Sunday, August 2, 2009

C'est la merde? Oui, c'est la merde!

My family is french canadian which means absolutely nothing to you unless you also happen to be french canadian. Careful observation of my people revealed our most significant cultural traits:

1. A love of butter.
2. Deep dark sarcasm.
3. Generally emotionally stunted.
4. A love of strong tea.
5. Very, very funny.

This brings me to this woman.

This is my Memere with my mother.

Like most of the french canadians of her age, my Memere's first language was french. She learned english as an adult when her children went to school. My memories of my grandparents are filled with the unique version of french spoken loudly in much of New Hampshire fifty years ago. My Memere was what we affectionately call "a piece of work". She was very funny and often a bit, well, saucy.

Once she left me a voice mail that said, "God damn it all to hell!"

She wasn't fond of answering machines.

There is one story that she told my mother and my mother then told me.

My Memere went to visit a friend who was not a tidy housekeeper. It was actually said that her house was a complete pig sty. Utterly filthy. I digress.

The way the story goes is that this friend sat all day chain smoking and drinking tea. Being a polite hostess she offered my memere some tea. As this friend went to the kettle to boil some water she noticed something dark on the floor. She bent over and looked at it.

"C'est la merde?" Is it shit, she asked?

She stuck a yellow nicotine stained finger into the pile and sniffed it.

"Oui, c'est la merde!" Yes, it is shit!

For some reason this phrase has stuck with me and this morning when Rebecca woke me to tell me that the dog's crate was full of diarrhea I was grateful that my cultural heritage has given me this most perfect turn of phrase, this gift for perfectly summing up the situation.

I went downstairs, still groggy and looked in the crate.

Is it shit?

Yes, it is shit.


Cheryl Duford said...

The first time I ever heard the "F" word was out of Memere's mouth when I was about 10 or 11. She'd been fighting with the oven all day, trying to get it showroom clean. I walked in the door after school, gave her a hug, sat down at the kitchen table to wait while she finished, and heard her yell at the oven in French and English for the next 5 minutes, including calling it an f'ing this and an f'ing that repeatedly.

It's one of my favorite Memere stories. Thank you for giving me another.

mgster said...

Love this Merde story. You didn't have to translate the word for me since I am 100% French Canadian. You did make me miss my own Memere though. She was a character also. She had 14 children and my mother was the oldest girl. I loved the way she pronounced some words. Vegetable came out...vejeetable. My mother and I will still say it that way to make each other laugh. Before coming to Connecticut my memere and pepere moved from Canada to Berlin, New Hampshire. That's not where your memere was from is it? Merde! That would be something!

Pom Pom said...

Funny! I'm sorry about the poop in the dog's crate though. I hate it when that happens. Come on over to my blog and see a "junk" find. I thought of you!

Elizabeth said...

A wonderful story. My husband is French Canadian,but since he is adopted, we do not know much about them. Thanks for sharing.

Ginger said...

Cute story. Well, not the part about the dog kennel though. You must have a strong stomach, cleaning up dead birds and poop. lol.

Jean said...

Sara, You started my week off with a smile. Thanks for that.
jean in Virginia

Lisa said...

So sorry about the shit! Diarrhea is the worst!
Cool story and I loved your 5 facts!
Hugs, Lisa

thea said...

Funny. We had a racoon early this summer who kept coming up the back deck and leaving a crap under the table. Same spot every time. Not every day, but pretty regularly. Kind of funny. Except the one day I missed it and we had friends over for drinks in the afternoon -- one of them looks down after a few and asked the very same question.

And yep, my answer was the same as your grandma's. Then Craig (such a mensch)got rid of it.