The quincaillerie in La Motte. Photo: Kristin Espinasse

“I think the translation is ‘hardware store’,” I say to my dad as we enter our town’s old quincaillerie. Ducking beneath the rainbow of market baskets which hang over the entrance, my belle-mère is giddy: “I used to enjoy visiting these hardware stores when I lived in France! In Nice, where I stayed, I believe there was a droguerie…” As Marsha looks around the eclectic shop, I can see nostalgie in her eyes: “My children would each choose something – they loved going to la quincaillerie!”

“They sell all kinds of things in this tiny place,” I point out. “Look, there’s a potato peeler, some curtain rods and a chic carafe in a hand-woven wicker holder – oh, that would make a nice Christmas present… And look over there… you can get a new key made! This is the everything store,” I say, as our eyes comb the walls of the narrow shop filled to the brim with machintrucs, or doodahs.

Speaking of dads, I feel a little guilty for dragging mine into the “everything” store, after our latest shopping spree: we’ve been to the butcher’s – for cordon bleu and beignets de courgettes – and to the outdoor farmers’ market (in our town’s parking lot) for fresh veggies, a hat and a dress!

“You shouldn’t have to pay for everything,” I say to my dad, as the shopkeeper tallies up the bill. In our basket we’ve got furniture polish, a blue-feathered static duster, and an American stand-by: a good ol’ can of WD-40. (Dad is intent on repairing the creaky doors on my Citroën!)

“We are so fortunate to be staying in a lovely free hotel,” Marsha says, referring to our farmhouse. “Treating you is the least we can do!” My belle-mère’s twinkling eyes send a hint-hint message as they meet my dad’s own baby blues. Our Celui Qui Paie Pour Tout suddenly agrees, wholeheartedly. The shopkeeper seems to agree too as he merrily snaps up two more bills from Dad’s wallet!

As the transaction comes to a close, the shop’s cat, “Fefield” (from Felix and Garfield – his family couldn’t make up their minds) looks up from his post beside the pots of colourful paint. He stretches his legs and yawns as the tourists leave the soi-disant Everything Store, which to him is the Shop of Curiosities, after the sentimental humans he’s just seen.

FRENCH VOCABULARY

la belle-mère = step-mum *Belle-mère can also mean mother-in-law

la nostalgie = nostalgia

le panier = basket

le machin-truc = a doodah or whatchamacallit

le beignet de courgette = courgette fritter

Celui Qui Paie Pour Tout = person who pays for everything

soi-disant = so called

From France Today magazine

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