Gisette03I imagine meeting my mother in Paris. She would like it here. For a few weeks, I imagine Paris is my mother. I read, La mort douce de ma mere, by Simone de Beauvoir and I hear Simone laugh as she whispers in my ear, “Paris maternal? Don’t be deceived by all those female statues. They’re only allegories, a picture of a feminine word, empty words; a mythical, romantic, male notion about femininity, nothing more, nothing less. Yes, even La Grisette. Can’t you smell the piss everywhere? If you want your mother, you will have to dig deeper than that.”

Today is the first of September and every year, I try to pretend it’s the 1st of July. I want summer all over again. But the weather is cool, making it hard to ignore the seriousness of the season. The tourists are going home and the kids are back at school. My honeymoon with Paris comes to a close. Work begins. The snowy white pages of winter are coming.  Paris is not my mother.

My first day at school is one of my most vivid memories as a child. I am the oldest and the only girl in a family of four. Me going to school felt like a big event, something to celebrate, but no one really explained to me what being in school would be like. A lunchpail was packed, a photo was taken and off I went down the road to join the other neighbour children already on their way to school. I remember thinking when I reached the little river that it would be a good place to have a picnic; so I sat for a bit and ate my sandwiches.

I don’t remember what upset me the most.  Was it having to sit inside all day?  Was it being with so many other children and a teacher I didn’t know in an unfamiliar place? Was it because I ate my sandwiches earlier and had nothing now for lunch? Or was it because I saw that I was in a new world that would not include my brothers, my mother, or my father? Whatever it was is now forgotten. But, sometime mid-morning I began to cry. I cried unconsollably. My face pressed firmly against the top of the desk and nothing could lure me from my despair, until the poor boy seated in front of me suddenly intervened. In an inspired gesture, he pushed his set of coloured pencils onto my desk. This was no ordinary set of pencils; this was a brand new set of 24 Laurentian coloured pencils. Never had I seen such an amazing array of possibilities. I don’t remember how the rest of that day passed, but I went home determined. I knew -THAT would have to be my first and my last day of school and I would ask my mother for a set of Laurentian coloured pencils, 24 of them.

 My determination lasted until the next morning. “NO! I’m not going” I remember stamping my foot and yelling to my mother waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs. Her response was no nonsense. “Well, you can stay home and be stupid, for the rest of your life.” The options did not look good: school or stupidity.