When an expat's expat parent comes to live with daughter in France: After 25 years in Mexico, Mom is moving in!

Window and shutter in Mexico
Au revoir Mexique. Our Mom is about to begin a new chapter in France!

On ne s'ennuie jamais

    : never a dull moment

Click here to listen to on ne s'ennuie jamais

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
A blow to her wings, not to her spirit! 
by Kristi Espinasse

My mom has been an expat in Mexico for 25 years (the same amount of time I've been in France). Now, following a recent coup dans l'aile, or blow to her wings, Jules will be moving into our nest and we are going to take things au jour le jour (just as the birds do!)

Petit à petit l'oiseau (re)fait son nid.
Jean-Marc and I will be researching the administrative side of when an expat's expat parent comes to live with American daughter and French son-in-law in France. (Kicking myself for not applying for French nationality after all these years. It would come in handy about now!). Meantime there are some non-administrative pépins, like where to put Mom...now that our two kidults have moved back in for the summer. As the French say: On ne s'ennuie jamais.

I'll be back with you later for an update. D'ici là, meantime, please send Jules and my sister, Heidi, (who just arrived in Puerto Vallarta) bon courage. They'll need it. They have two days to turn the page on a colorful chapter in Mom's life. On to the next! 

Jules in st-cyr-sur mer at la madrague
We may need a second bagnole now. How about this Méhari? Perfect for a sunset drive here in La Ciotat...

FRENCH VOCABULARY
un coup dans l'aile = a blow to the wings
au jour le jour = day by day
Petit à petit l'oiseau fait son nid = little by little the bird makes its nest
le pépin = glitch, hitch, snag
on ne s'ennuie jamais = life's never boring
d'ici là = meantime
bon courage = good luck
la bagnole = car 
la maman = mom, mother, mama...comme Mama Jules ♥ 

Heidi Kristi Mom Jules wedding day
Surrounded by my sister, Heidi, and our Mom, Jules at my 1994 Wedding in Marseilles.

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating 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, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


Les oisillons: baby birds fall into our yard + caring for injured and baby chicks

tourterelle baby doves
These baby doves were discovered in our garden one week ago. Don't miss the story, below. See any mistakes in today's post? Your edits are helpful and appreciated. Merci d'avance.

TODAY’S FRENCH WORD: un oisillon 

: baby bird, chick

SOUND FILE: Click the link to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in today's post. Then scroll down to the vocabulary section to check your French comprehension.

Click here for the soundfile


EXAMPLE SENTENCE
Vous POUVEZ remettre un oisillon dans son nid. Contrairement à un mythe très répandu, les parents ne sentiront pas votre odeur si vous le touchez (l'odorat des oiseaux n'est en général pas très développé).

You CAN put a baby bird back in its nest. Contrary to a common myth, the parents will not smell you if you touch it (birds' sense of smell is usually not very developed). --intra-science.com

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

A week ago, Thursday, Jean-Marc and Jackie found baby birds in our yard, below the 20ft palm tree. My husband was getting ready to BBQ some salmon when he stepped back and almost crushed something under his shoe: a nestling, with all its feathers, scraggly looking and weak. Moments later our daughter discovered a second oisillon, severely injured and bleeding. There were scrapes all along its side, on the wing, and a deep, large gash on its back from un prédateur? Un chat?

I hurried and got a box, set a towel inside, and ran around the side of the house to Mom's studio. Jules shot into action: examining the doves, she began to wash the wounds of the injured one with water and drops of Bétadine. As she cared for them, Mom kept repeating, “They are big, these babies are big,” giving us all hope the lost ones would make it through their ordeal.

These fledglings were tourterelles turques, or Eurasian collared doves–very common in our neighborhood. Lucky little rescapés! To think their life hinged on a banal and flippant decision: earlier there was a question of cooking our lunch (fish) on the BBQ or in the frying pan. I kept hesitating until, oh let Jean-Marc cook outside--less of a mess in the kitchen! We would never have found the struggling oiselets had JM not gone out to the yard. Surely the cats would have come back in that scenario….

After lunch (the little orphans with us on the bench), Jules disappeared, leaving the helpless birds to Jackie… I didn’t understand why Mom would abandon her doves (we voted Jules as Chief Nurse) until she returned a while later having done a crash course via YouTube on how to care for fallen or injured birds. Apparently we had on hand all supplies needed, including dog croquettes… and the human touch, which Mom said was the most important ingredient. As Jules cradled the injured birdling, my thoughts slipped out, “Mom, haven’t you ever heard you’re not supposed to touch a baby bird? The parents will reject it!”

Jules wasted no time arguing. Tearing up her favorite wool nightshirt, she swaddled each chick. Emmitouflés, snug and warm they were carefully fed "un velouté de croquettes" (enough to nourish and hydrate them) before being placed near the heater in Mom’s tiny salle-de-bain.

I didn’t think the injured one would make it through the night, but early the next day I found Mom awake, feeding one of the nestlings, who now had a name: "Betty." I knew right away the other was "Rusty," after Mom’s dear, departed brother.

We took Rusty and Betty outside to the “nursery” (the center of our garden, beside the weeping pepper tree). There on a carpet of delicate white flowers we set the baby birds. The sun and fresh air began to dry Betty’s wounds. If it wasn’t amazing enough to see them alive Day Two, Day Three presented a miracle when a couple of doves landed beside the box and began feeding the baby birds!

It was no other than Mama and Papa, a pair of doves Jules befriended 3 years ago. So tame, they feed right out of Jules' hands and have landed on her head and shoulders dozens of times. Here they were, taking turns feeding Rusty and Betty. But were these fallen chicks their offspring? I didn't think so, but Jules insisted they were!

I noticed the parents opening wide their beaks for the babies to reach in and feed (I always thought it was the other way around, with the mama putting the food into the baby's beak).  "
This is good!" I said to Mom, happy she would have relief from the regular day/night feedings. 

"And the good news is I don’t have to teach them to fly!" Mom smiled. Sacré Jules. I could just see her flapping her wings!

They next days were a treasure, with our family gathered in the garden for the 3 or so daily feedings, in which Mama and Papa flew in to nourish the babies, who began trembling each time they were ready to eat (see video below). If it was awesome to watch the feeding you should have seen these fierce protectors dive bomb any bird that came near our yard (parts of which are now covered in feathers). They even chased the cats away!

Sacré Mama and Papa. I never did understand why Mom named the doves this way (always wished she'd come up with something zippier--Suzette and Fritz, for example. But now I see it clearly. Mama and Papa have come into their names.

This morning I went to get Rusty and Betty from Mom's, to put them out in the "nursery." Mama and Papa flew in immediately and began feeding their kids. Jackie and I sat chatting on the edge of the little pond/fountain, Smokey beside us, as usual. (Mama and Papa practically walk over his paws to get to where they're going and the baby doves find it normal to have a giant golden retriever looking over them.) This morning was one of the loveliest and when it came time to put the baby birds back into the box.... Rusty flew up to a branch!

I ran to get Mom, who hurried out. Jules's reflex was to get Rusty down off that branch (a rainstorm was coming in...) but as she approached the parents flew in and Rusty took off in a spectacular arc over our yard landing in the tree on the corner of our lot (above the busy crossroads in our neighborhood). He's been there now 8 hours, his parents looking on from the telephone pole beside the tree. 

Should we get a ladder? Toss a ball near the branch? Will he survive the night? He must be getting cold. What will happen to little Rusty? The overall feeling (beside helplessness) is to leave the parents to take over from here on. But why aren't the stealth dive bombers moving him along, steering their young one back to the nest? 

Please send good wishes Rusty's way. Meantime Betty is back with Mom. Ever a fighter with those battle scars, she's ready to fly too. But with the rain coming in we want to keep her dry and warm a little while longer.

I worry about Jules as much as the nestlings. She's put her everything into nursing them back to life, and she didn't get to say goodbye to one of the little ragamuffins, as she called them. I want this story to have a happy ending for the birds and for my Mom, but will have to stop here and cross fingers. Bonne chance, Rusty and à demain, j'éspère.

Click the arrow in the screen below to start the video, or view directly on my Instagram

 

FRENCH VOCABULARY 

un oisillon = chick, baby bird
un petit oiseau baby bird
tomber = to fall
blessé = hurt, injured
le prédateur = predator
le chat = cat
le nid = nest
la Bétadine = Povidone-iodine, a popular antiseptic 
la tourterelle = dove, see "lovebirds" in French
l'orphelin, l'orpheline = orphan
un (une) rescapé(e)
= survivor
un oiselet = baby bird, chick
la croquette = dog biscuit, kibble, dry food
emmitoufler = to wrap up warmly, to swaddle
un velouté de croquettes = cream of kibble soup
la salle de bain = bathroom
sautiller
= to bounce, jump
voler = to fly
soigner = to care for
à demain, j'éspère = see you tomorrow, I hope
IMG_3407
The blossoming tree where Rusty landed. See him camouflaged there in the center? 

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating 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, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


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
Wishing you a Joyeuse St. Valentin today, as this journal won't go out on Valentine's Day. In the meantime, please follow me here on Instagram. Merci!

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


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

Follow Kristi on Instagram Kristi Espinasse

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

FRENCH VOCABULARY
froisser = to offend, to hurt
froissé
= 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. 

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating 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, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


S’épancher: to pour out one's heart + Another grocery store encounter

fleuriste flower shop in Sospel France hearts on window niche
A flower shop in Sospel, France. The hearts in the fleuriste's window hint at today's word. The story below reveals the full meaning. Enjoy two sound files in today's post and thank you for sharing this journal with a friend.

Today's Word: s'épancher

    : to pour out one's heart

Example Sentence and Sound File
Retenir ses larmes, voilà bien, selon moi, le comble du " charnel " ; car lorsqu'on refuse à son coeur de s'épancher, le chagrin ne s'ancre-t-il pas en nous, pesant comme un fardeau? To hold back one's tears is, in my opinion, the height of the "carnal"; for when one refuses to let one's heart out, does not grief become anchored in us, weighing us down like a burden? -Jostein Gaarder, author of Sophie's World

Click to hear the quote in French


A DAY in a FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
"Life Unraveling as it Should"

I was blowdrying my hair when Mom knocked on the bathroom door.

"I'm not feeling well. I'm going to stay home," Jules said. I noticed she was hunched over.

Our plans were now changing and this rattled me--especially as I had waited an extra hour to wake up Mom (had I known she wasn't coming with me, I'd have left for the grocery store earlier). In my frustration, I couldn't help but wonder whether Mom was really sick or did she just want to ditch the shopping errand and get back in bed?

"Mom, stand up straight!" I said, assessing the situation. I had never seen her hunched like that and wanted it to stop. (My own kids have a similar reaction when I am not brimming with health. They don't ever want to see their parents weak.)

"I'm not going to the store," Mom put her foot down.
 
"Well, I don't want to go to the store either!" I announced.

"Then don't go," Mom challenged.  

"But I have to!"

In the 30-second standoff that followed, huffs and puffs could be heard...followed by a move on the more mature one's part:

"Here," Mom said, waving some cash.

"No. You keep it!" I thought Mom was giving me pocket money again. If she had 50 dollars to her name, she'd still give us l'argent de poche--no matter our age, for the joy it brings.  

"Just get me some grape juice and bread please."

"Don't worry. I'll get a bunch of goodies," I said, thanking Mom for le flouze.


When I got into my car I saw Mom walking toward me from her studio, reminding me to bring her the pommes de terre I'd cooked earlier. She needed them to make the fried potatoes we were having for lunch. I got out of the car, walked back to the house (pausing to pet our old dog) then back around the house, to Mom's place, patates en main.

Smokey golden retriever 12 years old
                                 Mom's hand resting on Smokey

"Oh, and the bacon..." Mom reminded. Right, les lardons! I hurried back around the house (pausing to pet Smokey) unlocked the front door, ran to the kitchen...then back to Mom's.

(Old Smokey needed more pats on the way back. And because his time is limited, I had to slow down.)

Finally, in my car, seatbelt on.... and zut! I forgot my phone! Oh, leave it. No, you need it or you'll forget what's on your list... One more dash back to the house, and up the stairs to my room.... I sensed at that moment that all the va-et-vient, though annoying, amounted to Life unraveling as it should.

***

At Monoprix supermarket I took a deep breath. You're here now. Take your time. Get what you need. You can catch up with everything else later....

In the frozen food aisle, a petite woman with soft platinum curls approached me. "Pardonnez-moi. Je cherche les épinards."

"Oh, spinach... there it is," I said, walking with Madame over to the display: "il y a des épinards en branches, épinards hachées, épinards à la crème fraîche...."

"Merci beaucoup," she said, "You are so kind. You are so kind."

"Oh. I only showed you where the spinach was," I smiled.

"I'm so lost." Madame said suddenly. "My husband just passed away. I don't know why I am telling you this."    

I stood there holding her gaze and reached for her arm. The widow now held on to mine. 

"And I lost my daughter. She was 45...."

"Oh, I am so sorry! I am...holding you in my heart," was all I could think to say. We stood there in our flimsy paper masks, clinging to each other. I gently squeezed la veuve's arm, hoping the tender gesture would make up for a lack of words.

"Merci, merci, vous êtes gentille," the widow repeated. 

"I will be here shopping for a while,” I assured her. “If you need me, je suis dans les parages."

I continued shopping, glancing here and there for the lost soul, but the widow had vanished. 

***

Back at home Mom was much better (hmmm....) and after lunch we sat together in the sunshine, Mom popping up from time to time to show me her ideas for our garden: “And I'm going to have Max dig a trench here and one there for flowers! Lots of flowers!

Mom sat back down in her favorite papillon chair, looked over at me at snickered. "Stand up straight! I used to tell you girls that when you were little."

Obviously, somebody was still irritated by the comment I made earlier. "Mom, I'm sorry if I was harsh with you," I apologized. “That was just Fear talking. I didn't want you to be sick. And also, I get frustrated when plans change. And then I had a hard time getting out the door. Back and forth, back and forth."

"To and fro, to and fro
, like the Holy Spirit," Mom smiled, in reference to our celestial helper.

It dawned on me then that every little change, every empêchement in my schedule, added up to the chance encounter with a stranger in need. It is a lesson the universe continues to teach: Everything is unfolding as it should, setbacks and all. Just trust that you are in the right place at the right time, right now. (And always be respectful and loving to your Mom!)

Mom  in jeans
Jules. My beautiful Mom.

FRENCH VOCABULARY

Click here to listen to the French terms below

s'épancher = to pour out one'sheart
la pomme de terre = potato
les patates en main = potatoes in hand
le lardon = bacon strip
l'argent de poche = pocket money, spending money
le flouze = cash
zut = shoot!
va-et-vient = back-and-forth
épinards en branches, hachées, à la crème fraîche =
je suis dans les parages = I’m in the area
Vous êtes gentille = you are kind
Merci beaucoup = thank you
un empêchement = a delay

Words missing from the sound file:
le/la fleuriste = florist, flower shop
le papillon = butterfly (read about Mom's butterfly chair)

shopfront artisan fabrication sur mesure
I leave you with a photo from the archives, from the story «Faire Bisquer » (to rile someone) 

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating 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, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


Jules update + Which of these French words is new to you?: guet-apens, tuyau, épuisette, taule, couvre feu, comme si de rien n'était, arroser, pantoufle...

Max spear fishing in La Ciotat beach
My son, Max, spearfishing here in La Ciotat. In today's story, his grandmother Jules goes fishing in the garden, while I reel in a boatful of new French words for you. Enjoy, and please share this post with somebody who loves France or the French language. Merci!

Today’s French expressions: avoir la pêche (vs) aller à la pêche

  : avoir la pêche = to feel great, to feel happy
  : aller à la pêche = to go fishing

Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the following sentence in French:

Quand ma belle-mère, Jules, a la pêche...Elle va à la pêche!
When my mother-in-law, Jules, is feeling energetic, she goes fishing!

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi ESPINASSE

“I feel good!”  my mom announces, stretching out her arms beside the budding fig tree. “Look how rosy my cheeks are!”

En effet! After hibernating all winter, Jules a la pêche. Her energy stores are full and she is ready to return to work as our resident Tuyau Operator, in charge of watering all the flowers and veggies. It’s about time Sleeping Beauty woke up. Les hibiscus ont soif!

Mom surveys the wild garden and its unruly grass, its patches of buttercups, dandelions, grape hyacinths, and, oh—look at those two-foot-high beanstalks! Our front yard has come to life, just like Mom and her furry, elderly assistant, Smokey (who’s put on a few pounds after guarding Grandma all winter. The two share the afternoon goûter in bed, and I suspect it’s not the only snack for nos aînés gourmands!).

Plus de Pantoufles!
When Jules, in her black Converse high tops, marches past her favorite Papillon chair, you know she means business. No contemplating the clouds today, c’est l’heure d’arroser.

I pass by the fountain on my way to meet her, and the water begins to tremble. Can you believe that’s 4 dozen baby koi rushing to the surface? The doves use a similar attention-getting strategy, going as far as to knock on the window until Jules gets up to feed them! Everyone is hungry now that winter is over, ou presque

Un guet-apens? (An ambush?)
Jules grabs the long wooden pole and net—the épuisette—and plunges it in and out of the water sending petrified poissons darting toward the papyrus for cover.

“I caught 5!” Mom gasps, upending the net and watching the fish land in the copper jam pan (a recent gift Mom picked up for us at la Coop Agricole). 

“Hurry! Get some water in there!” Mom signals, as the fish flop around their copper tôle, or prison.

Les yeux ébahis, I scramble to fill the copper jam pan with water before the fish (that's slang for inmates!) go into shock. Visiblement, Mom’s energy is running ahead of her again. If you think her motor is charged, you should see Smokey! Our 11-year-old golden retriever has leaped over the fence and is trespassing in the neighbor’s yard, probably eating the cat food again! “Smokey! Reviens ici!” Whereas moments ago our senior chien jumped over the fence, he is now crawling under the flimsy barrier, comme si de rien n’était.

As you can see, I’ve got my hands full keeping these thrill-seekers in line. But I’m not complaining. I’m too dazzled by the koi swimming in the copper jam pan. Jules has the coolest ideas and her creativity is enough to wake a zombie (or anyone feeling lethargic during a pandemic!).

“It would be a fabulous centerpiece for your next dinner party!” Mom adds, easing into her butterfly chair. Time now to contemplate the clouds, and think up more adventures in this era of couvre-feux and confinement.

--
Post note: No photo of the fish in the bassine à confiture, or copper jam pan. When I tried to recreate the scene, fishing wasn’t as easy as Mom made it look! 


Fish in pond
FRENCH VOCABULARY

un jeu de mots = a play on words

en effet = indeed

avoir la pêche = to feel energetic 

le tuyau = garden hose

avoir soif = to be thirsty

le goûter = snack

la pantoufle = house slipper

nos aînés = our elders

le gourmand = food lover

arroser  = to water

ou presque = or almost

un guet-apens = an ambush

une épuisette = pole and net for collecting fish or clearing  leaves from the pond

en taule  (en tôle) = in the slammer, prison

le poisson = fish

visiblement = clearly

reviens ici! = come back here!

le chien = dog

comme si de rien n’était = as if nothing were amiss

couvre-feu = curfew

The paris library
NEW IN BOOKS: THE PARIS LIBRARY by Janet Skeslien Charles. 
Based on the true World War II story of the heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris, this is an unforgettable story of romance, friendship, family, and the power of literature to bring us together, perfect for fans of The Lilac Girls and The Paris Wife. Order a copy here.

Smokey in papillon chair
Or senior chien, Smokey is doing great. Don’t miss this story of Mom’s papillon chair, click here.

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating 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, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


Wonderful phrase "Comme si de rien n'etait" + a Mother's lesson on giving

Paint-Provence-With-Tess---Advert---Kristi

Le printemps has come early to France and promises to bring a beautiful late spring and summer, if you are thinking of a wonderful and different sort of holiday why not come on one of my painting trips. All-inclusive from pick up to drop off, you get to see some of the most beautiful places in Provence and beyond. Eat gourmet food and have one on one teaching. The groups are small and friendly. Don’t miss out!! www.paintprovencewithtess.com

Today's Phrase: Comme si de rien n'etait

    : as if nothing had happened

Try Easy French Step-by-Step. Click here to view the book.

Click here for the audio file for today's word

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristi Espinasse

We were bundled up and heading out for our walk when Mom reached into her poche and pulled out a plastic baggy: "I've got cat food!" she sang.

Oh no! I thought, before auto-correcting, "Great. That's great, Mom."

(I DO think it is great Jules cares for the needy here in France--just as she did in Mexico, and back in the Arizona desert where she raised us. Even as a struggling, single parent, Mom encouraged us to "give away 10 percent"... and so showed my sister, Heidi, and me the importance of tithing. It's just that now we've got to watch out for our Mom, because she gives what she herself might one day need--to homeless men, stray cats, and les démunies--and we fear some take advantage of her. And when I say les démunies, this includes her 3 rescued hedgehogs and her growing flock of tourterelles. You'd be surprised at just how pushy doves can be! All but knocking on her window with their beaks!)

Some might say we have enough cat ladies in the neighborhood. I've spotted at least three sprinkling croquettes across fences, driveways, or along the trottoirs. One of the women is very discreet, posing as a kind of mail-carrier, scooping kibbles out of her satchel before moving on, comme si de rien n'était. (which, BTW, is another lesson Mom taught: Give, without anyone seeing you do it!)

A few blocks into our sortie, and Mom was eager to show me her latest adoptee: a hefty black cat who lives across from the surf rental shack, where an SDF sleeps at night. As Jules sprinkled dinner along the stairs beside the digue, I spied several empty gamelles on the other side of the bushes.

"There are 5 plates over there!" I pointed out. Ignoring me, Mom went about her joyful occupation, adding more cat food to one of the empty bowls.

"Look! The pigeons are coming." I warned. In 2 seconds flat the cat chow Mom had purchased disappeared beneath a flurry of feathers. "See! The pigeons get to it before even the cats! And look, here comes another woman with a box of croquettes!"

Unfazed, Mom and the stranger raised their kibbles, acknowledging one another and their common goal of comforting the homeless.

Stray cat
One of the stray cats in our neighborhood.

Aware now of my grumpy mood (this hayfever and spring lethargy is severe this year!), I relented: "I'm being a buzz kill aren't I?"

"You sure are!" Mom laughed. "You're just no fun!"

"The French have a word for party poopers," I offered. "It's casse-bonbons. Literally, a 'candy breaker'."

(Update: Boy I was wrong with that translation. Bonbon also refers to testicles! Too late, Mom was already calling me this!)

"Come over here, Casse-Bonbons. I have a surprise for you!"

A surprise? What could Jules have up her sleeves apart from cat food? Mom took my arm and guided me down to the waterfront. When I recognized the building towards which we were walking--the members-only sailing club--I panicked. "We can't go there!" 
 
"Yes, we can," Mom smiled. "I've already been..."

"No. We can't," I said, digging my heels into the ground. "You have to be invited by three club members" (an exaggeration, it was really two members, but anything to dissuade Mom).

As if she could be dissuaded. Mom tugged on my arm. "Come on!"

Screenshot_20200221-140925-01

A few steps later and I saw the sign, Acces public à la mer, and an arrow pointing to the opposite way of the yacht club. Mais bien sûr. Most beachfronts in France are open to the public! I had just never ventured far enough to see the sign!

And that is how I learned about a little-known gem of a plage--a flat-rock beach--in my own town--thanks to Mom and her trail of croquettes. And why am I surprised? It was Jules who always told us, back in the Arizona desert: to take a new path each day... (and to feed the cats and the homeless along the way).

I leave you with a few pictures of the passage we took to get to the beach, and a meaningful quote at the end of this post. 

Amicalement,
Kristi

EDIT ME: If you see une faute de frappe (a typo) in French or in English, I would greatly appreciate it if you would point it out in the comments or via email. Merci beaucoup!

Screenshot_20200221-140944-01

Screenshot_20200221-141125-01

FRENCH VOCABULARY
la poche = pocket
les croquettes pour chat = dry cat food
la tourterelle = turtledove
démuni(e) = needy, destitute, the very poor 
le trottoir = sidewalk
comme si de rien n'était = as if nothing had happened
la sortie = trip, outing, excursion
la gamelle = dish, bowl
la digue = seawall, embankmentOuvert au public 
SDF (Sans Domicile Fixe) = homeless
le casse-bonbons = pain in the neck, pest
la plage = beach
Magpie on the beach
My mom loves magpies, so it was a treat to see this one on "Mom's beach." Also, notice how the rocks above the magpie form a face. Here, below is the full picture of our view from the little beach.
Rocky beach in La Ciotat
I leave you with the words of Thomas Merton, which may sum up my Mom's philosophy when it comes to giving, loving, sharing. If you'd like to translate the sentence in the comments, that would be lovely: Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. 

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating 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, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


mesaventure: Mom's mishap, Smokey's in limbo, and I choked on a pill

Ironmutt smokey golden retriever dog chien silly

In limbo. Both Smokey and my Mom were in limbo this week: the one is still waiting for his tumor  test results, while the other is about to land in Madrid, si Dieu le veut (God willing!) Here is a picture of Smokey to make us all smile in the meantime. The title "Ironmutt" is in reference to the medal he is wearing, swiped from Jean-Marc who is a recent finisher of the race which took place in Aix-en-Provence. Bravo Jean-Marc! And Bravo for helping my Mom when she was stranded in Mexico City at the airport.... More in today's story.

Meantime... Is it possible to choke to death on a vitamin? Yes, it is! Stay tuned and I may share my story of this morning's ambulance ride to ER in the next edition when I share a life-saving verb with you! (No, on second thought, you should not have to wait for this tip. Here it it is now, in English: CRUSH your vitamin pills if they are too big! Never, ever cut them in half, where a square or jagged end could lodge itself in place. And never ever try to flush a giant stuck tablet with water. )

 UNE MESAVENTURE

    : mishap

 AUDIO FILE: Listen to Jackie talk about her grand-mère:
Download MP3 or WAV

Grandma Jules a eu une petite mésaventure à l'aéroport.
Grandma Jules had a little mishap at the airport.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse


Mom's mésaventure in Mexico City

Yesterday morning I woke up to some alarming news: instead of being in flight and about to land... my mom was turned away at the boarding gate and could not make her connecting flight to France! She was now in limbo midway through her voyage, stuck in a Mexican airport far from home, without a valid ticket or a credit card!

And yet, the ticketing agents let her onto her first flight back in her hometown of Puerto Vallarta! The airline employees did not notice, at that crucial moment, that her ticket was not paid for!

"Log onto your bank account and see if they debited your card!" Jean-Marc ordered, upset at finding out the news upon waking at 5 a.m. 

Groggy, I hurried out of bed and fired up my computer to learn my card was not debited, months ago after we made mom's reservation. Despite this, we received a confirmation email for all three flights! (And all three flight were "paid for" on the same credit card.)

So how did Mom manage to get on that first flight?

"I did ask, at check-in, for all my boarding passes," Mom explained, speaking to us now from the Camino Real aiport hotel. "But the flight attendants were dealing with a technical issue, an could only provide my first boarding pass. They assured me my baggage claim voucher, which mentioned my final destination, would suffice."

Mom relaxed, had a beer near the gate, and, as usual, proceeded to dole out much of her cash to the "sweet ladies who clean the restrooms." 

But when she arrived in Mexico City only to be refused entry on her flight to Madrid, she was now in limbo, and with little cash and no credit card! "They told me at gate check-in that my ticket was not valid.

In addition to being in limbo, Mom's limbs were aching as well (after having a steel plate removed from her hip several years ago, and a double mastectomy, she just doesn't have the energy she used to. For this, Jean-Marc arranged a wheelchair, but the moment she was found to have been traveling on an unpaid ticket, and having gifted her pocket change to the restroom angels, she lost her wheelchair advantages!

I don't know how she made it back to the Camino Real hotel, or how she kept her chipper and thankful attitude which sung as we spoke on the phone.

"Honey, I'm just worried about those people who did make it onto the plane!" Mom explained, wondering if all the roadblocks she just experienced were somehow shielding her from misfortune....

***

Post note: I checked the original flight throughout the day and night, relieved when it touched down safe in Madrid. All I ask now, is that Mom's alternative flight will land safely! I'm off to check "Madrid arrivals", now on the internet. Mom should be resting in the airport since her 14:20 landing. She is probably visiting the powder room, looking for some more cleaning angels in which to share the euros she saved from her previous trip! (Mom, if you are reading, save a few euros as you have one more flight to go before you land in Marseilles!)

Thanks for your positive thoughts and "see you" next week (or this afternoon, on Instagram and Facebook, if you are reading updates over there!)
 

 

Borage-bee

Here is the photo and message I posted on Instagram and Facebook, just before Mom took that first flight! Blue borage flowers and the early evening sky. My mom will be boarding a plane soon, and asked me to pray she gets three seats to lie down on for her Mexico-Madrid flight. It is a long journey, so please think good thoughts for her. Thanks.

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating 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, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


To take off, to get off the ground. Can you say this in French?

Mom in the garden

Mom's wish before she took off this morning (it could be custom fit to speak to any one of us, no matter our hearts desires!). Read to the end and find out. (Photo of Jules admiring the poireaux, or leeks, which went to seed, beautifully.)

décoller (day-ko-lay)

    : to take off, to leave the ground (flight)
    : to unstick, unglue, blast off

 

Mom in the garden

Dear Mom,

You look so happy in the above photo, but the truth is I have never seen you so blue. It was Monday, June 23rd, the night before your departure... 

1-horizon

It was your idea to drag out the lawnchairs--including the chaise longue we found earlier, while dumpster diving. :-)

"We can lie out and watch the stars!" you cheered, but the sadness in your eyes gave away your tristesse.

Hipster (2)

 Chin up, chin up! Allez courage!

But you shot through the garden, and I ran after you, snapping these memories, "...until next year, when you return. It'll go by fast!" I swore over and over.

(By the way, there's the little green Aloe Vera sign, left, the one I made you promise to take when you ran into the store to buy me the soothing plant (this after my do-it-yourself skin peel left my nose all ablister! Next time I'll consider having the dermatologist remove the spots. Though I really do think that euphorbia peplus plant may be the ticket for my little problems!)

Outreaching

 Overheard on the lawnchairs: "I just know the sunflowers are going to open the day you leave...."

Pointing

"It doesn't matter, Honey. Just look at all the blooms we can see today! By the way, Honey, if you post my picture please tell everyone that Karen in Phoenix gave me this dress! She would be so please to see how it looks."

"I will Mom, I promise. And it looks beautiful on you." (Sniff. Sniff.)

Smiling
Too bad that hose is in the picture. But there's no way I'm stopping to put the tuyau away--not when I can be enjoying every moment with Mom. 

Walking (2)

"Keep your eyes on the horizon, Honey, and never ever look back!"

"OK, Mom. And is there anything else you'd like to say before you leave?"

"Keep building your garden!"

*    *    *

I will, Mom. I'll do my best to keep busy with a valorisant pursuit, one I can share with others. But I'm going to need your to rescue more orphaned chairs to fill up the garden! So unpack those hiking boots--the ones you pulled out of the dumpster--and leave them here. You're going to need them next time we go treasure hunting!

Love,

Kristi

Post Note: Please send good thoughts to Jules. Her 9:30 a.m. flight was delayed when, suddenly, Air France's air traffic controllers went on strike! She has a long, long voyage ahead of her (now that her flight took off, or managed to décollé, two hours later than scheduled.

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating 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, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


to cradle in French + garden photo

Fava beans-snap peas-mom-artichoke
                                     Today is your story. Write on!

Tenir tendrement, bercer

    : to cradle

AUDIO FILE: Jean-Marc recorded the example sentence, below, in lively Marseilles. Enjoy! Download MP3 or Wav

En regardant bien cette photo, on dirait que les fèves, les artichauts, et compagnie sont en train de tenir tendrement ma maman. Looking at this photo, you could say the favas, the artichokes, and the rest are cradling my mom.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

Today is "Wordless Wednesday"... except it's Thursday. Please have a look at the photo, above, of my Mom in the garden….and would it be possible for you to write today's story? You know, your interpretation of Mom in the garden, her thoughts at that moment etc.  Make up something good and mix in as many French words as you wish!

Mom and I will be anxiously awaiting all of your stories.  Just post your words here in the comments box. Mom loves this idea; actually she made most of this post up while I was emptying the dishwasher. 

 *    *    *
Sorbonne Confidential Laurel ZuckermanPARIS WEBLOG 
I would like to thank Laurel Zuckerman, author of Sorbonne Confidential. See her Paris Writers News for our talk about publishing and France. I especially had fun with the question Do you have a favorite word in French? Read the intervew here.
 
 
 
Almond harvest 2014
Up next: Three professional French skiers help us get a handle on the almond harvest! To comment on this post, go here.

Share this post and help spread the French word. Merci beaucoup :-)

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating 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, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


en panne

Flax flowers

Never stop receiving these words and photos (this one, with flax flowers, taken in the back yard)

Today's word reminds me we need a Plan B! Recently I've learned that French Word-A-Day is not delivering to all subscribers. Rather than panic (changing mail carriers), I'll continue sending out these posts via Feedburner. But before we lose each other, please take a moment to connect with me here, via Twitter where I may update you au cas où, or in the event....  

panne (pan)

    : breakdown, failure

tomber en panne = break down (car)
une panne d'éléctricité = power failure
une panne sèche = out of gas
avoir une panne d'oreiller = ("a pillow breakdown") to oversleep


Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc read the following sentence (and today's word and the phrase tomber en panneDownload MP3 or Wav file

Que faire en cas de panne ? 6 consignes pour préserver votre vie et celle de vos passagers si vous devez vous arrêtez sur la bande d'arrêt d'urgence. What to do in case your car breaks down? 6 instructions to save your life and those of your passengers if you have to stop on the emergency lane. --Autoroutes.fr

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

Wearing her Panama hat and her Mexican poncho, Jules inhaled the fresh pine air and wiggled her toes, seemingly oblivious to the exhaust fumes trailing up from the road below. Not two days after she arrived in France, Mom was barefoot on the shoulder of the highway! She may have been shoeless and stranded after my car broke down, but she was smiling bright.

I sat down beside Mom, beneath a shady umbrella pine, and we waited as cars whizzed by. "Here, hold this." I handed over my purse as a makeshift écritoire. Fishing out some old receipts, I scribbled "EN PANNE" across the flimsy paper. Next I colored in the ballpoint letters and tucked the notes on my car's front and back windows, sous les essuie-glaces.

"Lucky for us Max was home and is now coming to the rescue," I chirped, mirroring Mom's  attitude. She was in such a good mood--even after loosing a shoe (her sandal broke back at the pépinière, as we tromped up and down rows of apricot and cherry trees, eventually coming to our senses and choosing a specimen that would fit in my small Citroën).

Mom and the Papyrus 

Shooting the breeze as we waited, I thanked Mom for the tall, leafy papyrus, which was recovered from the passenger seat and now stranded beside us, here on the bande d'arrêt d'urgence. "I've got another pair of sandals for you!" I added, remembering my collection--all gifts from mon beau-père John, who sends them along with Mom each time she comes to visit from her home in Mexico.

When my son arrived, I argued when he got into my car and tried to start it. "I wouldn't do that if I were you! There is a really strange odor... What if the car explodes?!

Max brushed me off and got into my car and--amazingly--drove off! I watched as the car lurched forward and back, all the way up the road. 

"What is he doing?!" 

"He is taking care of things," Mom announced. "He's 19 years old. His friends' cars must break down all the time, Honey. He knows what he is doing."

Five minutes later Max was running back to us, sans voiture. "I found a parking space opposite the mechanic's."

"He's just saved you a hundred dollar tow fee," Max's grandmother pointed out. "Smart kid!"

Normally, when my son's street smarts kick in, I remind him he gets his brains from me (nevermind I was last in my class to graduate). But this time it was normal to give credit to the bright-eyed grand-mère who stood clasping her hands in admiration.

Looking at my son (who finishes high school this week) I had to admit, "You get those brains from Grandma Jules!"

***
Max won't be graduating last in his class, because he's madly studying for the baccalauréat. Wish him luck! He'll need to pass this high school exam to make it into a university.

Comments
To respond to this story, click here

  1-IMG_20140601_180214

 Son Max, his grand-mère Jules, and the papyrus she gave us. The sign above the tip of Mom's hat is serendipidous. It reads Merci. Thanks Max!

1-IMG_20140601_122125
My beautiful maman. Plates full of salad and jam jars filled will water, we're enjoying every moment together, Mom and I! Those are Jean-Marc's muddy docksiders in the background--beside another bouquet of his vineyard wildflowers.

FRENCH VOCABULARY

tomber en carafe = slang for to break down on the side of the road
une écritoire = writing tablet
en panne = broken down
un essuie-glace = windshield wiper
la pépinière = plant nursery
bande d'arrêt d'urgence = emergency lane
le beau-père = stepfather, father-in-law

 
Jean-marc and vines

In other happenings, Jean-Marc scored when a wine nursery gave him a couple dozen orphans! These Tibouren vines are an ancient variety primary grown in Provence. See the babies, above, with their waxy red "hats". The shoots will soon break through the wax and leaves will appear. Presto, a grape is born!

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating 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, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


How to say lawn chair in French

balcony terrace france almost summertime (c) Kristin Espinasse 
Photo of front porch, where Mom and I will soon have coffee. The wind blew off the makeshift curtain (an attempt to shade the area at lunchtime...)

la chaise-longue (shez- lowng)

 

    : lawn chair 

Elle est dans le jardin, en train de lire sur sa chaise-longue. She's in the garden, reading on her lawn chair. 

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

"I could hear you girls giggling all night long!"  Mom called out.

I looked up from the flower bed, where I had been experimenting with an ice plant (could one really stick a griffe de sorcière in the ground.. and it would grow?). "Good morning Mom!" I chirped, waving the experimental cutting.

A second-story window framed my mom and the morning sun dazzled her eyes, which sparkled with life. She had her silver hair tied back and her olive complexion was as fresh as the morning dew that covered the plants beneath me. I could tell Mom was full of energy today. Perhaps we could do something special to mark this, her second-to-last day in France before returning home to Mexico?

"Come have your tea with me?" I stood up, shook the dirt from my hands and pointed to the picnic table. 

Mom was down in a flash and we were reliving the previous evening, in which I had the pleasure of spending time with Ann and Katia, a writer and a beloved podcaster. I rarely have the occasion to speak in person with people who do similar work to my own, and it was interesting to talk about the highs and lows of creative work.

Mom loved my friends and I assured her that they found her just as endearing. "I'm sorry I talked too much..." Mom apologized, as we took our cups of tea and walked from the front porch to the meadow, below, to have a look at all the plants among the olive trees. 

"Don't worry about it!" I said, feeling a little ashamed for having elbowed Mom the night before. Having realized she was three-quarters of the way through her life story, I wondered: had Mom gotten to the part where she was rescued? Strapped onto a lawn chair and lowered onto a Mexican panga boat to be transferred from the remote fishing village to a city hospital? Ironically, that would be the beginning of her nightmare.).

I was sorry to have been disrespectful to my Mom and regretted my words from the night before (along with a few other things I'd said during her four week visit to France). And now Mom would be leaving soon. Had we said and done all we had wished to say and do?

"I just want to lie here in the garden," Mom said, "here under this olive tree. I'll go get the other lawn chair."

"Stay there! I'll get it for you!" I dashed off, past the wild fennel and the bright red poppies, to the terrain de pétanque--where those "witches fingernails" I'd been transplanting grew--and snatched up the chaise longue.

We arranged the lawn chairs along the slope, until we were looking up at one of the ancient olive trees. "I'd like this one to be mine," Mom suggested. "Could you put my name on it?"

It was a lovely idea. I could then sit by the tree and think of Mom while she was an ocean away....

"Look over there," I said, pointing to a figuier I'd discovered the day before. The little fig tree (really a series of shoots from an ancient trunk) had been completely overrun by an invasive bush. The night before, I'd gotten the long-handled shears and freed it of its leafy invader and could now admire it from where Mom and I were sitting. "OK, I said, this one is Jules! And do you know what I've named the little fig tree?"

Mom's eyes were bright with curiosity. 

"Newton!"

We sat there laughing beneath the olive tree, remembering yesteryear--before one of us moved to Mexico and the other to France. Back when we shared tall glasses of milk and those favorite fig-filled cookies.

"Fig Newtons..." Mom said, reminiscent.

"I'll call him "Newey" for short." I winked at my mom, who smiled as we gazed at our trees, affectionately. 

As the wind blew through the trees' branches, causing the leaves to rustle, our conversation carried on, lackadaisically. I no longer hoped we were making the most of our time, but knew that this cozy moment was the yesteryear of tomorrow--as comforting and sweet as those fig-filled cookies.

*    *    *

 Calanque (c) Kristin Espinasse

Making memories with Mom. After Mom befriended this guy, she handed me the ball to play.

A Jules by the sea (c) Kristin Espinasse


The game of retrieval (c) Kristin Espinasse

Don't tell Smokey and Braise... We'll bring them the next time!

How to clean a French window (c) Jules
Tidying up the house before tidying up ourselves... and heading out to explore another seaside town...

Mama Jules
Mom, "la capitaine", at the port in La Ciotat. I think it's time to name Mom's fish purse à la Mr Sacks. Suggestions welcome in the comments box!

Kristin Espinasse - la Ciotat
At the seaside market in La Ciotat, I bought a jujube tree and a few other natives to plant in our garden, beside the Mediterranean strawberry tree, or arbusier. What are some other local trees and fruit-bearing shrubs that you would suggest? Meantime, Mom and I are busy trying to identify more than trees... but all of the edible weeds and medicinal plants here in the olive field or meadow: plantain, fumeterre, fennel, lucerne, chardon de marie, pissenlit... and heaps of thyme and rosemary.

Jules in Provence (c) Kristin Espinasse
I'm going to miss you so much, Mom. Come back soon! And thank you for being my sweet maman. While her adoring husband is waiting for her back in Mexico, help me wish Mom bon voyage, here in the comments box.

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating 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, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens