Une Histoire Triste; A Sad Story

Allright, this is one of the first stories that I have written in French. As per certain requests, I have also translated it. Since it’s true that everything loses something in translation, I tried to make it as true to my intent (as the author) as possible. Sorry that it is sad. It is a true story.

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La Mort Subite

Ce père et cette fille sont dans la chambre de bébé. C’est une petite chambre. Mais maintenant la chambre semble plus grande parce qu’elle est presque vide.

Toute la chambre avait été décorée en bleue. La peint a été difficile à trouver parce que la mère a voulu un teint spécifique pour son nouveau fils. Le petit lit à barreaux était peut-être trop petit. Il aurait été parfait pour Nathaniel, mais seulement dans sa première année d’existence. Le père se souvient qu’il s’est inquiété à propos d’un si petit lit. Chaque fois pendant les dix dernières semaines qu’il a mis son jeune fils au lit, il a pensé à ce problème.

Maintenant, il n’y a plus aucun problème.

Ils regardent le lit que petit Nathaniel ne pourra jamais utiliser.

Le père est bouleversé par la tristesse. Son fils est mort tout d’un coup et il lui semble que son cœur est mort simultanément.
Il ne peut pas digérer la réalité d’un « syndrome de la mort subite du nourrisson ». Il ne peut pas accepter que ce soit une mort sans explication.
Il met sa main sur les cheveux de sa jeune fille, les petites boucles douces d’un enfant vivant. Il est terrorisé par la pensée qu’il va la perdre aussi. L’idée qu’un jour elle va mourir est insupportable.
Il pense que son cœur ne pourra pas survivre cette tragédie et il se demande pourquoi il est devenu un papa.

La fille s’appelle Anna et elle a six ans, mais aujourd’hui elle semble presque vieille. On peut voir sur son visage qu’elle a bien compris la mort de son nouveau petit frère.
Elle a toujours voulu un frère. Mais il est parti tout de suite après qu’il est arrivé, et maintenant elle restera toute seul avec papa et maman.
Elle peut comprendre la profondeur de la tristesse de son papa. Elle a vu qu’il avait toujours des larmes dans ses yeux et elle déteste qu’il soit toujours si triste. Elle s’inquiète à propos de sa maman qui a arrêté manger, de dormir, de sourire. Chaque fois qu’Anna va lui rendre visite, c’est comme sa vraie mère avait disparu et les yeux de cette étrangère la regardent comme une inconnue ; comme une autre morte.
Une larme coule sur sa joue et elle commence à pleurer pour la mort de son frère, la mort de sa famille ; la mort du bonheur.

Ils regardent le trop petit lit à barreaux. Après quelques minutes, il prendra sa main et ils quitteront la chambre de bébé. Ils porteront toujours leur tristesse écrasante.

Sudden Infant Death

The father and his daughter are in the baby’s room. It’s a small room. But now it seems larger, because it’s practically empty.

The entire room had been decorated in blue. The paint had been hard to find because the mother wanted a specific shade for her new son. Now the dark night of the deep blue walls cocooned them the way they had intended to cocoon little Nathaniel. And they set up a stark contrast with the pure white crib. This little crib is the only piece of furniture left in the room; a tiny white monument. It was perhaps a bit too small. It would’ve been perfect for Nathaniel, but only during his first year. The father remembers how he worried about such a tiny bed. Each time he put his little son in bed during the last ten weeks, he had thought about this problem.

Now, there is no problem.

They stand there, looking at the tiny bed that Nathaniel will never use again.

The father has been struck by vertigo of sadness; it has swept him away and he no longer has any sense of direction. His son died and it feels like his heart died in the same blow.
He can not digest this reality of “Sudden Infant Death Syndrome”€?. He can not accept that this is a death without explanation; without reason.
He rests his hand on his daughter’s head; the little curls of a child who is still so vibrantly alive. And he is suddenly terrified by the thought that he is going to lose her also. The idea that one day she will die is unthinkable, unbearable.
He thinks that his heart will not survive this tragedy and, standing there, her curls beneath his fingertips, he wonders why he ever became a father.

The girl is named Alexis and she is only six years old. But today she seems almost ancient. You can see on her face that she has understood the death of her new baby brother.
She had always wanted a little brother. And now he was gone right after he came and she will stay all alone with Papa and Mama.
She understands her father’s sadness. She sees that tears have taken up permanent residence in his eyes and she hates that he is so constantly sad.
She worries about her mother, who has stopped eating, sleeping, smiling. Each time she tip-toes in to visit mama, it is as if her real mother is gone, and the eyes of this stranger look at her, unrecognizing; like another death.
A tear slides down her cheek and she begins to cry. She cries for the death of her baby brother, the death of her family and the death of all happiness.

They stand, looking at the too-small crib. His hand is on her hair, tears course down her cheeks. All is silent. After a few minutes, he will take her hand and they will leave the baby’s room. But they will always carry with them their overwhelming sadness.

The end of Raoul: A Melodrama (a.k.a. Le Poisson Rouge Se Meurt)

I wrote this a few years ago and, after I stumbled upon it recently, I decided it was worth a laugh or two. So, in memory of Raoul and also Babette, Enjoy!

It was a long slow float into the darkness. . .

but I should begin at the beginning. My usually-chipper Fancy black goldfish, Raoul, started to lose his grip on reality…or at least gravity…yesterday afternoon. I came barreling through the door, exuberant to do my after-school quick change from teacher-woman into regular 21 year old…and saw him. Floating. His little black tummy was facing the wrong direction, but his gills still moved normally and a fin would stick out from time to time, propelling him around the tank like some kind of a wind-up toy that accidentally flipped in the bathtub. It wasn’t until evening that he started to bounce.

Up and down.

Up and down.

Hour after hour, Raoul would drop from top to bottom and then float back up. His comrade in captivity, a sunny Gold Fish named Babette, would help push him to the bottom, showing more love than I thought goldfish capable of.

I went to bed with a heavy heart. I didn’t have it in me to flush a fish whose gills still gasped. Not a Sparrow falls…and all of that. So I closed my eyes temporarily, knowing that hit was only a matter of time until Raoul’s were closed permanently.

When sunshine hit the red curtains, waking me, I slid across the chilly wood panels to take a hesitant look into the round fish bowl. I felt like Francis Scott Key, seeing the gill still wave after a night of darkness, not knowing if death would be the victor. Unlike Key, however, my dawn’s early light fell on a still-floating Goldfish. Without a miraculous cure, the nightmare would not be over, merely prolonged.
So I did what every good fish owner would’ve done. I waited.

8 hours later, the gills still moved as I logged onto the internet with a dear friend and an accommodating apartment-mate to see what the symptoms might indicate. A few moments later, when we realized that I had no “hospital tank”, no medicine for the water and was not likely to feed peas to the little bugger…we logged off. Without bringing peas into things, we’d done all we could…would…do.

So we sat, chatting and laughing; old friends make for fabulous conversations. I sat back to let them catch up and found myself mesmerized by the bobbing of Raoul. The Fancy Black Goldfish slowly bounced up and down in the light current created by my filter. Detached from the conversation, I focused completely on the tank-life. I watched as Babette hovered around Raoul, trying to pull him back down to the bottom. Then, suddenly, it happened.

I know the exact minute that Raoul stopped breathing, because Babette left his side in the back of the tank and sped over to my side. She, and I kid you absolutely NOT, made direct eye contact with me and screamed.

At least, it would’ve been a scream if fish made noise. As it was, her mouth opened wider than I have ever seen ( and trust me, babette has had some gluttonous moments at feeding time) and told me he was dead.

My fancy black goldfish had died. We put him to rest in a glorious swirl of watery grave. And that was all. Babette is, as someone so aptly put it “freaking out”. Her fishy friend is gone. Never again will they walk (swim) the meadows (fish bowls) of this Earth…Never again will they swim in a circular motion together. Quothe the fishy “Nevermore”.

Raoul is no more.

fishy

The last picture of Raoul, taken (unwittingly) only moments before his death. (morbid, anyone?)

Blast From The Past: Cultural Angst

babysitting les enfants

Babysitting Hector and Phélix was sometimes quite nice . . .

When I think back to living in France, it usually is with that rosy nostalgia-induced view that perhaps embellishes a little over time, but life was not always the scintillating cultural magic that it appears to be in the photographs . . . a few days ago I came across the following chat-conversation between another student studying abroad and myself, saved under the title of France: Turning me into a Diablesse Francaise Sans Coeur. It reminded me that there is also a decent amount of cultural frustration inherent to country-changing!

Cakey: a THREE YEAR OLD corrected me today
KM: haha
Cakey: bratty kids
Cakey: and afterwards he was like “Tu as compris? Tu as compris?”
KM: jerks
Cakey: seriously. Three year old jerks
KM: oh man Abby!
KM: you should have punted him
Cakey: I wish I had thought to
KM: haha
Cakey: I’m laughing so hard right now . . . at the thought of punting Hector
KM: good, haha
Cakey: I’m laughing about violence towards children . . . what is France DOING to me!?
KM: killing you . . .
KM: turning us into evil heartless French girls
Cakey: let’s get tattoos that say Heartless Evil French Girl
KM: haha, indeed
KM:or a pineapple with an anti sign over it
KM: (I hope that makes sense to you, if not, ask)
Cakey: I don’t get it . . . anti-pineapple?
KM: pineapples are the international sign of welcome
KM: sorry
KM: I’m a freak
Cakey: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

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What’s in a Name?

You’ve gotta ask, though, would a rose by any other name smell as sweet? If roses were called . . . feces or stinkers or something, would they still be quite as appealing? I have my doubts.

There are so many names I love, even some that circulate through my family, too. Chloe, Penfield, Charlotte (lottie!), Robert, Beatrix, Evelyn, Zoe, Nicolas, Merry, Henry, Isabelle, Ernest, Oscar, Frederick (Freddie), Tova, Nora, Josephine, Augusta, Lawrence, Della, Irene, Esther, Jack, Lucille/ Lucy, Maude, Emilie, Francis, Dorothy (Dot), Primrose, Rosalind, Pearl, Vera, Genevieve (Vivvy), Ruby, Horatio, Edmund, Calvin, Sidra, Eloise, Eileen, Sylvie, Rebecca, Wesley, Diana . . . you get the idea. BUT, you do have to wonder if it’s the person that makes the name or vice versa. I submit that great names don’t make great people, but that they can’t hurt!

Lets take a look at some snazzy names that went with some equally swanky ladies . . .

Gertrude Millar: An English Actress and Countess

Irene Vanbrugh, Sybil Carlyle and Muriel Beaumont: Three actresses who starred in The Admirable Crichton around the turn of the century.

Clara Bow: The actual original “It Girl” who was pretty much the sex symbol of the roaring twenties.

Myrna Loy: An actress and a dancer and quite a hair artist.

Dorothy Parker:An American poet and a renowned wisecracker.

Tallulah Bankhead rocked her name with her famously husky voice, not to mention her panache on the stage and screen as an actress!

Mary William Ethelbert Appleton “Billie” Burke was one of the first ladies to show me the magic of cotton-candy pink confectionary-like clothing as Glinda the Good Witch.

Maude Mary Hawk Fealy was in her first Broadway show at the age of 3 . . . plus, she was a silent movie starlette!

Daphne Du Maurier was that brilliant author who creeped people out (through Alfred Hitchcock) with her stories, including The Birds and Rebecca.

Evelyn Nesbit Thaw was a chorus girl and a model whose lover treated her as muse UNTIL her jealous husband shot the famous artist/architect atop a roof of a theater in Madison Square Garden in 1906.

These snazzy ladies with their equally snazzy old-fashioned names did some name trail-blazing, if you ask me. Would I want to be any one of them? No, that’s not my point. Do I love their names and their panache? Yes, yes I do.

I do so love old-fashioned names!