom added, "let it be uplifting. Always lift people up!

Chapeau bas, Maman! You are one lovely human. With that Smokey's queue began spirling again. Mr. Helicopter Tail seemed to agree, wholeheartedly.

Post note: I didn't take ski lessons when we visited our daughter, in the Alps last weekend. I think I need a few more pointers from Mom, first. 

Briancon Alps France
More photos from our trip in my Instagram gallery

froisser = to offend, to hurt
= hurt
une escarmouche = skirmish
mon grain de sel
= my two cents' worth
en hiver = in winter
chez elle = at her place
chapeau bas! = hats off!
la queue = tail
le W.-C. = toilette
le moniteur/la monitrice = ski instructor
la doudoune = down jacket
oups! = whoops!

Jules and Smokey studio
My Mom, Jules, in her studio with Smokey. 

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