Laughing and Crying

My thoughts are still in Ireland. Paul and I were there last weekend. I brought the last parcel of Audrey’s ashes with me. Most of them had been scattered earlier this summer in a place she loved on Hornby Island, British Columbia. The last was to return to a happy place from her childhood, also along the water near Belfast, Northern Ireland. For us to be here in Europe and living separately, to return to family in Ireland was like a homecoming. Bringing Audrey back to her family was also an embrace for us. Blood is thick and human ashes are heavy, surprisingly so. Paul’s cousin, Ruth and family received us all for lunch and in the later afternoon we headed to Donaghadee.  The day was brilliant sun after yesterdays of lashing rain. We walked along the shore, the moon already there in its climb to fullness and each in turn, we threw handfuls into the water also rising and flowers to accompany her on her last journey out to sea.

Of all the countries I have visited, the one where I have felt most instantly at home is Ireland. There, in the voices and the laughter, I hear the sounds of my grandmother. Once, as a teenager I asked her how she got through all the years? Inspite of my awkward question, she knew exactly what I meant and answered with, “I learned how to laugh.”

If I know love it is because of my mother, but if I can give love it is because of my mother’s mother. She spent the last years of her life looking after my brothers and me. Her love was fierce; her love was tender. She was a woman who, like some wines, only got better with age. She was not an imposing person, neither in size, nor volume, but there was something quietly distinctive about her and she was like honey to bees. Wherever she went, she attracted people to her. Not a story-teller in the usual sort of commanding way, rather, the words fell out of her unexpectedly and there would be a twinkle and a twist that would have us all laughing. We were young and we loved being around her.

As an adolescent, I preferred to like boys from afar. The sparks would come and go. I received a bouquet of two red roses once, one of which immediately wilted. “And which one are you?” she asked the next morning, not waiting for the answer.  In the last few years of her life, her mind turned slowly inwards. Somedays she was communicative, other days, not. But once when all was just beginning to unravel, we were at my brother’s wedding reception. Her supper hardly in her, she got it in her head that it was time to go home. She put on her coat and stood by the door, waiting she said “for someone who was going my way”. As usual a crowd of young people started to collect around her and we were soon laughing. I looked at her and asked her, how she was always able to make us laugh? She turned and staring hard into me as if we were the only two people on earth she said, “Oh, you can too, but you have too much control.”

Paris is absolutely brilliant for cultural events. I believe I could visit one gallery or museum a day and still not have seen them all in the six months I will have been here. And people go. I went to the Pompidou Centre with Tanya to see the futurist show. The museum at 5:30 was full. At 8:30 is was still busy. I discovered lovers deep in the Dubuffet cave of a work called Winter Garden and two beautiful young women stood cheek to cheek just breathing in each other in front of the label for Yoyai Kosams’s work. I think I disturbed them. They continued their explorations in front of the Eva Hesse installation, obviously inspired. But when hearing the recorded Marinetti voice in the Futurist exhibition declaring, “the ornamented hood of a modern car more beautiful than the Nike of Samothrace” I burst out laughing excitedly. An older man looked at me and started to talk. I thought there would be some discussion about this outrageous declaration, but no, I quickly discovered he only wanted to admonish me of my lack of seriousness. Tanya and I fled to another part of the exhibition.