Tuesday, November 07, 2006

My First Second Language

My great-grandmother (we called her Mimi, a French endearment for grandmother) lived with our family for my entire life until she died. She spoke French and broken English, and I spoke to her in broken English as well -- my first second language. I knew that it was very different than what I said to my parents and at school and much louder since she had hearing trouble. Out of all my relatives, she had the most beautiful soul born out of a lot of pain -- all four of her sons had died years before she did -- of accidents, cancer, alcoholism. And unlike everyone else in my family, she had incredible longevity -- she made it until her nineties when everyone else seems to be lucky to hit sixty. A month before her death, she spoke a lot to the air. When my mother asked her who she was talking to, she'd say, I'm talking to my sons. Can't you see them? She never spoke of her dead children, so I felt certain they were in the room.

Mimi served as an incredibly calming presence to the house. She couldn't walk very well and loathed the idea of a wheelchair so she managed to either use a walker (to get to the car) or scoot around the house, using her arms to propel herself forward. She moved fast and got wherever she needed to go. She didn't much like our poodle, the dear Peppi, but she would hold up his little paws during "Ring of Fire" and make him dance whenever Johnny Cash played. We didn't have a very big house so I slept with Mimi every night. When she started talking to her sons, I felt a chill. I wondered what they looked like as I'd never seen a picture. Everyone says French is a beautiful language, but murmured late into the night, it seemed otherwordly, beyond beauty and meaning, like a glimpse of something veiled that you'd see sooner or later.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"I'm not a fan of real life." Nick Nolte

Cocktail Hour

Drinking movie suggestion: North Dallas Forty

Benedictions and Maledictions

Happy Election Day!


Pepe Le Pue said...

French was always so tres difficile for moi in ecole.

Hollywood Insider said...

Mel G. didn't want to look bad(like Nolte)in his mug shot so he combed his hair.

Martine said...

Gusta estudiar Espangnole con mis amigos.

The Cineaste said...

I loved Burt Reynolds in "North Dallas Forty." He played football in college.

Abbie Hoffman said...

I had an ex girlfriend who lived with an elderly relative that used a walker. My ex tried to be a calming influence but everybody was doing drugs back then so it was of no use.

Anonymous said...

Michelle, you're the greatest. I love what you write! Jill

Crankster said...

That's so beautiful! My grandparents just wandered around the house yelling at everybody.

Sheila said...

my first second langage was spanish (to which i still speak broken) and then I took american sign language recently... and I hope to take french next fall... there is just something fascinating about language.

Paul said...

My Cajun Queen you're mimi sound like my kind of Old Lady might of been friends back in the day Sadtoloseallherbrothersbuteventhoitgivesmethewillies
maybegavehersomething to look forward to
Foxy D Lady wearthat crown
Shazammmmmmmmm R2 C2 wetdazenomoreNams

Laura said...

My grandma Lily was the most important person in my life. I'm certain that your great-grandma did see her sons in that room. I believe that when we are ready to die, the ones we love come to help us cross over. I have seen a few people in their last moments on this earth because of the work I do. It seems like they were trying to comunicate with someone above them, but there would be no one else in the room besides me and a few of my coworkers. They'd have this peaceful look about them and be staring upwards trying to speak to someone we couldn't see. It gives me goosebumps every time I have experienced it. Yur story of your great grandma gave me goosebumps too when I read the part about her telling you that she was talking to her sons.