When I was young…


Recently, one of the French magazines, Le Nouvel Observateur, supposedly more intellectual than others (!) had a special issue devoted to Simone de Beauvoir and the cover, which I do not want to show here, was a picture of her, naked, seen from the back. This is what culture has become in this country, one of the women writers, a philosopher and a novelist, the first woman to have achieved the then very prestigious Agrégation, a woman who’s been a role model for my generation, reduced to a naked backside photograph. But then what can you expect when the political press tend to deal only with Sarkozy’s love affairs?

I’m just venting my anger here, but what I originally had in mind was Peggy’s meme, at Day to Day Life of a Very Lazy Gardener

The idea is to list five things in your life now that you would have never thought would be in your life when you were 25.

As I’ve said elsewhere, I am not really fond of memes, but I saw this at Kenju’s yesterday and found it interesting, so I’ll comply.

1For one, when I was young, as I said before, Simone de Beauvoir was my role model. And I just wanted to be like her. A free woman who would live a free life, the way she chose, no strings attached, no bourgeois attachments, no marriage, no children, a succession of intellectual and fascinating men in my life. So if you had told me there and then that I would get married and have a child, I wouldn’t have believed you!
But I did! I met Roland, at the ripe age of 30 and we eventually got married.

2Another thing is, I tried my hand at a variety of things, all having to do with languages. The dream of my life was then to become an interpreter and work in some international organization like the UN or the UNESCO, no less 😉 and do simultaneous translating.
I attended classes in a school for interpreters and translaters and turned out to be much to slow to fit the bill.
But there was one thing that I definitely knew! I could and would NEVER be a teacher. I must say that the teachers of my school days were far from being role models. Anyway, once, I was asked to substitute in a professional school as a teacher for one of my friends. What convinced me was that I didn’t have a job at the time, and that I needed the money.
So there I went, taught a couple of classes, certainly didn’t know what I was doing, but the students didn’t complain, and … I decided that this was what I wanted to do.

3Till a very ripe age, I never felt that I wanted to have children. When they stuck a baby in my arms, I felt silly and awkward, infants and little children certainly didn’t appeal to me. I didn’t find them cute and I certainly didn’t experience anything like maternal instinct. Actually, that worried me a lot when I got pregnant, because I thought I would certainly be a totally incompetent mother and would never have the patience for a baby or a toddler.
Well, I surprised myself. I didn’t feel my baby’s diapers smelt as bad as other babies’ and got very interested in my daughter, although she always complained that I was not paying enough attention.

4As I didn’t want to have children, it was very difficult for me to understand some of my friends who got pregnant as they were single, and decided to have the child. The raising and education of a child, with no father in sight, seemed to me some crazy goal and I thought that bringing a child to the insane world in which we lived was bad enough, let alone bringing up the said child on their own.
Little did I know what life had in store for me. On a bleak Tuesday of January, my Roland drove away to his death, leaving Julie, aged six and a half, and me, her mother, to fend for ourselves. This was exactly sixteen years ago today. A date that is like a hurdle I have to jump every year with ever renewed longing and sadness.
So raise a child by myself I did. And a proud mother I am today. Not proud of myself, because I did what I could, but proud that my daughter is such a wonderful and accomplished young woman that her father, somewhere, is certainly proud of, too.

5As a little girl, and later as a young woman, I was a very keen reader. A speedy one, too, so I read literally scores of books every year. I borrowed them at the local library. Reading was just part of me. And then, somehow, I can’t even remember how or when, I lost the urge. I wasn’t interested in reading any longer. Or rather, I took to reading murder mysteries and nothing else. I couldn’t focus on anything else. And this has been going on for quite a long time, years in fact. This is really one thing I couldn’t have imagined happening to me.
And yet, in the last year, I seem to have resumed reading a little. Maybe your influence, blogger friends 😉

I won’t tag anyone, really, but I’d love to know what Ronni, Millie, Autolycus, Septuagent, who hasn’t blogged in a long time 😦 , Naomi or MotherPie would have to say.
Claudia of Toronto, if you feel like it, I’ll be delighted to have you as a guest blogger –you do the writing and I publish it 😉


21 thoughts on “When I was young…

  1. These are big hurdles, all of them. I was like you about motherhood; it was fine for everyone else, and I enjoyed being an aunt. But one day, bam! I just had to have a baby, even though it had not been part of the plan and like you I had felt awkward around infants (still, do, as a matter of fact). But having L was just a wonder; and now she is a teenager!

  2. Very interesting reading, Claude, and thanks for the mention. You were thrown into single motherhood, and I admire women who are thrust into it and survive! (Especially when they didn’t think they wanted children in the first place). I also admire teachers, since I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I could never do it.

  3. Dear, dear Claude! You are so incredibly, wonderfully honest…And, as it turns out, an admirable, courageous woman who took life as it came, and grew at every step.
    A meme is really a public confession. Thank you for your generosity in offering your blog for mine. This week, one day at a time, I will try to remember who I was so many years ago.
    On this painful day for you, you are in my heart and prayers. Believe me. Your husband is proud, not only of his accomplished daughter, but of the young woman he loved, and who never faltered when the going got rough.

  4. I am sorry for the continued loss that you feel. I will not say I hope it gets less, because some things stay with us forever and thats the only way it should be. They mean that much to us.

  5. What a wonderful post to drop in on. (English has nutty prepositions, doesn’t it?)

    I’m not much of a memer (?) either, but this one you wrote is so touching. It is, as mentioned before, a confessional. But since 25 is 10 years ago, maybe I don’t have enough of a time gap to make it as meaningful. Maybe if I made it from 15…

  6. I found this post very moving – especially as it was written on a sad anniversary. It is a very interestin meme but I don’t think i can take up the challenge. There isn’t much about my life now that I could have envisaged at the age of 25. My only wish is that I could have taken advantage of moving to France when I was that age. Things might be very different now.. .

  7. Claude,

    I loved your answers! They are a wonderful insight into how a woman’s mind changes about subjects such as children and husbands. They are not the depersonalizing traps that we suspected they would be.

  8. Claude, I feel I know you so much better after reading your meme answers. You are a strong woman. YOu survived the loss of your beloved husband and single handedly raised your daughter who turned out to be a fine young woman.
    My father died when I was nine and I know from personal experience watching my Mother cope raising me alone that it is not an easy task. You just do the best you can and hope it all turns out right.

    I admire you.


  9. @ everybody Thanks for your kind thoughts and comments

    @Ronni, I spoke Spanish very well, can still understand it perfectly and make myself understood, but not fluent any longer. I learnt Russian for years, but have always found it more difficult and above all, never had really a chance to practice it much, except when I visited my my mother’s parents in Israel, as this was the only language we could ‘converse’ in.

    @ Gail, you have gone through a lot and it’s not really a matter of when you were twenty-five, but of how you saw your life when you were not completely a grown-up. At twenty-five, I certainly wasn’t one. But maybe that’s my generation

  10. Claude….you are a much stronger person than I think you ever thought you were. It’s amazing how you find that out when you lose a husband; and especially when you’re left to raise a child on your own. What a beautiful mother you turned out to be. No one ever really knows how their life will develop before them. You have had some tough times; but you have to feel very proud of where you have led your life…and Julie’s too. Much love….

  11. This was so “from the heart” and I really enjoyed it, Claude. I have no doubt whatsoever that Roland looks down on you with a smile in his soul for both you and Julie.
    I was especially interested in your honest feelings about motherhood because that is the “theme” of my manuscript, “Seeking Sydney” and I’m now thinking of a second book for a series, based on the same theme. We need to talk when I see you in Paris in May.

  12. Claude, your reflections on that time long ago are very moving. There is not a thread of regret and much that you treasure. What more could a person ask for? Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  13. Your meme was very heartwarming. What I am thinking is: You can be very proud of yourself, bringing up a daughter by yourself was some tough job, it’s hard enough when there are two parents and you did it yourself and after suffering such a great loss.

    As far as the meme goes, Ill do it one of these days. I have a few posts that I have been wanting to make so after that, I’ll take a shot at it. I doubt that I’ll have “5 things” but I’ll see what I can do with it.

    Take care,


  14. The single mom and the book reading hit home for me. I also only read murder mysteries for a long time. I am back to reading everything, but not as often as I used to. I like you. I think your blog rocks.

  15. I could have stolen number 5 from you, but I’ve found five other things to talk about in the note I have just published on my blog (in French, though !).
    Thank you for this wonderful idea !

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