Returning to work or to school or real life demands after summer break? France wishes you Bonne rentrée. Some lucky dogs are still in vacation mode, though. Photo taken in Cannes, where Jackie and I stopped after Villefranche. In the following story from the archives, Jackie is 16 and on her way back to school.... Le temps vole! Be sure to read to the end for a personal update and photo.
TODAY'S PHRASE: "bonne rentrée"
: Happy back-to-school! Enjoy the new school year!
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse
The following entry is from the 2014 archives. I took a trip down memory lane reading it, recently, and hope you'll enjoy the uplifting message and some more of Mom's wisdom....
This morning, and for the first time since summer began, I woke up in a pitch-dark room. Gone was the comforting view of the forest and with it the daily wake-up ritual of searching for my favorite tree (the old umbrella pine at the top of the hill. When I focus on the curve of that arbre I see the outline of a giant heart. Any anxieties that woke up with me disappear beneath the promise of that tree).
This morning no light, no forest, no heart. The buzz of Jean-Marc's réveil jolted our family into a new reality: la rentrée! Back-to-school for our daughter (the remaining fledgling in our nest) means a new schedule for everyone. No more sleeping in 'till seven. No more pep talks with Mr. Pin Parasol. Funny how...with the pursuit of a dream, whether writing or winemaking...each day feels like the first day of class, and, waking to the uncertainty of the next 24 hours, we are like small children approaching the giant gates of the schoolyard. Shaking in our boots as we stumble forth, into the unknown. A new day.
Recently even a big-hearted pine tree could not coax me out of bed. You know the old ditty: Mama said there'd be days like this, there'd be days like this my mama said....
Yes, but just what did Mama say to do on days like this? To find out the answer I called my Mama and here is what she said: "Focus on others, not yourself!" The message was delivered firmly but with love.
Facing a new work day, I sucked up and wrote about another's pain, sharing my mother-in-law's situation instead of my own. Next, my thoughts traveled over to you, dear reader, and how you are surely experiencing "days like this." I wondered, Did you, too, dial up my Mom, who gave you the same answer: "Focus on another!" Because that would explain the outpouring of support following the previous post. I did not expect so much sympathy over a seemingly unsentimental subject: email. You must have read between the lines of the story -- when suddenly a heart came into focus!
I'm looking out my bedroom window now and the big-hearted tree is finally coming into view. Ouf! It's back! And with it a new day. But I didn't want this day to end before sending you a sincere remerciement. Thank you so much for looking past your own pain and focusing on another's. Your empathy is deeply touching!
This post was supposed to be about back-to-school and the French penchant for wishing everyone bonne rentrée, or happy first day of classes. But we haven't gone too far off theme: "Happy return," after all, is the universal topic, the bonne rentrée everyone's talking about. Yes, many happy returns! May each day be a new day--with new hope and new courage for all. Whatever is hurting you, let it gently blend into this friendly forest and reappear as the giant heart of compassion: the balm to heal all wounds. Bon courage.
Post Note: The entry, above, was written during our first years at Mas de Brun, our second vineyard and the subject of our memoir The Lost Gardens.
To read the comments or to leave one, click here. I enjoy reading your updates and appreciate your corrections to my text.
Bonne rentrée = Welcome back to school!
le temps vole = time flies
un arbre = tree
le réveil = alarm clock
la rentrée = when the summer is over, return to school
le pin parasol = umbrella pine
ouf! = phew!
un remerciement = thanks
bon courage! = good luck!
amicalement = yours, best wishes
Mille mercis to the following readers who sent in a donation following last week's entry. This truly is a reader-supported journal and I appreciate your help in keeping it going!
“You bring me joy reading about all your encounters, for all these years.” Betsy
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"I'm enjoying rereading Words in a French Life and tales of your early days in France when the children were young!" Lynn
MORE ABOUT BONNE RENTREE by Chatgpt
"Bonne rentrée" is a commonly used French expression that translates to "good back-to-school" or "happy return." It is typically used in France and other French-speaking countries to wish someone well as they return to school or work after a break, such as summer vacation or a holiday.
This phrase is often heard in the weeks leading up to the start of the school year in September, and it reflects the sentiment of encouragement and positivity for the upcoming academic or work-related challenges. It's a way for people to express their hope that the return to daily routines and responsibilities will be successful and enjoyable.
"Bonne rentrée" can be used in various contexts:
1. **Informal Conversations**: Parents may use it to wish their children a good start to the school year. Friends and colleagues may also exchange this expression to offer encouragement and support as they resume their regular activities after a break.
2. **In the Workplace**: Colleagues might use it to greet each other as they return to work after a holiday or vacation. It helps create a positive and welcoming atmosphere.
3. **School Environment**: Teachers may use it to welcome students on the first day of school, and students might say it to each other to express good wishes for the academic year ahead.
4. **In Social Media**: It's not uncommon to see "Bonne rentrée" posted on social media platforms by individuals, schools, or organizations as a way of marking the return to regular schedules.
Overall, "Bonne rentrée" is a simple yet meaningful expression in French culture that reflects the emphasis on education and work-life balance. It's a way to encourage and motivate individuals as they transition back into their daily routines, and it serves as a reminder that new beginnings can be filled with opportunities and positivity.
Izzy and Me under some local palm trees. I am still dog-sitting and enjoying the company of this pocket-size beagle. Also, this week I fudged a little (Cette semaine, j'ai un peu esquivé) by posting a story from the archives and breaking a months-long streak of “one new story per week.” You would think the break would be refreshing, but, like a kid who ditches class (or an employee who takes a sick day from work) I spent my time ruminating about the consequences. Can you relate? And what are those real or imagined consequences? I'm going to title the above photo "Focus on the Horizon"--another of Mom's wonderful bits of wisdom. Just keep your eyes on the prize and whatever is below that skyline--don't give it too much time!
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety