6 Postcards from France: Les Cartes Postales
Something to Celebrate!

Advice for Each Decade of Life & Surrender: A Mother Daughter update

Cafe de l'horloge la ciotat france
Would this picture be good for the La Ciotat postcard series? Thanks for your helpful feedback and for your postcard orders this week! I am enjoying the quiet, mindful activity of addressing envelopes and my handwriting is slowly improving :-)

TODAY’S WORD: s'abandonner

: to surrender yourself to, to unburden yourself 

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

As I walked into Le Café de L’Horloge two customers seated near le comptoir offered a warm bonjour.

"Boh-wher!" I replied, or tried to. For once it wasn't my faulty accent to blame. The freezing Mistral had numbed my face during the 30-minute walk to Port Vieux, where I was meeting my daughter for lunch. I waved goodbye to the diners after Jackie arrived, and the two of us headed upstairs to share a quiet booth with a view. "Isn't it cozy here? I love this place. It is open all day," Jackie said rubbing her hands together to warm them.

Hungry, I searched for la carte. "It's tucked inside that book..." my daughter pointed out.
"Oh, nice!" This artsy café had a charming literary twist (there are more books next door at the Emmaus bookshop). I reached for the menu inside a  paperback by Sylvain Tesson: "S'Abandonner à Vivre." Surrender to Live...

For now, we were surrendering to our appetites. Jackie suggested the bagel with salmon and la soupe de poireaux. A young woman from Paris took our order and disappeared down the stairs. "One more week of classes!" I said to my 25-year-old, who was completing a 4-week computer course offered by Pôle Emploi, the French national employment agency.

"Yes, but then what?" my daughter began to worry again. After some thought, I reminded her of a bit of wisdom I'd overheard recently:

In your twenties, try everything.
In your thirties, figure out what you do best.
In your forties, make money from what you do best.
Try not to do much in your fifties.

If I could say that in French it might go something like this:

Dans la vingtaine, essayez tout.
Dans la trentaine, découvrez ce que vous faites de mieux.
Dans la quarantaine, gagnez de l'argent avec ce que vous faites de mieux.
Essayez de ne pas faire grand-chose à la cinquantaine.

At 25 and 55 my daughter and I are at opposite ends of the career spectrum--between "essayez tout" et "ne pas faire grand-chose"--with Jackie trying everything between bartending and computer coding and me slowing down. Yikes. If Jackie has her doubts so do I (dois-je ralentir?).  And yet here we are, holding each other up with cheers and bouts of laughter.

"I'm going to embarrass you," I smile, giving my daughter an extra big bear hug back outside the café.
"No, you're not embarrassing me!" Jackie hugs back. We laugh and say our goodbyes before my daughter returns to computer class. She is anxious to see the 3D objet de déco she's designed which has just been cut out by a laser printer. It boggles my mind. Who knows what they'll print next. ..Baguettes? 

What would I do without my daughter? I think, on the cold walk home alone. Have I been present during lunch? Am I paying attention? Have I missed anything? I remember her smile. How she spoke to me in French and, catching herself, reverted to English. I think about the way Jackie ordered our lunch, poured the water, and spread chocolate over our shared gauffre before reaching into her purse for two euros, "I'll leave the pourboire." She is so calm. You’d never know she struggles with doubts and fears and anxieties.

Yet, she is showing me how to laugh at life. On the drive to pick up my daughter from class in the centre ville, I see her waiting on the side of the road. Suddenly, I catch a glimpse of a patrol car in my rear-view mirror...et c'est la panique! As I drive by my daughter my eyes widen and I begin wagging my finger back and forth, signaling I CAN'T STOP NOW! (Not in the middle of the road as usual.)

Finally, I pull over and my daughter, catching up to the car, opens the door. Neither of us can speak, we are laughing so hard. Eyes glistening with tears, we look at each other with comic relief. On rigole, et on rigole encore!

"Mom! You should have seen your face. I just knew you were going to freak! You and the cops! Toi et les flics--C'est toute une histoire! The fits of laughter continue until I have to wipe my eyes in order to drive. Fear and uncertainty have gone for the moment. These old foes will be back, but for now, we can laugh!

Well, dear reader, it is time to sum up today's story and bid you au revoir. So, no matter your age, be sure to slow down, try everything, and remember laughter is a form of surrender. Abandonnons-nous tous à vivre!

P.S. The next time you see cops and panic, do what the French do: whisper Vingt-Deux les Flics! ("Twenty-two the cops!") It doesn't mean anything. It's just funny and kind of freeing!  

I thought it would be interesting to continue the "Advice for Each Decade" info cited above. Will you add your experience and wisdom to the comments section and whether or not you agree with the 20s, 30s, 40s, an 50s advice? To rephrase:

In your twenties, try everything.
In your thirties, figure out what you do best.
In your forties, make money from what you do best.
Try not to do much in your fifties.
In your sixties (fill in blank)
In your seventies (fill in blank)
In your eighties (fill in blank)
In your nineties (fill in blank)
At 100 (fill in blank, and merci to our readers who are nearing la centaine!)

Cafe de l horloge street view
View looking down to the cobbled streets of La Ciotat.

Jules in la ciotat at cafe l horloge
Can you spy my mom in the background? Photo of Jules taken a few years ago in front of Café l'Horloge, at 7 Rue Albert et Georges Arnoux, 13600 La Ciotat. A nice place for coffee, lunch, or apéros!

AUDIO FILE: Listen to the French vocabulary list

Click here to begin listening

s'abondonner = to surrender oneself
le Café de L'Horloge = The Clock Café
le comptoir
= bar, counter
Le Port Vieux = The Old Port in La Ciotat
la carte = the menu
la soupe de poireaux = leek soup
le pôle emploi = job center, unemployment office
dois-je ralentir? = should I slow down?
objet de déco = decorative object
la gaufre = waffle
le pourboire = tip, gratuity
rigoler = to laugh
toi et les flics = you and the cops
c'est toute une histoire = it's quite a story
amicalement = yours, kind regards
un apéro = pre-dinner drink

Cartes postales post cards
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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