Sunday, May 9, 2010
The Sad Story of a French Mother's Ghost
Later, her father was transferred to another French colony. The family move to Algeria, where Nicole cared for her three younger siblings and worked to make others happy. When she was finally free to pursue her own fate, she clung to the bonds of her youth and moved back to France to work to put her brothers through school. Nicole was a nanny for their children and a source of financing for their needs. At one point, she broke free from her family and pursued her own dreams. She got a job and moved to Morroco, where something terrible happened to her. None of us know what. She wouldn't talk about it, but we knew that it had been horrible. After that, she moved back to France and continued taking care of her family.
When she was 40 years old, she met a man who was studying Philology (the study of languages) at Yale. He was a brilliant, older Frenchman who spoke 7 language and was working on his doctorate abroad. They wrote love letters to each other across the ocean and a year later they married, only having met each other a few times. She had beed seduced by her husband's poetry and gift of languages. He had won her heart, but she wasn't prepared for what was ahead of her. She wasn't prepared for Alabama.
She was already pregnant when she moved to America. She didn't know English and she immediately hated Alabama. She had never learned to drive. In France, it hadn't seemed necessary. In Vietnam, Algeria, and Morroco, it hadn't been necessary. In Alabama, she was trapped and alone and the only joy she found was in her son, who she took back to France for months at a time at least once a year so that the little boy was raised as part of two countries, one that his mother loathed and one that she pined for.
When my mother-in-law died, her best friend told me that my mother-in-law's ghost had tormented her for days. She had moved objects and left things in disarray. When her friend went up to visit the grave, the haunting stopped. Similarly, after Nicole's death, I felt her presence with us for a long time. There was nothing tangible. My sons said they saw her in her old chair. I thought I heard her voice in quiet moments and Xander, my youngest, would come down looking for her when he heard her calling. After we paid for her tombstone and buried her ashes in the mountains with her husband, I thought her spirit left us. I thought she had found peace, but over the last few weeks she seems to have come back. I often see the dogs barking at the china cabinet. They can bark forever. When I am alone, the garage door opens and closes on its own. Strange noises echo throught the silent house. We kept a portion of her ashes in a small urn that is in the china cabinet to carry to France next year and cast into the sea. Perhaps she is waiting for that or maybe she just misses us.