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.

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!


Canon: How to compliment a French Woman

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A lesson in adjectives: windows are "charmante", women are "canon". You wouldn't say a window is canon, but you could say a woman is charmante. Read on and learn about the French art of complimenting. Photo taken this week in Orange (Vaucluse).

canon [kah noh(n)]

    : gorgeous

There are other senses of the word.. for today we'll focus on the one above

elle/il est canon = she/he's gorgeous
les canons de la beauté = canons of beauty 

Audio File: listen to today's French word and phrase: Elle est canon Download MP3 or Wav

. 

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

How to Compliment a Frenchwoman

Mom and I are in the village pharmacy, having made a beeline here from the doctor's office. We're in luck when one of the three counter stations instantly opens. We step up to the comptoir and I hand over the scribbled ordonnances.

As the pharmacist studies the doctor's prescriptions, Mom studies the pharmacist and when the latter turns and disappears into the stock room Mom is breathless. "My God. She's beautiful!"

"I know," I respond, matter-of-factly.

"She looks as though she could walk right out of this vineyard town... and onto the big screen!" Mom is wowed.

"Did you see her hair?" Mom continues, and I recall the thick brown boucles that fall to the pharmacist's waist.

"Chestnut-colored," I guess.

"With golden highlights!" Mom corrects. "And not a stitch of makeup. She is a classic beauty -- like Audrey Hepburn--only, she must be 5'11!"

"I know, Mom. She is gorgeous." I conclude.

"Well, haven't you ever told her that?"...

I think about the pharmacist -- she is what the French would classify as canon. If she is this beautiful... chances are she is the last one to have heard about it. After all, the French do not dish out compliments as the folks back home do--at least not to strangers. But this isn't to say that they do not praise one another, or strangers--they just do so discreetly, almost imperceivably.

How to explain this to my mom, who is poised to shower compliments just as soon as the pharmacist returns? Mom has already done the impossible (by reaching for those chestnut curls! I can't believe she ran her fingers through the pharmacist's hair, as a mother would her own daughter!).

"Mom, the French are..." (and here I pause to find the correct word...) "...the French are a little reserved that way!"

Mom is not impressed with this latest French-etiquette lesson, which is quickly dismissed, and, by the time the pharmacist returns, I feel the need to explain the goggle-eyed woman to my right. If I don't say something right away, Mom will say it for me--in her own extravagant way.

And so I blurt it out. "Ma mère pense que vous êtes magnifique!"

As if Mom could understand my French (which she cannot) she looks at me expectantly, until I've coughed up the entire compliment:

"...et c'est vrai!"

Were we French, Mom and I would have waited until the pharmacist walked off and, while she was still within earshot, we would have let her hear our admiring thoughts: qu'est-ce qu'elle est belle cette fille! Elle est charmante!

Though we have yet to master the French art of complimenting, our Mom-thinks-this approach seemed to have the same effect... and that palpable French reserve that I had so often felt began to break a little bit in time to soften or melt.
. 

French Vocabulary

le comptoir = counter

une ordonnance = prescription

une boucle = curl

Ma mère pense que vous êtes magnifique! = My mother thinks you are magnificent

Qu'est-ce qu'elle est belle cette femme! = She is so beautiful, this woman!

Elle est charmante! = She is charming!

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Everyone thinks their mom is canon - and I, especially so! Sorry for the dark image (I should have used the camera flash!). This photo of Mom, aka Jules, was taken just this morning, before she left on her 24-hour voyage home to Mexico! Here she is readjusting her turtleneck (earlier, she had on a camisole beneath her Frida cape! I told her to cover up - because I know she gets cold on airplanes).

 

Capture plein écran 20052011 094508

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Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!


avouer

MalJuDoKris

These ladies light up my life. Mom and I had an inspiring visit with the Dirt Divas. I wish I had had a tape recorder with me to capture some of the chippy bantering! From left to right: Malou, Jules, Doreen, Kristin. Click to enlarge the photo.

avouer (ah voo ay)

    : to admit

avoue-le! = admit it!

Example sentence: J'avoue que je suis un peu sauvage. I admit that I am a bit unsociable.

The Greater Journey : Americans in Paris

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

"Secrets"

I decided not to tell Mom until she got here. Why ruin her trip? Why get her thinking on something, ticking about it, when, instead, she could experience another day or two of peace? Besides, she had 24 hours of travel ahead of her and I wanted that trip to go as smoothly as possible.

And so I waited until she arrived to admit to her that I had broken a promise (that is, I think I had promised? It seemed I had. If my guilty feelings were any indication, then I had surely given Mom ma parole).

When I finally told Mom about the broken promesse, prefacing the avowal with enough of a lead-up that Mom was poised to receive une bombe... I let it drop, my little firecracker: Mom, I am so sorry....

... but I did not get around to having your latest painting framed! It is still rolled up, as you had left it, and I am afraid that it might be damaged, having been stored in that position for this long....

Closely, I studied Jules's face, not being able to stand another instant of guessing what her reaction might be. Suddenly, all the worry lines that had built up during my long lead-in to THE AVOWAL... disappeared.

"Is that it?" Mom questioned. I assured her it was. Only, instead of being disappointed, Mom seemed utterly pleased! Oh, that's nothing!, Jules assured me, falling back onto her pillow in relief.

On the subject of pillows... I notice Mom's head has been resting a lot on her oreiller in the last week... (This brings us to Secret No. 2.... : Mom's Avowal)

By day four or five of Mom's visit, my suspicion is growing.... and by lunch on the 7th day, I have lost my appetite. A lump in my throat, hopelessness rising inside, I look across the picnic table to Mom. Something is just not right. That contagious charisma that shines out from within has been replaced by a dull regard.  

I begin to string together the clues:
She's not brushing her hair...
She's sleeping till noon... 

I suspect Mom's reclusive behavior has to do with her medications... the ones she promised she would bring with her to France this time! My eyes begin to smart. There's that pinching sensation that warns that tears are on the way. When I resist (holding my eyes tight), I feel my very own anxiety ignite... 

That evening I fight the urge to retreat, to lick my own wounds up in the privacy of my room. Instead, I stop by Mom's window in the courtyard. The shutters are open and Mom is seated on the other side, framed by the room's light. She is wearing her brightly colored dressing gown with the glittery sequins. If only the colors in her sunken soul matched her vibrant robe.

I carry a garden chair over to the window and its ledge becomes a table between Mom and me. My question breaks the silence. "How are you feeling?" Having asked THE QUESTION, I brace myself for Mom's avowal.

She admits: "I've been halving my medication..."

The information sinks in. My chippy of a Mom has done it again! Though I feel like screaming, I decide, instead, to try for once to learn from past lessons. I calmly ask Mom to tell me exactly how many pills remain. Mom produces two packets, two different medications. She pulls out the sheets of tablets and begins counting. "Well... if I cut them in half, then..."

"No half doses!" I remind Mom. "Now, tell me, how many days do you have left?" I hear the macabre irony as the question rings in my ear, for, without medication, Mom is not truly living: she is suspended, in time, like a deer frozen before headlights.

Mom explains that she was not able to get four weeks' worth of her medication, and I am reminded of the shoddy situation of health care elsewhere. Not everyone has the privilege of walking into their pharmacy and leaving with enough medications to meet their needs. 

My heart goes out to my mother and to her husband, who tries hard to meet all of her needs. Only, this time, it was an impossibility.

I learn about how he has saved coupons in order to be able to stock up on the supply of medications that Mom would need for this trip. Only, they were a week short of being able to benefit from the 2-for-1 offer... and so Mom left with "almost enough medication". Because the idea of traveling all the way back to Mexico, having just gone off her meds, frightened her, she began dividing for the future!

Mom tells me that the secret she's been keeping has only aggravated her symptoms.  "But, Mom!, you should have told me, immediately! Transparency!," I remind her, "is the key to peaceful living."

As soon as I've preached my latest sermon, I am struck by the absurdity of my cloudy philosophy (I remember my own secret...). From now on, I might do well to practice transparency before illuminating others on the virtues that lead one to peace. 

***

Post note: so I made Mom a deal: why not make it our goal to accomplish two monumental-to-us tasks: to get the painting framed and to get to the doctor! 

Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections and comments are welcome. Merci d'avance! Click here to leave a message.

 

Related story: This isn't the first time our mother-daughter relationship was put to the test. Once, I locked Mom out of the house (I don't think I've written about that one...!!!) and another time, two years ago, Mom came to France without her anxiety medication. We had to live through a trying power outage, which only added to the moodiness (click here)!

French Vocabulary

chippy = (adj = rascally; noun = rascal)

ma parole = my word

la promesse = promise

une bombe = bomb

un oreiller = pillow

la robe = dress 

 

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"The Courage to Face Another Day". A trompe-l'oeil in the village of St Roman de Malegarde.

Shop like the French!

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Capture plein écran 12052011 095757 Stripped trolley

  Doreen mom

"Missing Malou". Kristin with Doreen and Mom. (Photo by Malou)

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!


zone de confort

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Never miss a word of photo: get French Word-A-Day delivered by email, here. Pictured: our daughter, Jackie, at the écurie, where today's story takes place... By the way, is anybody else as terrified by horses as I am?


zone de confort (zown deuh kohn fohr)

    : comfort zone
. 

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the following French words:
Download MP3 or Wav file

sortir de votre zone de confort = move out of your comfort zone
oser quitter votre zone de confort = dare to leave your comfort zone


Capture plein écran 16052011 092531

The classic Bescherelle, the complete guide to French verb conjugation. Read the 5 star reviews, and order, here.
. 

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

Out of One's Comfort Zone

At the horse stables where my daughter has her riding lesson, Jules and I are sitting on the freshly-mowed pelouse. Mom is wearing her bubblegum-blue poncho and her panama hat with the red silk roses. She has spread out her Mexican tapis, the bright blue one with all the giant red fish, making our trespass even more conspicuous.

I try to hold my tongue, after all, I have recited enough rules for the day (earlier, in the village of Tulette, I noticed Mom making a beeline toward the café, where two Moroccan men sat smoking. "Let's not talk to anyone!" I suggested, not wanting to get involved in another names-and-telephone-numbers exchange.  Mom indicated she wouldn't, but eventually, mon adorable chipie de maman, left me at the table in order to chat with the shopkeepers, making friends and appointments as she went...)

Back on the grass at the stables, I spoke: "This isn't such a good idea," I said, of the blanket and the feather oreillers that Mom had dragged out to the lawn beside the horse arena. "In France people don't lie on the grass!" 

Mom's response was to rap on the feather pillow, ordering me to take a seat! Next, like a starfish, she threw out her arms and legs, fell back on the pillow, and sky-gazed. "AHHHHHH!"

My back toward the barn and to the riders who were surely reporting us, I sat there, crookedly, unwilling to relax into the comfortable pillow beside me. Leaning sharply on my elbow, my eyes scanned the horse park, where I began questioning the quality of grass....

Perhaps different grass has different rules? I wondered. This grass here, with its wheat tones and dry patches... was different, wasn't it?, from Paris Luxembourg Gardens grass. There, you wouldn't dare relax (...or have the pelouse police on your back!).

My elbow grew sore and my back, at such a crooked angle, tired... along with my rules and resolutions. "Go ahead. Lie back!" Mom suggested, eager to share the world from her eyes-to-the-sky perspective.

When my head hit the pillow the first thing I noticed were the leaves in the tree above me. SUCH GREEN LEAVES! With the sun shining down through them, the tips were saturated with color.

The feuilles, shaped like giant outstretched hands, waved in the breeze, capturing all of my attention so that when the stable-owner marched up and towered over me, I could not see her for the tree leaves!

I scrambled to a seated position in time to be read my rights. Surely we were in trouble for suffocating the grass!

But, instead of a reprimand, all I heard were these inviting words: Profitez, mesdames, de cette magnifique journée. With that, the stable owner slipped by, a smile and kindness still sparkling in her eyes.

 ***

Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections, feedback, and stories of your own are most welcome here, in the comments box.  

Let's create a fun list together....

100 (or so) Ways to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone!

I'll begin - with a few goals of my own:

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1.  Ask the baker whether you might take her picture!

2. Go on a solo road trip

3. Give a talk at a library (or a school), sharing an idea or a hobby

4. Plant bird-of-paradise next to your mailbox

5. Stop the car next time something catches your eye (like the lady who sat out in front of her home, knitting)

6. Paint happy stars on a door, chez vous!

7. Tuck wildflowers into your hatband

8. Write a 40-page novel... for your eyes only and just for fun!

9... (Your turn to leave some tips here in the comments box!)

 

French Vocabulary

une écurie = horse stable

la pelouse (also le gazon) = grass

le tapis = rug

la chipie (pronounced "she-pee") = rascal, little devil

mon adorable chipie de maman =  my lively, mischievious, light-hearted and charming Mom

un oreiller = pillow

la feuille = leaf

Profitez, mesdames, de cette magnifique journée = Seize and enjoy this magnificent day!

 

IMG_5147
On a recent walk near the river, Mom gathered wildflowers (chèvrefeuille, or honeysuckle, and genêt, or broom) for her hatband, or ruban de chapeau.

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French Demystified: A Self-Teaching Guide 

I'll Never Be French (no matter what I do): Living in a Small Village in Brittany. Read review for this memoir

  Capture plein écran 16052011 090119
Wicker basket. For the farmer's market, for the beach, for a carry-on, for a picnic... (that's my mom, Jules's basket, pictured below!) Buy this multipurpose "panier" here.

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Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!


surclasser un passager

IMG_5002
Mom has arrived!  Here she is in her bump-me-up outfit (do you see Frida Kahlo on the cape?), the one that got her whisked into business class the moment she stepped onto the airplane. "Who can resist Frida?" Mom demanded, with that testy twinkle in her eye, when I asked for the specifics of her airline upgrade. (Picture taken last February, during my visit to Jules's home in Mexico.)

surclasser un passager

    : to upgrade or bump up a passenger
. 

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words: Download MP3 or Wave file 

Hier, Jules a été surclassée dans son vol Mexico-Amsterdam.
Yesterday, Jules was bumped up for her Mexico-Amsterdam flight. 

 

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

Mom arrives

The call of the rossignol pierced through our flowery courtyard, tickling my ears with poetry. I was standing in the doorwell of the studio we had prepared for Mom, peeking out from behind the climbing jasmine, when I realized that there was some sort of delay over there in the driveway....

Wearing house slippers, I scuttled over to the front gate, beyond which I saw Jean-Marc unloading Jules's carry-on. "But where is Mom?"

"Elle est dans la cave," he answered. Alors comme ça, my chipie of a mom had disappeared into the wine cellar!

When next I saw a cloud of red, I recognized Jules in her favorite Frida Kahlo cape. She wore her panama chapeau with the thick red hat-band, in which she had tucked two red roses en soie.

"John bought these from the blind Mexican on the corner...." Mom explained, wanting me to know of her husband's thoughtful gesture the hour before her departure from Puerto Vallarta. 

"This one's you," Mom indicated, her hand reaching up to locate the first flower, "...and that one's me". She patted the silk flowers, "They represent his love for us".

I recognized another of Jules's attempts to bond her husband and her daughter. If only my darling mom knew that, just like that nightingale singing in the hedge, her family communicates clearly now and the best is yet ahead.

***

Postnote: Standing there in the driveway, no sooner did I have all of Mom's attention.... when four thieves rushed in and stole her affections!  I stepped back to offer my place to two tinsel-toothed teens and a couple of gushing goldens. Waiting in line, behind the dogs, my joy was not diminished in giving the others first dibs.


Le Coin Commentaires
To respond to this story or to today's word, click here.


French Vocabulary
le rossignol = nightingale
elle est dans la cave = she's in the wine cellar
alors, comme ça = and so, like that
la chipie = little rascal, little devil
le chapeau = hat 

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  DSC_0109

 Three characters in Villedieu (Vaucluse): one of the places I'd like to take Jules while she's here.

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Capture plein écran 12052011 095845
 check out this one with matching boots (click here)!

 

 

 

 

DSC_0114

Sunflowers can be just as happy on a small balcony as in a field wide as the breeze. Why not plant one this weekend? Photo taken in Cassis.

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Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!


Sur la production de la passion

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In pursuit of one's shadow... read on. (P.S.: ever seen the shadow of a tongue?)
. 

Sur La Production de La Passion
(On Manufacturing Passion)

During a telephone conversation last night, Mom and I talked about passion and peace (a dichotomy?) On the one hand, our passions drive us... and yet we are always looking for the road to La Paix.

"I spent several hours cruising the internet yesterday," Mom tells me. "I navigate from one creative site to the next." It is all overwhelming in the end. Finally, Mom concludes:

Perhaps I need to manufacture my own passion!

...Maybe I'll go out and buy some paint thinner... but then, I am so happy here (away from the blank canvas), resting quietly by the window, sharing this chocolate-chip cookie with Breezy!


Some say peace is what happens when we give up our passions. Just a thought and, along with Mom's cookie, quelque chose to snack on today....
. 

Le Coin Commentaires
Your thoughts are welcome here, in the comments box.

P1000890
 
Mustard-flower passion beneath still-sleeping vines.

P1000883
Some are passionate about orchids... here's a wild one for you.

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!


haut les coeurs!

"Heart in Burgundy" (c) Kristin Espinasse
Current events have us wearing our hearts on our former façades... and it's a good thing, n'est-ce pas?

haut les coeurs (oh lay ker)

    : lift up your spirit, take heart, be brave! have courage!


Thank you, Carolyn Foote Edelmann, for today's French expression: Carolyn writes, in response to Monday's seisme post:

Small thought - watching their dignity and fortitude, I think [the Japanese] may not want to be called 'victims'.

My Provencal neighbors had a phrase which sounded to me like "o, liqueurs!" - but was, in fact, HAUT LES COEURS! - [High the hearts]... I love it that this word, in France, implies "to infuse with courage".

Thank you for linking those of us who love France with a country I am taught to love (having lived through Pearl Harbor) as I never thought I would, watching their fortitude in the face of the impossible.

 

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

Universal Love

I am rooting through the medicine chest, looking for the small blue box that contains my mouth guard. I haven't worn the protective shield in over a month, but I need it now. Teeth grinding is up, along with that ticky tremblement just beneath my eyelid. Twitching and grinding - it is the body's way of responding to those things that are out of its control: like our dog's destructive behavior, like Japan, like Mother Nature.

I grab the small blue box and pry it open... when something flies past me... landing with a TING!  I bend over, narrowing my eyes, ignoring the annoying tremblement de la paupière. 

I see a heart lying there, on the floor... t'was a heart that had fallen out of that toothbox...

Suddenly it all comes rushing back to me...

I see myself back in Mexico, packing my bags. I see my mom reaching to hug me. I hear her voice: "I've put a little surprise in your toothbox... open it up when you are on the plane."

I'm on the airplane now... reaching into my backpack for the blue box. I open it up and there, beside the plastic tooth guard, is the tarnished locket-heart.

I hear Mom's explanation when I call her that evening to thank her.

"It was a gift," she says.  And she tells me the story of the bus ride, when the Mexican "street man" stepped on board. 

Listening to the poor passenger who had taken the seat behind her, Mom sympathized, pointing to her own losses: she took off her hat and pointed out her thinning white hair. Then she pounded on her chest, pointing out her missing breasts!

When she put her hand on her hip, the man could not possibly know about the once broken bone. Mom didn't have the Spanish words to tell him.

And so, without translation, the odd couple on the bus shared their rotten luck, without drama, without fuss. And when Mom stood to get off the bus, so, too, the Mexican man stood up.

Humblement, the street man reached into his frayed pocket and pulled out the little tarnished heart-locket. He closed Mom's hand over the gift, before sending her off with a mutual heart-lift. 

***

Standing there in the bathroom looking down at the treasure in the palm of my hand... I feel the quiet peace that has swept in all around me. The world outside the bathroom door might be in a state of chaos. But I no longer feel swept up in it, shaken or tossed. 

 

 Le Coin Commentaires
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  July2005 039

Mum's the word! Jackie (pictured sans maquillage, age 7) thanks you for your feedback on her story! She's written three more articles... one of which is très "edgy". (She doesn't seem to have a problem with self-censorship, as her mother does!) I warn her that posting the story might get her kicked out of school. Her roll-of-the-eyes response? "Et alors, la liberté d'expression? What about freedom of speech?" 

Exercises in French Phonics Exercises in French Phonics is... 
" a great book for learning French pronunciation"
"useful and practical"
"high quality material, good value for your money" --from Amazon customer reviews. Order your copy here.

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!


A la recherche du temps perdu

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                                                   "Jules & Frida."

À la recherche du temps perdu

    : in search of lost time; remembrance of things past*

*One of the English translations to Proust's famous "A la recherche du temps perdu". Have you read it? Pick up a copy, here.
..

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

In Search of Lost Time

On this journey I had the privilege to get to know my step-dad, who, all these years I misunderstood.

After asking John for his forgiveness, I listened meekly for his reply.

John answered, with a twinkle in his eye.

"Kristi, one thing you will discover about Mexico, is that the expats here are either "Wanted"... or Not Wanted."

With that, John confided, "Something I have learned in life is that everything changes. What's important is to be grateful for every moment."

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"Reunited."

 

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"Angel Wings". When John presented me with this delicate poncho, I realized I had recovered those lost wings.

ADIEU MR JOHN
This story was written in February 2011. We are sad to say that John passed away on August 7th, 2016. Thank you for taking the time to read the story, HERE

 

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!


raconter

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Picture of Mom and me taken by Abdalla of Quebec. We met him and his lovely wife, Colette, who are here visiting Puerta Vallarta. I hope to share more about our meeting with these sparkling sweethearts sometime... 

raconter (rah kon tay)

    : to tell (a story)

raconter une histoire


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

 I visit my Mother's casita for the first time in 18 years... 

At night she tiptoes into the cuarto de visitas, the guest room. "Kristi... Are you awake?"

It is 2 a.m., it is 4:30 a.m. and now, this morning, she arrives at ten to six. Each time, I inch over, leaving room on the pillow as Mom sets her head gently beside mine and there, in the still of the night, she spills her beautiful 64-year-old mind.

I listen to her dreams, to her memories, to her inspirations, every thought unveiled in exquisite detail. Her interior life rushes out, unbridled, and it is my honor to be washed over by the beauty and the unbearable alike.

My heart both soars and it breaks, but I will not break the flow of Mom's story no matter how long it takes.  

 .
Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections are helpful and comments are appreciated and enjoyed. Thanks for leaving one: click here.

Have time for another story? Check out the archives, here.
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IMG_4813
Click photo to enlarge. Thanks again to Abdalla and to his wife, Colette, for this photo.

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Jules and Breezy.

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!


s'aventurer

P1000094

"Mom and Me".  Photo taken Feb 1st, on arrival: read on... (sorry about the blurry image, but blurry, like love, covers a multitude of sins! That's my lovely mom, Jules, left.)

s'aventurer (sah ven tur ay)

    : to venture

synonyms: se risquer = to risk, oser = to dare

 

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

I arrived in Mexico yesterday, after almost cancelling the trip when Montezuma's revenge (or what the French might call a very bad case of gastro) struck the night before my flight was to leave Phoenix.

Because the theme of this trip is "to venture out of one's comfort zone", the moment was ripe to dare, or oser, to catch the plane ride to Puerto Vallarta - with a stomach in a million little pieces. And because the only risk was one of mortification and not of "contagion" (it wasn't the flu bug that I was carrying, but the remnants of food poisoning), I enplaned, careful to pack an étanche, or waterproof, paper bag au cas où.... or just in case!

I kept my mind off an upset estomac and on the happy memories that I had made thus far: a moment with my dear friend, Susan, and time with my sister, Heidi, and my niece and my nephew, who gave me a memorable pep talk: "You've got to be a daredevil Aunt Kristi! (We were sitting in the parking lot of Krispy Kreme in our pajamas. I had not wanted to do the doughnut run in pj's and would not dare get out of the car, though my family had gotten me this far."Truth is, I'm just a big wet chicken," I explained to my 7-year-old niece, teaching her the French expression for "coward", which is more than a chicken: a WET chicken! or poule mouillée.)

I watched my niece and my nephew swagger out of the car in flannel wear, along with my sister (clad in a fluffy leopard robe, slippers, and bedhead), and walk in to order doughnuts comme si de rien n'était! as if nothing were out of the ordinary. I began to wonder about reverse culture shock... or was it the new thing in the States to do the doughnut run in one's bed clothes? 

The next morning, with a stomach very much amiss (nothing to do with the doughnuts), I made my flight. The old wet chicken would have stayed in bed an extra day, just in case, but the new daredevil that my niece and my nephew saw in me remembered her guts, however groaning, held them high, and boarded that plane for the ride of her life.

***
Post Note: the flight was uneventful and, soon enough, any queasiness was replaced by butterflies, or papillons: My mom and her husband, John, were waiting for me at the end of the long hall, just after la douane, or Customs. 


Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections are helpful and appreciated and comments are the best part of of this journal. Thanks in advance. Click here to leave a message.

Phoenix Readers: I would love to meet up with you! We are planning a hike on Feb 11th at 8:30 a.m. (at the Starbucks on or near 7th street and Thunderbird. Stay tuned for a confirmation! Please join us (so far Herm and Karen and Ed and Gail and my sister, Heidi, will be there!) I would be so happy to meet you so don't be shy -- it would make my day--et encore!--to meet you! 

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My mom, Jules, and my other "sister", Breezy.

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How do you say "sibling rivalry" in French? My sister, Heidi, and I packed a bottle of Jules's all time favorite perfume (now, Breezy, what can you say for yourself? Hum? Hum?):


Shalimar Shalimar Eau de Parfum by Guerlain. Introduced in 1925. Fragrance notes: an alluring, classic fragrance of exotic florals and vanilla. Order here

Note: Whenever you buy an item from Amazon (using the link above) your purchase helps to support this free word journal. Whether you buy a DVD or a dog bone, you will be contributing to this blog. Thank you for your support!

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!


revivre

Trompe-l'oeil (c) Kristin Espinasse

Picture of a "fools the eye" or "trompe-l'oeil" taken in the medieval village of Les Arcs-sur-Argens (Var, France).  

revivre (reuh veevreuh)

    : to live again

Listen to 13-year-old Jackie pronounce these French words (Download MP3 file

Aimer, c'est mourir en soi pour revivre en autrui. 
Love is to die to self so as to live again in others. --Honoré d'Urfé

Newforest (whom many of you know from the comments section) notes: I think "mourir en soi" means the same as "mourir à soi-même", which implies -> not to live for oneself any more, and to become free to give one's life to others, to put other people's happiness first. 

 

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

Guts & Gratitude

When Mom viewed Saturday's edition of Cinéma Vérité, she was transported back to France, to 2003, when, after breaking her hanche, she came to our village to recuperate. But once she arrived here to heal her hip, she began to notice a pain in her breast.... 

In the letter below, Mom recounts how she spent the hours leading up to her mastectomy. The idea of the surgery greatly troubled her and when the fear of the unknown became paralyzing she shot up... and proceeded to move every limb in her body in order to shake off the numbing unknown. Next, she flew out the door for a last-minute périple around the medieval village. What "unknowns" that troubled her heart were replaced by the "knowns" that had gotten her this far: namely, a community of caring villagers who had been there for her and her broken hip and who would be there for her even after this. 

Reviewing the snapshots of her former stomping grounds, Jules was overcome with gratitude: 

Darling Kristi,

You have flooded my entire being with memories of Les Arcs this morning. I used to run up those very stairs several times a day and night. I first started my voyage ascending in my trusty 'walker', then my cane, and finally achieved my freedom to practically fly up the cobblestone pathway to the castle above the night before my cancer surgery.

I remember that cool brisk evening. I was running all over the village, down to the train station, back up around the mountain to your neighborhood, back down through the village, across the bridge and up to the castle.

I was in another body that night, running from my fear, it was like I had a new body full of strength I didn't know I possessed... it was the longest night of my life. As I have said before of Les Arcs "It takes a village", they were my village and my family and without Les Arcs I would never be the person I am today.

XOXO

MOM

 

Reading Mom's words, I can picture her in her straw fedora and borrowed hiking boots. I see her racing around in the dark night, stopping, par ici et par là, to look into the brightly lit households as the villagers, who poured another cup of mint tea (how many Moroccan families had taken her in and filled her with sweets?) or glasses of wine. I know she swept past her dear friend E's "home", no more than a cubbyhole at the back of a garage, where a mattress and empty beer bottles were evidence of her only comforts. Those, and her raggedy, gentle-natured dog.

Mom was a spirit that night, passing imperceptibly through the village, mentally tucking in all her friends before she tucked her own self in high up in a one-room loft, on loan from a friend. There, she slept peacefully... on no other than "Peace Street".

In Marseilles the next day nurses rolled Jules away on a stretcher. I stood outside the elevator, staring down at my Mom, who propped her head up and smiled back at me. The doors were closing and the nurses had asked me to step back please.

Mom winked at me. "I'm ready!" Mom chirped, to the French nurses, who looked at her bemusedly. "Roll me in! Praise God. I'm ready!"

That night the villagers drank their tea and their wine, depending on which household you peered into. And I like to think that they raised their glasses and toasted the free-spirited woman. Mom was no longer outside their windows looking in, but that doesn't mean that she wasn't busy blessing them.

***

Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections are welcome and to post a comment, click here.


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Mom's departure 8.14.03 008
My beautiful mom, Jules, after the surgery in 2003.

Mom's departure 8.14.03 003
She didn't know it then, but another mastectomy awaited her in Mexico (the bad news). As for the good news: her husband was waiting for her. I cannot wait to see John and to thank him for all he has done to take care of my mom. I am only sorry it took this many years to express my gratitude.

Note: Mom celebrated her 5-year "all's clear" mark and is doing great! 

French Vocabulary

la hanche = hip

le périple = tour, journey

par ici et par là = here and there

. 

Claras war
I could not put this book down!  I have packed it in my carry-on, to take to my mom. It has nothing to do with cancer, but everything to do with courage and today's verb, revivre! Order a copy here.
. 

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!