Oh boy, it’s been a while! I ignored you and I apologize! I was busy working on the French version of Citizen of Ville Joie and now…it’s gone to the proofreader! Strange feeling to say the least. It’s first time I put myself out there and let someone read my entire story which at the same time, means it is the first time I let someone in on all of the events of my childhood. Nerve wrecking is what it is!
Anywhoo…This first completion also means that some work has to be done on the English version, which is where I am now. The joy of speaking “Frenglish” I tell you! Below, you’ll find the Introduction part of my book. I’ve opted for a format that includes an Introduction, 17 chapters and ends with a Reflection.
Let me know what you think!
Please read “About this project and the Author” for more information on my project.
“Is it always there?”
The question came at the end of a long dinner during which I had wined almost as much I had dined, which could in part explain why I had to stop and think about an answer for a while. The truth is, whether wine or water diluted my blood, never before had I hesitated to answer a question about my younger years.
Not even when the questions came from me.
In fact, I thought the subject to be so familiar to me that my hesitation, the first regarding this matter as far as I can remember, almost turned into a panic instead of the intense reflection it ultimately became.
Prior to hearing that question, whenever I revisited the events of my childhood, the images played out in my head like a movie preview, flickering right behind my eyes which in time lead me to believe that’s where the mind is.
The soundtrack behind the images that summarized these four years of my childhood was by Cat Stevens, a reflex of my mind that finds its logic upon discovering the entire story.
The transitions between the scenes were made of white words fading softly in and out on a black background: Fear, Pain, Shame, Quandary and appearing last, on the other side of an equal sign as the sum of it all, Emotions.
If there had to be just one word to describe this period of my life, it would have to be this one.
These are short, simple but hard words. As I recounted snippets of these events, those were the words that could plunge my entire audience into an obedient silence, one that would normally last until I threw into the mix the emotions of the time. That’s when the questions from the audience would usually rise as naturally as my answers did, in a dance that followed a rhythm I had perfected over time.
An emotion is nothing else than our response to whatever the world that surrounds us is trying to tell us; the stronger we agree, or disagree, with what our inside hears of that message, the stronger the emotion. And for each one of those, there is a memory as vivid as the emotion is intense. That’s why the memory of our first love remains with us for so long.
In my case, emotions are why I can remember my youth in a way that is so freakishly detailed. They are why the answers used to come to me so easily when I was quizzed about events that took place so long ago.
At least it was until I was silenced and left with nothing but the aftertaste and the aftereffect of the red wine.
And yes, the memory of my first love is still there and quite clearly too. Annie was, after all, as beautiful as the summer days we spent holding hands.
The images of my time as an orphan can appear out of nowhere and can sometimes occupy my mind for a while, whether I seek their company or not. They can be triggered by a scene as innocent as one of departure played by actors on television or witnessed by shear coincidence in real life. A single word, overheard in a distant conversation or even a subtle fragrance is often all it takes for my mind to launch tape. Everyday moments, as routine as they can be, are constant opportunities to remind me that for a while when I was a child, my own life didn’t belong to me.
Not only does it make it difficult to hide from the memories themselves, it makes it improper to blame those who trigger them; the world can’t stop spinning just because it might slap me in the face as it rotates.
“Is it always there?”
I was asked if my childhood was always there, on my mind. I was asked if I saw its images all the time. I was hit by silence because until the question was brought up, I hadn’t realized that it was indeed so much there, that it had become such an organic part of my every day life, I couldn’t even notice its presence anymore.
There are of course worst thoughts to occupy one’s mind. I’m thankful that these images are always there because regardless of their nature, I have come to cherish each of them over the years. No doubt these experiences have left scars on my body and on my soul, some of them much deeper than the others, but who can claim to have none. A scar is nothing else than displayed evidence that, for better or for worse, we’ve experienced a moment of our life with great vehemence.
We get back on our feet, we dust ourselves up and we continue to walk on our path, often pushed forward by the strength we find nowhere else than in the pride we feel in having been able to go through the very same moment that injured us. Not only can the human heart beat with mystical strength, it can also take quite a beating.
Although I acknowledge that my story is peculiar, the goal here is not to compare it with the stories of others, hoping that mine will turn out to be the worse, like too many people do. No, my story is just different with its few defining moments, its many characters with souls as kind as anyone could ever hope to come in contact with. It also has its villains with no soul whatsoever. Hence my scars, I guess.
This isn’t some sort of “j’accuse” moment, although I’ll readily admit that anger was a heavy burden I carried for a part of my young adulthood. Over time, however, I gradually came to terms with everything I experienced as a child until I finally embraced it for what it simply was; life as it sometimes happens and a time that made me what I am. Living in anger or even turning my back on my past just because of the few who so easily hindered my life, would have been an unforgivable sin against the many who in return worked so hard to try and make it easier.
“Is it always there?”
During the reflection triggered by this question, it occurred to me that over the years I had only told parts of my story, to different people, but never the whole tale to anyone.
Never, and to no one. Not to my family, not to my closest of friends.
Not even to myself.
I was forced to realize that in the time that had passed since these events occurred, only some excerpts of my story had been favored by my memory. It was the first step toward the conclusion that if the images were going to be there always, in my mind, I should dig a little deeper to try and find all of them to see if I could at least remember the whole thing myself.
And while my hands were dirty, why not try and turn these images into complete sentences instead of lazy single words.
If I’m quite confident as to the order of the events as they will appear in my writing, I can’t make any promises regarding their place in time. I know it has to pretty accurate since I requested and received my file concerning my time as an orphan from Social Services but this took place in the seventies so the file is incomplete, to put it mildly, having even been lost for a few years.
No, what follows is based mostly on my memories. Some of them sure are blurry but luckily, most of them are so clear I can still smell, taste and yes, feel them. I have to tip my hat to the emotions for that.
“Is it always there?”
Yes, it’s always there. It’s right there, flickering behind my eyes.
The afternoon I was taken from my family. My first morning at the orphanage. Alain, my best friend. The families who took me in.
It’s all there.
Let’s see if I can find the words.
Summer of 1975. It’s the summer that follows my sixth birthday. I am playing with some of the kids from my neighbourhood in the narrow backstreet behind the hovel where I live with my mother, my sister and my brothers. We rent a small unit in the part of town where the poorest of the poor live…
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