Coqueluche: My teen heartthrob & 70s fashion through a French girl's eyes
"Bisettes"- a favorite new word + photo essay with family updates

Guess Who Moved to Lyon? + A useful computer term in French

Brise-bise shutters france
One of the vocabulary words in today's story is brise-bise, for these charming half-curtains seen across France

TODAY'S WORD: un logiciel

    : software

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Good news! Our daughter will be moving to Lyon to begin a 10-month intensive program in Web Design. Since returning from Miami in September of 2021, Jackie's path has been hit and miss and the highs and lows were beginning to take a toll. So after she completed a 4-week computer coding program, a guidance counselor at Pôle Emploi suggested she apply for an intensive study in Lyon, and this is how Jackie found herself, last week, awaiting the second selection. (16 out of 50 applicants made the first cut.)

While waiting, Jackie found a room in Lyon and did as much as she could to prepare for a potentially imminent departure. Then came the call. She didn't make the second cut.... and then, as fate would have it, they called back...and she was in!

This rollercoaster of emotions came to a peaceful pause Tuesday night. After a quiet knock at the bedroom door, Mama Jules appeared waving a 50-euro billet. Jackie and I were curled up on the bed, spending precious time together before her next-day departure. 

"Buy yourself a nice plant! It will make you feel at home in your new place. And you might think of getting some of those little half-curtains..."

A good idea given Jackie's fenêtre overlooks a busy street. "They're called le brise-bise," I added. 

"Thank you, Grandma!" As Jackie hugged her grandmother, I thought about Jules' perfect timing and her abundant generosity (générosité abondante--is that an oxymoron or a pleonasm? Oh, who cares about WORDS at a time like this! Sometimes GESTURES mark the moment, and I really appreciated Jules's thoughtful housewarming gift for her petite-fille.)

This isn't the first time our Jackie has flown the nest. So why does it get harder each time? And yet it was my eyes that were dry when we parted. My 25-year-old's were full of larmes. "I love you so much I don't want to leave you!" cried our 4-time fledgling.

How to say "ditto" in French? The truth is, I love Jackie so much I don't ever want her to leave le nid familial, and surely that is not the best thing for her. For either of us. So I watched, dry-eyed as she flew off Wednesday afternoon (in fact, she took the train. And lucky for us, Lyon is only a 2-hr train ride from nearby Marseilles).

Back in Jules's studio, a two-second walk from our front door, I am comforted by our daily mère-fille moment. The air is scented with Mom's favorite, Shalimar, which brings me back to my childhood in the desert. Our tête-à-tête is presided over by Lili the Cat who arrived on the heels of Smokey's departure last summer.

Jules' hair fell in a silver braid over her left shoulder, and she wore her bonnet for extra warmth. The space heater rumbled in the background and with it came my first pang of sadness. (That rumbling blade reminded me of "brown noise"--something Jackie often talked about. Ever since living in Miami, with a loud ceiling fan in her room, she has grown to appreciate the benefits of le bruit brun and its ability to neutralize a noisy environment. We enjoyed many talks about the subject, and categorizing various sounds became a kind of game.) 

My mind drifted back from the space heater to Jules. As Mom brushed Lili with her own rat-tail comb I rattled on. "Jackie's gone from fashion design to bartending to web design. Is computer programming really for her?"

I don't remember Jules's exact words, only her wisdom: This is not about computers. It's about the people Jackie will come in contact with. It's about the next phase of a young woman's life.... 

L'École de La Vie
As I listened to Jules, a couple of doves alighted on her window sill. The feathered duo is none other than Mama and Papa, her beloved wild birds, les tourtereaux. How serendipitous. Jules was now able to illustrate her point, and she did so while gazing at the love birds: "Don't worry about Jackie or school or what will come of this. This is about continuing the cycle of life."

Jules set down her rat-tail comb and headed to the counter to use the electric mixer I gave her. She poured a half-cup of dry dog food inside (Smokey's croquettes, which are, dorénavant, sustenance for the doves). Oh, the cycle of life with its sadness and joy! Mom and I covered our ears as the machine pulverized the croquettes. I laughed, thinking this is definitely not brown noise (does "red noise" exist?). I hope Jackie will laugh too, when she reads this from her new digs. Bon courage, My Girl! You've got this! 

le logiciel = software
Pôle Emploi = the public employement service in France
le billet = bill, banknote
la petite-fille = granddaughter
la fenêtre = window
le brise-bise
= half curtain, café curtain
la larme
= tear
le nid familial = the family nest
mère-fille = mother-daughter
le tête-à-tête = conversation between two people
le bonnet = knit cap, wooly hat
le bruit brun
= brown noise
l'école de la vie = school of life
les tourtereaux = lovebirds
dorénavant = from now on
Tourterelles doves mama and papa
Mama and Papa, the two doves from today's story, alighting on a pile of pea gravel. We are finally topping up the old gravier in our yard, which may have been poured when this house was built in 1960. Your comments and corrections to this post are much appreciated. Merci d'avance!

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