Before I was born, I was a whim, an idea, a little thought in the heads of two people much younger then than I am now.
One was my mother, a teacher… I’ve always rather thought of her as sensible, dependable and eminently stable. Though the stories of her school days and some wonderfully naughty anecdotes of time in America rather upset that stereotype I choose to see those as highlights that elevate a personality that might otherwise have seemed a little dull. She loves, she laughs, she lives… overall she’s as “sorted” as one might hope to be.
On a trip to the Mediterranean, more or less to find a boyfriend I’m told, she met a young man on a similar mission. He was, I’m told, a student (though of a different establishment to the one the young woman taught at) and once the screen goes blurry it becomes evident that the two of them hit it off!
Not only was he a student, but quite the intellectual with great aspirations to become a writer. Aspirations that became reality when he became a journalist.
Adventure followed, with a trip to Canada where I was to be born. A second child later, and a book which appears to have caused some controversy, “common sense” prevailed and a career change accompanied a return to France.
No matter. My father has always been, in my mind, a writer. He is also the best and worst kind of perfectionist, demanding of himself and of others nothing less than the absolute best. He loves passionately, laughs less than I would like to hear, and lives intensely. Though he can talk the night away, his emotions are often well hidden and it can be rather difficult to tease out the connection that exists between us. A very solid connection, I might add. That he loves me and is proud of me I have no doubt. Having said that, with such high standards of those around him, it comes as no real surprise that compliments from him are rare treasures.
This little, very modest blog has been in part a way for me to convey some of myself that does not easily emerge when face to face with those I love. I shoulder others’ emotions in a rather unhelpful way which finds me avoiding talk when my news tends to be difficult. Sweet Girl is much the same and seeing that trait in her makes me more aware of how frustrating it must be for those who love me! At least I have the written word in its wild and wacky bloggy form to tell them, “Here I am, this is me. It’s not all bad, it’s not all good, but I live, I laugh, I love – and that, after all, is really what it’s all about.”
I have never had pretensions as a writer. I did embark on a wonderful, mad, exhilarating jaunt into the world of writing a few years ago by taking part in NaNoWriMo – a month of daily writing in a bid to pen 50,000 words of fiction. It was a truly brilliant experience but I am still exhausted at its thought! Blogging for me is far less about writing than it is about being. But as I continue to blog, so I become taken with the twists, turns and tangles words can weave. I enjoy the rhythm that sometimes appears on my screen, or the delectable taste of a sentence that begs to be spoken aloud. Mostly, I enjoy the platform, the freedom to express my thoughts whatever they may be.
Once again, I find myself at the end of a long preamble only to discover that the post I intended is very short, and that the preamble is more “me” than the rest. I will leave my lovely readers with the prompt for this rather special post. It is an email sent to my by that intellectual young man, turned financial ethical guru, who through it all is also my father:
Dear ô dear Lady B !!!
I am a nullity when it comes to the modern “net” media, so my comment may be out of place, but the literary quality of your “billet” – not to speak of the content, which would be far too personal for an e-mail destined to be crunched by the American Security Big Brother System – should qualify the author for a regular column in an up-market magazine.
Sempé did enjoy the privilege of the front page in the New Yorker: you undoubtedly equal him in your “genre” !!!!
Turns out, I’m not done!
First, I love the fact that my Papa signs his name. There’s undoubtedly a whole other post in that sentence, but I’m just going to leave it at that for now. The intimacy of that is a gift of trust in and of itself.
Second, “Dear, o dear Lady B”… When at boarding school (or was it university?), my lovely Papa took to addressing his (very lengthy, and far too intellectual for my little brain) letters to me in this way. Shamefully I’m not sure how much of the content made it to the centre of my understanding, though I did try very hard to follow what were often deep philosophical arguments (I am absolutely not a philosopher), but the address became extremely important to me.
Having been brought up largely in England with a name that is, in this country, always a boy’s name, I was often nicknamed “Ben” or “Benny”. Names that I utterly hated. I’ve always liked my name, and the distortion of it into a boy’s nickname when I felt essentially, purely, totally feminine, was just horrid. Upon arriving at university, a fresh start was unfruitful and I became resigned to being known by this phoneme that barely belonged to me.
Resigned, it turns out, until I met Darling Man’s parents. At which point I realised that if I was to become known as “Ben” to them, I would have to live as “Ben” for the rest of my life. The famous buck stopped there. “Benedicte” in English is a little unwieldy. Most people who see me on a regular basis still call me “Dominique” or “Bernadette”… go figure!
Happily, I had that rather lovely, poetic Papa, who wrote me those tomes with a delightful, simple solution… while I would have been rather tickled to adopt “Lady B” as my new name, and I now ascribe such a moniker to a little red beetle known affectionately as a ladybug, I felt at the time it was rather too pretentious. The simple letter “B”, however was just lovely.
Ever since, I have been, “B”. My Sticks and Strings projects are often labelled “Be”, because in the last lifetime, I have come to appreciate the value of “being”, and the letter of my name coincides serendipitously with such a label.
Lastly, and most importantly. I am moved, overwhelmed and rather dumbstruck by the content of this email. (No, no comment on the fact that I’m clearly not dumbstruck – just look at the word count of this post so far!) It turns out that in some ways I am quite simply my father’s daughter. There are many words here because the emotions I carry with me are too big for words. Big words are pretentious and showy and so cannot convey the depth of feeling. Little words are so little… yet sometimes do the best job. Many words are too many, yet few are just too few.
Compliments from my Papa are true treasures because they only come when he truly feels they are earned and deserved. Compliments on writing are even more so because writing is, or was his craft. And here I have the two combined…
So I suppose inside, I’m feeling little words, and not too many.
I hear you, and I’m learning to believe you.
I love you, and know that you love me.