Our soon-to-be 13-year-old, Smokey and day lilies from our friends Anne and Kirk. Don't miss a beautiful picture of my Mom, Jules, at the close of this post (if your are reading via email, click on the link somewhere below to continue reading).
TODAY'S WORD: "un malentendu"
: a misunderstanding, misinterpretation, misapprehension
Un quiproquo est un malentendu où l'on prend un être vivant, un objet ou une situation pour une autre. A quiproquo is a misunderstanding where one takes a living being, an object or a situation for another.
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
During yesterday’s heatwave I was looking for a cold treat to bring Mom. In the frigo I took a yogurt and a banana and headed out the kitchen door, to our garage-turned-studio where Jules has lived for four years now. Le temps vole!
Beyond the sliding glass doors I saw Mom resting on her bed. The ventilateur on the nightstand that had been cooling her was now whirring loudly on the floor beside our golden retriever.
“Mom, are you keeping cool enough? Let me bring in another fan!” I said.
“No, I’m OK. Pull up that chair I brought in for you.”
I set the goûter in the fridge beside the very same yogurt I’d brought previously and noticed it was untouched. On my way back I picked up the green metal fauteuil and set it in front of the kitchen island, facing Mom’s bed, and we settled into our late afternoon tête-à-tête, chatting while petting and fussing over Smokey, who turns 13 next month. As I caressed our dog I suddenly felt another bosse, this time between his neck and shoulder, nestled deep enough to go unnoticed as it grew…and grew. It was nearly the size of a tennis ball!
“When we had all those bumps removed 4 months ago, I knew it was only the surface of the iceberg.” I said to Mom, as a heaviness filled the room.
“Well,” Jules replied, searching the positive side, “he is one happy dog!”
That is true. And so much of it is thanks to Mom, who gives all the credit right back to Smokey. “Do you hear him talking to me?” Mom asks, as we gaze at one of the favorite members of our family, his blond hair whirling in the ventilator's breeze.
Yes, I do hear those two. I hear Smokey barking suggestions to Jules all day long, and have the pleasure and delight of hearing Mom translate them all to me as the two go about their day. At 7 in the morning Smokey says: Bark bark! It’s time for breakfast, Grandma, and by 8: Should we go out to the garden now, Grandma? Bark, bark! Sometimes at 11, he'll wonder, Is it time for a snack, Grandma? Bark! And finally at 8 pm. It’s late now, Grandma, let’s head in for the night! Smokey’s humble, easygoing, loving and caring dogness is an ever present sweetness in our lives—and as you have seen, he is a helpful guide in Jules’s life. If I begin to think about our life without him I….
“Honey, reach up and turn off the stove,” Mom said, immediately dispersing our troubled thoughts.
I swung around, still in my chair, and turned off the electric burner. “What’s cooking?” I asked Mom.
Jules' face contorted at the thought of duck. “You know I raised ducklings as a child…”
Where this duck came from is a mystery. Mom’s been talking about it for a while. “I can always cook that duck,” Mom will say, when she wants to put off going to the supermarché.
That duck. Mom said it was part of the purchase she made at Jean-Marc’s boutique, but I don’t remember my husband selling canard in his épicerie-wine shop. I turned around again to look at Mom’s fry pan. Inside there were kidney beans and strips of that duck.
“You must be desperate,” I said, and we both chuckled at Mom’s predicament. On second glance, I noticed something unusual: la viande était blanche.
“Mom, that’s not duck.”
“It isn’t?” Jules looked hopeful.
“No. It looks like chicken to me. It could even be frogs’ legs!” (The “strips” were similar in length...)
“Frogs’ legs!” Mom gasped. Even Smokey was surprised and he lifted his head in time to wrinkle his nose. Sniff, sniff…
“Could you show me the package?” I asked. Mom retrieved it and there, on the label, it was clear where the quiproquo began.
“Mom, it says ‘dinde,’ not ‘duck’.”
“Dinde, dinde, wonderful! Am I pronouncing it correctly?” From the looks of things Mom had won the food lottery (and gained a new favorite French word).
“Would you happen to have any rice to go along with it?”
I offered to go and make some, but first, I reached down to caress Smokey. What I’d give to sort out his situation as easily as we did Mom’s.
“Everything is going to be OK," Jules said, finding just the needed words. "We are all in God’s hands."
As for these heavy hearts, I'll remember He comforts those too. With this spiritual balm easing our painful emotions, we are now free to live each day to the best of our ability--for us, this means rearranging priorities in time to play ball and run through the sprinklers! Or whatever else our favorite furry family member enjoys this side of the rainbow bridge, and may it be miles and miles and miles away. Vive Smokey!
Smokey, resting from another tennis ball run. It's true what they say about dogs: every lesson we need about life can be learned from man's best friend. For starters, Get up, go outside, chase the ball today. Always wag your tail. Never complain. Show enthusiasm at all times. Be one big furry ball of love.
Audio File for vocabulary
le frigo = fridge
le temps vole = time flies
le ventilateur = fan
le fauteuil = armchair
le goûter = 4 o’clock snack, tea time
le tête-à-tête = private talk
la bosse = lump, bump
le supermarché = supermarket, grocery store
le canard = duck
une épicerie fine = fine foods, delicatessen
la viande était blanche = the meat was white
quiproquo = misunderstanding, mistake
la dinde = turkey
vive = long live
Photos: a closeup of Mom’s kitchen island and its decor
July 14th, 2022. Jules, the first garden tomatoes of the season, and a smiling Smokey. He really is a happy dog. Thanks so much, Mom, for spoiling him with your round-the-clock presence, love, and treats.
A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my 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 the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering 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 of any amount.
Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.
Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens