Separation, stages

Dear kids,

A few weeks ago we got some bad news. Your grandpa has a stage 2 tumor in his lung.

Had, rather. They managed to remove it with surgery last week. But he will still need chemotherapy, and we have no outlook on what the survival rate is.

I feel much anger and sadness at the thought that you will possibly not have either one of my parents in your lives. I suppose I would like to tell you to not wait too long to have children, not as long as I did. You don’t want to have them too early, but I was 34 and 37 respectively when each of you were born, and I now realize that may have been too long.

I hope I will be around to see my grandchildren.

Anyway, I had to leave you for the first time in your lives. The longest I had ever left you was one night, both of you. But last Monday I flew to California, where I am now, for two weeks to care for Grandpa after his surgery, and so I am apart from you.

It was horrible to leave you. I cried and cried. I missed you on the plane, and I miss you here. But I know this was the right thing to do. Grandpa is very tired and wouldn’t be able to withstand the energy of you energetic children. It’s best that I am here alone with him.

Every morning I go on a jog down to an Italian coffee place for a delicious decaf latte. I go early, around 7am. I do some morning breathing meditation exercises. Then I sit with my father, reading, watching a movie or just chatting with him about life in general.

This time with my father, with your Grandpa, is very precious, and I am grateful for it.

I am looking forward to seeing you all very soon. This was yet another step in the process of separation, which you might say began at birth, when you went from my belly out into the world. Perhaps that is why giving birth is so painful. It is only the beginning. It goes on to the first time you have to leave your children overnight, and, if you are lucky and blessed, it ends at the end of your life, when you have to leave them for good.

I hope that it will be this way for me, for you, and for my father.

Mama has a heavy heart my darling children. I hope  that I am able to find a path back to happiness, somehow, some way.

I feel confident that you will be my biggest guides on that path.

Autumn 2014 letter

Dear kids,

 

As I said in my last post, your Momie turned out to be an amazing journal writer. She chronicled my entire childhood from 1975 to 1992, wrote down what I was doing, what I was interested in, my health issues, etc. For health, we have the French carnet de santé, but I’ve decided that I am going to be better about writing about your milestones, a few times a year.

 

So here goes :

 

Son :

You started Grande Section (Kindergarten) in September. This past summer we went to California and you did swim lessons for a few weeks, and you have now have amazing confidence in the water. You jump in no problem, you go under the water, you love your goggles, you love getting rings from the bottom of the water. I am pleased you enjoy swimming so much. In the summer of 2013 you did swim lessons in Canada, and before this you were very nervous in the water, and it’s amazing to see how far you have come.

 

This year you are doing swim lessons on Saturday afternoon (initiation), and you also go to the pool with your GS class on Mondays, so you’re getting a lot of swimming this year.

 

You are also doing music/piano again this year, the same class you did last year. In June you did a piano concert and played three pieces. Mama was floored !

 

You have little friends in Kindergarten and are very outgoing in class, although you have moments of doing « betises ». You adore your Kindergarten teacher, I feel we have gotten very lucky so far with teachers in maternelle. Who knows if it will last but that can be the case for anyone. I had very excellent teachers and not so great ones, and I think that’s just how it goes. The point is learning how to deal with less than ideal situations.

 

You can write your name and are learning to write the date now. It’s amazing to see how you can write. You love writing letters to your friend and teacher and are always asking us for paper and envelopes to write a letter to someone. You also currently love doing « school at home » and pretending to be the maitresse. You get out the blackboard/whiteboard and write the date on the board, then make up little activities for us to do, like circling where we see your name and striking out the other letters.

 

You sometimes have spats with your little friends, but I think that’s normal. Sometimes it upsets you, you are very sensitive, like your mama. I have a hard time reading into these situations and not projecting my own memories of my difficult situations, but I try to tell you that I know it’s not easy, but that you should never let anyone treat you badly, and that you are a big strong boy and you can tell people to stop doing things you don’t like, and to ignore their silly behavior. It took me to about the age of 23 to learn this, Son, but I do hope you learn it before I did.

 

The first week of school, September 4th, 2014, you lost your first tooth, the bottom left. It had only been wiggling for about a week.

 

Daughter :

 

You started Petite Section with the same maitresse that Son had. Your entry into school has been pretty smooth as a result, I think because you are familiar with the environment. That’s not to say you don’t have moments where you don’t want to go, but overall you seem to enjoy it. I feel guilty because since I have had to go back to work, I can’t bring you home for lunch twice a week the way I could with Son, only once a week, and also you have to go to the centre de loisirs (day camp) this Toussaint vacation instead of being able to go on outings.

 

I’m still working on how to be able to spend individual time with each of you, because I notice that really makes a difference on your behavior. Right now you and Son alternate between fighting a whole lot, and giving each other big hugs. Going out with the two of you is a challenge because you compete with each other for our attention, and your energy bounces off each other. I find it easier to go one on one, but am still looking for how to balance that.

 

Anyway, you have a few little friends in school, and even a cute little boyfriend, Theo, who lives in our building. Last week we went to the park after school, and Theo was holding your hand around the park. You would both let go to go chase a pigeon, then one of you would pick up the other’s hand again.

 

I can’t tell you what it did to my heart to see you, at the ripe age of three years old, already experiencing the sweet pleasure of a boy taking your hand. I hope that your life is filled with many sweet moments like this.

 

You started a dance class down the street with a teacher who has been teaching in our town for 35 years. She does classes starting at two years old. You seem to enjoy this class and I hope that dance will give you a lot of pleasure and confidence in your body. I bought you a little pink Danskin leotard and wrap skirt and you adore putting it on. I insist you have bare feet though, even if little ballet slippers are cute, I think it’s important early on in dance, especially with little girls, to be barefoot, to develop all the foot muscles properly.

 

What I like about this little studio is the fact that all the girls have a different mix of body types, not all of them are stick thin. I hope this will be a positive influence on you and that you will continue to enjoy dance. The future will tell.

 

You and I also do a “jardin aquatique”  class Saturday mornings. I love that we have this time together and I love getting into the pool after a long week. It’s very relaxing. You did your first swim lesson this summer in California and enjoyed it, and were putting your face in the water with goggles by the end of it, but now you don’t want to do that anymore. It’s a bit of a regression. But I think it’s understandable given all the new things that have happened in the past few months. I feel confident we will get back there. I have to say I do like the French approach of « eveil », of not attacking goals to soon, but just enjoying the pleasure of experiencing things. In this time of helicoptering parenting, I find it’s one of the things I really appreciate about France.

 

You had your third birthday party last week, and once again we celebrated with your birthday twin CC. We did a Frozen theme, and you wore an Anna dress and she wore an Elsa dress. It was the cutest thing ever. Everyone had a wonderful time.

 

You have a very strong personality, like you always did. You don’t like to listen to authority, be it your parents or the maitresse. A few weeks ago, in your dance class, you didn’t get a bon bon at the end because you were extremely naughty during the class, you didn’t listen to the teacher, so she said no bon bon. Boy were you mad about that ! You howled and howled. I was worried for a bit that this experience had put you off your dance class, but it doesn’t seem to have done that. The next class you apparently were better behaved.

I feel it’s delicate dance of cultivating your fighting spirit, not beating it down, but also teaching you that in life we have to live by certain rules. Certainly it’s easier for all of us if you would listen once in a while. But you are definitely a « rebelle », and like to do your own thing, and I really admire that about you, and hope you will always keep it.

 

I got you a pink balance bike in Germany this summer, which I carried back with us on the train, and you are slowly learning to use it, but it’s difficult. You have always been a daredevil athelete so I feel confident you will get it eventually.

 

Currently you have your hair cut short, with baby bangs, a la Amèlie. I love this look on you. You are going through a rough sleeping phase, you’ve been in a big girl bed since California and you don’t want to stay in it, and you don’t want to take a nap at school. I don’t even know if you need it but to be honest Daughter, it’s Mama and Papa who really need that nap on the weekends ! So we insist on the quiet time, even if it’s not idea.

 

Oh, and in case you were wondering, you are nearly dry at night even if you do still sleep in a pull-up, and you haven’t had any accidents at school. Today was your first day of centre de loisirs for the vacation. At first you didn’t want to go, but then you saw that a little friend from your class was there, and you went right in. I’m happy that the centre de loisirs is in your school, with a few familiar people.

 

 

An unexpected gift, four years on

Picture 31Dear Mom,

 

A year ago, as we were slipping into the ancient time of traditions of spirit realms and the Earth moving through the cycle of death, I wrote a post about how I wished I could ask you things about my childhood, and how you came to me to tell me that there was a way to have those answers, in the form of journals you kept.

 

I felt it was a long shot that those journals would really hold anything.

 

But it turns out,

You were right.

 

This past summer, while going through the rest of your things, I came across several handwritten notebook journals. I threw them into the box I was going to send myself without really looking at them, mainly because it was such hard work that i wanted to just get through the task and be done with it, but also because I had to keep an eye on the kids during the summer and didn’t have a lot of time for this task.

 

So Grandpa mailed me the box, and it arrived about two months ago, and has been sitting under a coffee table in the living room since then, waiting for the moment to be unpacked.

 

This past weekend I was feeling down and dejected, and depleted, from starting work, and spent a lot of time just sitting around. But suddenly Sunday afternoon, I had the urge to open up the box and examine closely what I had chosen to keep.

 

And I came across your journals, and was amazed at what I found.

 

Not only did it have entire chronicles of your life during the eighties, the nineties and the aughts, but there was a journal dedicated to your medical history, one dedicated to the story of how you and Dad met, and most amazing of all

 

There was a journal all about me. With all my medical history. The first entry was on my first birthday, and the last was the day after I graduated high school.

 

You had just listed facts about my milestones, what I was doing at different times, how my eating and sleeping habits were, my napping habits, etc. You only wrote in it about three or four times a year, with concise facts, but there were the answers about my childhood. Including potty training, which I’d wondered about. It was right there.

 

So I have a place to ask questions now, through my children’s childhoods. I have a reference that I can refer to at different stages, to see how I was during that time.

 

I can’t even begin to express what an amazing gift this is.

 

And it makes me realize that I have not been nearly as good as you about journaling my children’s milestones. I mean, I can’t say that I’ve done nothing at all. There have been long gaps, but granted, I did start this blog when Son was two weeks old, and managed to write some things down. Not everything, but maybe enough.

 

So, this has motivated me to up my ante and leave this gift for my children as well. Who knows if I’ll be lucky enough to be around when they have grandchildren ?

 

But if they need answers to their questions, then I will at least have something to give them.

 

The other thing, Mom, is that your journals about your own life are much more eloquent and less rant-y than my private journal entries tend to be. My own journal entries are just stream of thought, letting out the garbage. You wrote about events, adding how they made you feel. Now, granted, I have not read your journals, except to skim them for my name to clarify some events that have come back to me recently. But I still don’t know if it’s my place to read them, because you aren’t here to talk about them. Perhaps my children may be interested in them one day, who knows.

 

But at least now I do have this way of asking your questions, and you have a way of giving me the answers.

 

Perhaps you always knew how imporant this journals would be.

 

I thank you for taking the time, over the course of thirty-five years, to write out your life.

I hope that I can match what you have accomplished.

 

Love, your Daughter

 

 

It’s off to work I go

Dear kids,

 

Oh dear, I’m really bad about blogging. It’s not that I don’t want to. It’s just that I never find myself with the energy. Perhaps that is a testament in and of itself of being a mother.

 

I could tell you all about the amazing summer we had in California, seeing family, playing on the beach until dusk, driving up and down the coast, celebrating Mama’s fortieth birthday, celebrating the fourth of July. Son, you really started speaking English on this trip. Up until we left in June, you always answered me in French and now, you answer me in English. I think it was something to do with the fact of being with children your age who spoke English and nothing else, that showed you the necessity of it.

 

Daughter, you started Petite Section with the same maitresse that Son had, which was very nice, and helped with the transition. You’ve already had two field trips that I’ve been able to accompany : a trip to pick apples and a cinema trip. You celebrated your third birthday last week, we had a double birthday party slash Frozen extravaganza with our neighbor, and then on Friday we all took a family trip to Disneyland, and that was really magical. We stayed till closing time and saw all the parades and spectacles, and the Halloween decorations after dark. It was very empty and we never needed to wait in line for anything, which was a treat.

 

And so, that brings me to today. The fact of you celebrating your third birthday last week means that my parental leave is up, and today was my first day back to work.

 

I’ve been stressing about this return for a year and a half. The logistics, mainly. I’m grateful that your birthday falling in October means I’ve had a month and a half to acclimate you to school and the cantine. I’ve managed to make the two field trips. I’m still working on the organization of it all, but that will come.

 

But I realized today that actually, the stress wasn’t really about returning to work. That was a simple act that I did today. The act of entering the office. Getting some work clothes together, putting on mascara, digging out my good handbags, dropping you off at school, thumbing through some English exercise books, and entering the office. I managed basically to do all that.

It helped that I started off with just an immersion lesson, which is where the teacher goes on a company lunch with the student in a nearby restaurant for a casual conversation practice, and then spends the afternoon working on grammar and business points. I’ve always enjoyed doing those lessons and it was a great way to start back, easy and relaxed.

 

The center is located a ten minute walk from your school, so I managed to pick you up at 4pm after the lesson had ended, give you your snack and take Daughter to her dance class down the street that I signed her up for.

 

But it was more than just that act. It was the transformation. The evolving into something new yet again : changing from a SAHM to a working mom.

 

That was the part that really made me emotional today.

 

I was surprised by the emotions today. On the way to the center, I decided to walk through the park. There were little toddling babies with their moms and nounous, playing in the playground. I remembered how I used to take you two to the park in the morning like that.

 

And I suddenly felt sad, knowing those days were over.

 

And I wondered if I had done enough. If I had taken you to the park enough. If I had spent enough time with you. If I should have just put you in the garderie twice a week instead of three times. If I had done enough exploring of Paris with you. I felt, and still feel, like it’s a balance for me to get time for myself, which is important to me to be able to enjoy time with you. The garderie helped for that. But I still feel like I didn’t spend enough time with you, maybe.

 

There could have been more mornings in the park.

 

And I started to cry in the park.

 

The guilt has been surprising. Even though I took as much parental leave as is legal,

 

…it doesn’t feel like it’s enough.

 

I feel guilty for you doing such long days at such a young age. I feel guilty about putting Daughter in to the cantine three days a week while Son only had to do two. I feel guilty that I now have to put you one or two days a week in the evening garderie. I feel guilty about not being able to spend enough one on one time with each of you.

 

It never feels like enough.

 

I am glad that my job has a lot of flexibility and will allow me to bring you home for lunch at least once a week, and hopefully maneuver my schedule a bit to allow for accompanying on field trips.

 

I decided to sit on a park bench for ten minutes and meditate and be thankful and breathe. As I breathed, I was thankful for so many things. For living in a country that allows me to take three years of parent leave, and have my job to come back to. For this past summer. For allowing me to stay home. For all the lovely times I had staying home with you

 

…even if it wasn’t enough.

 

Today was not about putting one foot in front of the other and stepping back into my office. It was a transformation. So much has happened on my parental leave, since stopping work in May of 2009 for my maternity leave with Son. On that day in May that I gave my last lesson, I didn’t really expect that I would be gone for so long. But that’s how it turned out.

 

And I was a different person. I hadn’t yet given birth.

 

During this parental leave, I became a mother. And I lost my own mother.

 

And I thought of that today, and it made me cry too. I wondered how my own mother felt when she went back to work, on the day she went back, after staying home with me for so many years. I read in a journal of hers that I was eight years old when I went back, and she said she was so happy to be able to stay with me.

 

Just like I’m so happy I was able to stay with you, even if it wasn’t for as long, even if it wasn’t enough.

 

We moved during this leave, I traveled with you across the Pacific five times. I got my nose pierced (it has since closed up). I gave birth twice, breastfed for two whole years of my life (one year for each of you). Six months exclusively for each, which would have been much harder if I had not been staying home. Possible, but more challenging.

 

I lost myself and I found myself again, this summer.

 

And I realized, that chapter is over. The small babies chapter. It’s not that I want to relive it again, but looking at those babies and moms in the park, I felt a sad pang that that was it. That was my time as a mother of small babies. It doesn’t feel like we did enough. It doesn’t feel like I did enough. But it is what it is.

 

And now, it’s back to working life. Back to the professional part of my life. I’m forty years old now, and I think this is it on through to retirement. Work, and trying to balance.

 

I started this blog when Son was a couple of weeks old. I wrote back then about how everything is going so fast. It is. It is going by so fast. Going back to work feels to me like I’m taking more steps away from my mother, away from the memory of my mother. Barreling towards the future. The years will fly by, and she will be set in time, I will move forward but she won’t, just like this wonderful time I had with you as small babies, will float forever in that time pocket, there to revisit, but never to live again.

 

So that, children, is why it was so much more than just walking into an office. Today in honor of this blessed chapter of life, I put on a necklace that belonged to my mother, and a bracelet engraved with both of your names that I had done the Christmas before last. I made that transformation. And will continue to do so.

 

My next lesson the day after tomorrow is on the rue Cambon, near Chanel, one of the swankest streets in Paris. That’s the glory of this blessed life I get to live. How many people get to go to work on the rue Cambon ? Granted, I’m not going to be designing shoes, just teaching English, but it still feels like an honor to be here, to have spent the baby years of my children’s lives in the glorious city that is Paris….

A day in maternelle

Dear kids,

 

Today I had the great opportunity to spend the morning in a Petite Section class in the school where you, Son, currently go and you, Daughter, will go next year.

 

It was Daughter’s halte-garderie who proposes it as a sort of « passerelle » from « Petite Enfance » and the halte-garderie, to preschool/maternelle. We went with a lady from the HG, and as luck would have it, we spent the morning with the teacher that Son had for PS.

 

I’m so grateful to have had this opportunity, it’s a shame we didn’t have it earlier with Son, who wasn’t at the same halte-garderie as Daughter. But it just reinforced the positive image I have of French maternelle. I already was pleased with it, but any sort of doubts I had about the size of the classes, overloading the kids, or surveillance during recess (la recré) have been totally thrown out the window of the charming 19th century building the school has been housed in for the past 110+ years.

 

We arrived at 9am, where the kids were downstairs rehearsing their dances for the upcoming end-of-the-year spectacle. Son did this last year, as a matter of fact a couple of the songs were the same that he did last year (Enrouler le fil and Jean Petit Qui Danse). The maitresse and the ATSEM (a lady who helps the preschool teacher, also known as a « dame de service ») recognized me and Daughter immediately. We watched the rehearsal, Daughter you got up and danced a bit, and then we went back upstairs to the classroom. The teacher called the students up by the first letter of their names : « All children whose name begins with M, please stand up », etc.

 

The children sat down at little round tables and chairs and were given a glass of water. (Kids in French maternelle are no longer given a snack in the morning, they have to wait for their 11h30 lunch hour, so it’s important to eat well at breakfast). Daughter you joined them. Then the teacher called each of the children by the color of the table. « Children at the green table, please come to the bench », in front of the classroom, etc. This is a nice way of teaching children letters and colors, Also it encourages children to pay attention.

 

They talked about what day of the week it was (mardi, Tuesday), whether there was school the next day (no school on Wednesdays) and the fact that it was Mother’s Day on Sunday and that left them with only three days to work on their Mother’s Day project and to learn the poem to recite to Maman.

 

Then the children sat down at the tables again and got to work coloring little paper hearts which were part of the Mother’s Day project. Each child worked diligently and was given time to work at their own pace. Some children finished earlier and were then allowed to play with the toys in the classroom.

 

There were : baskets of Legos and cars neatly sorted under the bench, a play kitchen, a doctor’s kit, a baby doll and toy pram. Toy brooms and dusting bins, stacks of puzzles, a rug with a race track design on it. The children were interested in you, Daughter, and kept asking me what your name was and how old you are. One little girl sat down to play doctor with you, which you obliged.

 

By then it was 10 :30am and you could see the children were getting restless and loud. The teacher was firm but kind, and had to speak sharply to a few children who started throwing Legos. One little boy had to sit in the corner.

 

This was the perfect timing for recess. Normally the children go immediately to recess, but on Tuesdays a music teacher from the town conservatory comes to the school to do music lessons with the children.

 

I knew this already from Son, who has had these classes both years, but what a treat to be able to see the lady in action. She taught the children simple songs and body tapping, and had them tap on some xylophones.

 

Then she announced she had a special instrument who was very shy, and fragile, and we had to be quiet to coax it to come out. Then she brought out a large guitar-type string instrument and said it was from Africa. I believe it was called a kora, but I’m not sure. She said that it was made from an extremely large, inedible fruit. Then she played and sang a lovely African tune for the children, who hummed it down the stairs on their way to recré.

 

Then the children had a few minutes of recess. Recess was wild, but manageable. No worse than the playground. Daughter you were so happy to play on the equipment that you see every morning when we bring Son to school, but are never allowed to play on. The children were very nice to you and one little girl swung you on the bridge.

 

I was always concerned about the lack of surveillance during recess, but seeing it in action made my concerns go away. There are only about three teachers, but the playground is small and I never saw a situation that got out of control, or that wasn’t immediately handled by a teacher.

 

That said, I kind of still feel like, there isn’t enough individual surveillance, but do you know what Kids ? I think that it’s always going to be impossible to monitor every unkind word, every bruised ego. I think that is part of life, that we all will experience, and that we need to learn to handle in our own way. It’s painful, I know from experience, but the thought of too much surveillance is not quite the answer either.

 

In any case, Son, we watched you from the window during your recess, and you seemed happy, roughhousing with a group of boys. There isn’t much more that I could ask for.

 

So then the children who were staying at school for lunch went off to the cantine, and Daughter you and I went to Son’s class to pick him up for lunch. I was glad that this morning before leaving, I’d taken the time to grate some carrots into a salad to marinate in a lemon-balsamic vinaigrette with some minced basil while we were gone, and had thrown a few chicken breasts into the crock pot with some lemon juice and teriyaki sauce. All we needed to do was pick up a baguette from the bakery at home, and pit some fresh cherries for dessert.

 

I’m really so grateful for this day. It feels like an experience I won’t forget. Really getting to see French preschool in action. The teachers always tell us at the beginning of the school year, what the children’s days look like, but it’s so different to see it in action. And to watch the maitresse in action. I think that this is a particularly good maitresse, many people say so, but it’s so reassuring to see that she is firm in the French way, but very available to the children as well. Not belitting, not overly encouraging, giving honest praise to a child who did a nice job coloring their heart. Rewarding children who were well-behaved that morning by choosing them to be able to pluck the African instrument. I’m really so pleased.

 

And it’s so hard to believe, Son, that you are already halfway through maternelle. You will be in Grande Section next year, and then the year after, it’s primary school. As a matter of fact tonight I’m going to a talk at the American Library about the transition to CP, which is the first year of école primaire.

 

I’m so happy we have such a nice school a two minute walk away. What a blessing.

 

cantine

Vacances Scolaires

 

Dear children,

 

I have mixed feelings about the school holidays in France. They are just so long, and come around so often. Two weeks, every six weeks. It’s great if you have grandparents nearby to send the kids out to their country house for a week, but unfortunately that is not something we are blessed with. Because I’m on congé parental, we aren’t permitted a spot in the centre de loisirs, so these two weeks are just so intense and full-on.

 

On the other hand, I really do welcome the break from school rhythm. We get to do a lot of things that we are normally too tired to do on the weekends. It’s for that reason that I rarely schedule a trip away during the vacation, with the exception of the winter break when we visited T and R in Germany. I really enjoy doing things in Paris and I love how so many things are available to do. Workshops and performances make themselves available every day instead of just weekends and Wednesdays. I love the idea of offering you both a museum workshop, a theatre performance, a movie and some outings during the school vacations and I really enjoy taking you to do these things.

 

We try to rent a car a couple of days during the vacation to do day trips. Here are some of the things we have done this vacation :

 

-The drive-through safari park at the Château de Thoiry

-The indoor playground at Kidzy

-a magic show for you Son

-a little theatre show for under 3s for you Daughter, followed by lunch at Le Petit cafe du monde entier in the 11th

-a movie : Miniscule

-your first trip to the Louvre, Son, is planned for this week.

-trips to the park, we got you your first bicycle Son so we’ve been riding around the neighborhood, having picnics

 

Here are some things we have done during past vacations :

 

-a museum workshop at the Musée Marmottan

-a trip to the aquarium, and to Disneyland

-another indoor playground

-apple picking at the Ferme de Gally in the fall

-a performance of Le Chat Botté

 

In fact, kids, if all goes as it should with the French bureaucracy, this will be the last school vacation where I’m not working, and therefore you will spend part of it in the centre de loisirs. I am glad about this as I think it will make it less intense, however I still plan on taking the first week of the vacations off to do activities with you. I’m trying to think about how to make it work. But it’s true I really love the little break, and much importance is placed in France on taking a break, a balance between work and family life.

 

photo 1

Dear Mom 2014

Dear Mom,

 

That day has come around again. April 4th, or rather the night of April 3rd. Three years. Three years since you’ve been gone. I remember when you passed, saying how it felt like you were on a two year trip to a desert island or the Himalayas or somewhere equally remote, but that I would see you again. It’s been three years now so I know it’s not true. I no longer feel that way, either. I know you are gone for good.

 

So I soldier on. The years will go by, and my children will grow up, and I will move farther and farther away from you, the memories will fade though I hope not completely. I will always come back to this day to check in and to write you a letter.

 

I think I was doing a bit better when I wrote to you last year, because I was doing some therapy. I’m not now, and I really, really need to. Therapy helps. Talking helps. I haven’t been really dreaming about you, but I know that’s for other reasons. I’d love to see you in my dreams, make it a meeting point, making it a way for me to spend some time with you and to remember you. I remember last year dreaming that it was 1999 and we were traveling to Greece again, it was a lovely dream. I’ll get there.

 

We are doing good, Mom. I hope you know that and can see that. I hope you can somehow see your granddaughter. Goodness, you would be so proud ! You would be so pleased to have a granddaughter and I often wonder about the conversations you would have with your grandchildren. I wonder if you would speak French or English to them. I would probably insist you speak English. I wonder if you would have taken them places. Ah, all those things that could have been.

 

Well, you don’t have to worry about us. We are in good health. Life isn’t perfect, but I have to say, Mom, it really isn’t that bad either. We have it pretty good. As a matter of fact, Mom, coming up this summer on my 40th birthday, it’s 40 years since you gave birth to me, and I have none of the midlife crises that so many 40 year olds get. I’m grateful to be turning 40 and I’m so pleased with where I am in life. Yes, there are still things to be worked out, but I’m at a great place in life. Two healthy children, ten years of marriage, a job I like to go back to, an apartment in Paris. I am very blessed. We are blessed.

 

This summer, we will be spending the summer in California. It’ll be the first time we’ve gone since you passed in 2011. This is the longest I’ve ever been away from California, or the US. I’m really looking forward to it, though I don’t know if it will be sad or happy. Probably both, right, Mom ? I am looking forward to taking my kids to the beach at the border of Venice and Santa Monica where you used to take me. And to the Promenade, and the Library, and walking on the boardwalk. I will tell them about you and about my memories so that they will know you.

I can’t remember if I told you but last summer, I spread a small amount of your remaining ashes off the St Laurence river in Canada, directly across the border from upstate New York. I had held a small hope of being able to make a side trip to New York City, but it wasn’t meant to be and so I didn’t want to return to France with the ashes. This isn’t keeping in the tradition of spreading your ashes to places that meant something to you, but I thought that upstate New York was pretty close. So you have now been buried there, and off the Santa Monica Pier, in the family plot just outside Munich with your mother, and in the shadow of Notre Dame, in the Seine. I still want to scatter a bit off the Vieux Port in Marseille, to commemorate when you left from there for America by boat in 1965, and whenever I get to New York, I’ll scatter a bit there. It might take a lifetime but that’s ok. All the places that marked something in your life.

Then maybe I’ll be able to fully let you go.

 

This morning at breakfast I showed Son the photos we took when you and tante came to visit when Son was one month old, and we walked in the Bois de Boulogne with the dog. He asked me if you were ever going to come visit. It’s always hard when he asks that. I tell him that you are in heaven now, with the doggie. It feels a bit hypocritical to say that since I don’t know if there’s a heaven, but honestly, for talking with children it feels like the most reassuring thing to say. So that’s what I tell him. Momie is up in heaven now.

 

They have some caterpillars in their class this year, and a few of them have died, so he slowly understands the concept of death now, although he says “they died, and then they went to the hospital”. So he’s got it a bit backwards. I can tell him that it’s the reverse for you, you went to the hospital, then you died. It makes it easier for him to wrap his head around it, though I know it’s still hard.

 

I hope that many, many years and decades from now, at the end of my life, once I have watched my grandchildren grow (I hope I am so lucky), that we can sit and have a coffee on a cloud table and talk about everything that has happened. I hope this happens very, very far in the future, not too soon. For the moment, we have a lot of living to do.

 

Until next year, Mom.

 

Love always,

Your Daughter