Etsy seller goes verbal

It’s a Long Story

Use coupon code ABBYINFRANCE for 15% OFF anything in the shop)

This post strikes a darker note.  In the Spring of 2011 I found myself going with my husband to the Loire Valley a couple of times a month.  We live in the North, and to schlep to Central France you are obligated to pass right through Paris, so you can imagine how crowded it gets.  But we had to do it, my husband’s uncle was dying.  The whole large family was waiting for him to die so they could have the funeral, it’s completely logical, you can’t have a funeral without a dead person, but i also found it cold-hearted.  I thought we should visit the uncle in the hospital first.  As it turned out, it didn’t make much difference, the uncle was too ill to wake up the day we visited him, and then we had to schlep back down for the funeral, soon after.  Besides that, we had been invited to a Medal of Honor ceremony; my mother-in-law was being decorated by the French government for her charity work, kind of a big deal.  And, lastly, we were also invited to a ‘Cousinade,’ a kind of family reunion, like a funeral but this time without a deceased.  And this was all basically, like, within the span of five weeks.  We went to the funeral.  There were hundreds upon hundreds of people there (big family) so much that they were overflowing onto the pavement.  Everyone greeted everyone (four kisses per person, peck, peck, peck, peck, left, right, left, right, in this region) and said, Why do we only ever get together for funerals anymore?…Except it wasn’t true, because we were all going to the Cousinade.  At the Cousinade, we arrived late, in the middle of the meal, because we got stuck in a huge traffic jam in Paris.  Everyone applauded when we finally walked into the room.  We sat down next to my mother-in-law, who was just realizing she was the oldest person in the room.  The entire precedent generation was gone, and now, with her brother gone also, she was the oldest.  I said something dumb in commiseration about how I hate feeling myself getting old, and she said, On the contrary, that she always felt sixteen.  That was all it needed to take her back to actually being sixteen, and she then started whining (a familiar topic) about how she had missed out on a higher education when her mother had refused to send her to secretarial school.  This is how a stately French matron who has just gotten a medal, the biggest one, just one step short of a knighthood, for her really huge good works–this is how she gets when she thinks about her mother and what-could-have-been.  My husband was wandering off, he had heard this complaining many times before.  He was reading the giant family tree that someone had put up on the wall.  There was a little loop at the top if it.  Not a good thing.  A loop in a family tree means incest.  It was like two sets of first cousins who married one another or something, it makes drawing a family tree a little intricate.  And after that revelation we all crossed the village to visit the family windmill.  It’s a beautiful old mill, 16th Century or something, it was already old when my husband’s ancestor bought it and installed it in the village.  It’s made of wood, and it has this huge lever sticking out of it, like a giant popsicle stick, and you hoist that onto the shoulders of some men, and you can rotate the entire structure to catch the wind.  I know because I saw them do it.  The women were sitting at a picnic table in the shade, watching the windmill pivot and gossiping about tattoos, if memory serves.  And here’s the thing:  the dying uncle was at a hospital in the city, the funeral was in his village, the Cousinade was in yet another village, all pretty widely spaced-out places, and yet each time we went, the mother-in-law made us go to her place first and last.  She is like that.  So we ended up spending a lot of time at her house that month.  And one particular day, she took me out across the courtyard to show me her latest money-making scheme.  I have mentioned that she makes a lot of money for charity, she has really a lot of people who work for her, but her most recently started project was selling books on the French version of Craigslist, over the internet, and she couldn’t find anyone to take it on, it was just too tedious, so does it herself.  She likes books because you don’t have to load up pictures in order to sell them, you can just sort-of piggyback onto someone else’s listing.  So now she has this bookstore, in what’s called The Old House–what used to be the residence, about a hundred years ago, before the current house was bullt onto the property.  And she invited me to visit it, she was really proud, and she had some kind of filing system and everything for finding a book as it got bought.  So, reader, I am there, and I’m wanting to scan the titles, but i can’t, because I’ve left my glasses back at the house.  There’s only one title I can make out, because it’s so big, it’s Rue des Rosiers, and I can also see it was written by one of the Lanzmann brothers (the other one did Shoah.)  So I call out to my husband in the courtyard, Shall I buy this for you?, mainly to irk my mother-in-law.  She is not an anti-Semite, but, well, she’s not a philo-Semite either, and her son IS one, and I can tell you it’s not a very admired trait around these parts.  You know, the war and everything.  So, my husband takes the book, and he reads a little bit each night before going to sleep, and we fly to the U.S., and he takes the book on the plane, and finishes it there.  And then he closes the book and turns to me an just tells me the whole story at length from beginning to end right then and there.  It was like your worst nightmare of a stereotypical boring guy in the seat next to you on a long-haul flight.  But i listened politely even if I felt a little a little glazed, and even if my neck hurt from turning to him at that weird angle.  The gist of the story was that the bones of a dead baby from the Holocaust are found in the wall of a present-day Paris apartment.  ‘And it’s a metaphor for the dead babies we all have in our closets.’  He actually said that.  Not the author, but my husband.  I didn’t know what to say back.  I said it didn’t sound like my cup of tea (tepidly!)  I thought it was morbid.  I didn’t know at the time that it was a true fact, that the bones had been found recently, that it was in the news, and that more than one book was written about it–and I believe there is also a movie.  Anyway, I wanted to get back to MY book, Bossypants.  I hate flying, and I don’t know what it is about being on a plane, but I will laugh at anything when I’m on a plane.  Not to say that Bossypants wasn’t inherently funny, but just that I wanted to get back to it.  I did, and the plane landed, and we got to the house, and we went to bed.  At exactly 3 AM I woke up because of the jet-lag.  I went downstairs and started to unpack and tidy up, as I always do, because I get really bag jet-lag.  But I’m used to it, it gives me a lot of alone-time, which is nice after 18+ hours with a slightly boring man on a long trip.  So, reader, you can imagine my frustration when my husband came down the stairs at 3:05, really really chipper.  I confess, I picked a fight with him purposely so he would shut up (this is the nice girl who insisted on visiting the dying uncle-in-law in paragraph one!)  and so he went upstairs to try to get back to sleep.  I went back to my unpacking.  And I’m walking towards the stairs, to the pile of stuff meant to go up, and I hear this horrible keening.  There’s no other word for it, I’m sorry, and even the very first time you hear it, you know that’s what it is.  It was like a horrible dying-animal noise.  And I just stood there, remembering the movies, all of the movies, thinking, Just don’t go up the stairs.  And then when I did go up, I went up really slowly.  And I tried to control the situation with my mind.  I told myself it was the sound of a squirrel caught in a trap coming from my bedroom–as if that were likely, or even preferable.  It was of course my husband, his face horribly distorted and brick-red, and he was banging his head against the headboard and tears were popping out of his eyes.  (to-be-continued….)


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This entry was posted on February 8, 2013 by and tagged , , , , , , , , , , .
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