This post is part of ROOTS – a series that originates on BlogHer’s NaBloPoMo.
Roots: they are the stories that ground you, the food that returns you, the music that comforts you, and the people who know you. Everyone has roots that influence them, even if they don’t consciously know them or can’t access them.
Tuesday, June 4, 2013 – Prompt:
Go back three generations and tell us about where your family lived.
I was born in Paris, France.
My father was born in Paris, France.
His mother too.
My mother was born in Algiers, which at the time of her birth was a French department.
Her mother was born in Toulouse, France and her father was born in Algeria.
Algeria is more mysterious to me because I never visited, and also because the country changed so much after it became independant, in 1962.
My family had already left the land, earlier, already in 1953 or 1954 before the war there started. The land they owned was seized, and certainly all the hard work my grandfather labored there got lost, but certainly not his kindness, his patience and all the memories he left me, even if he passed on when I was very little.
My grandfather was a tanner, and I still have a satchel that I used when I went to grade school that I was told he made (I supposed he prepared the leather for it, but had it made by a maker). I am very fond of leather, its smell, its feel. I also have my grandfather’s desk. Actually, I am writing on it right now. I don’t know how old this desk is, but it must have been built more than a century ago…
On the contrary, my father’s family lived in a place that I am very familiar with.
I have walked the street they lived many times, and passed it driving even more.
I have looked at the door, a typical heavy Parisian black door, but I have never passed its threshold.
On April 27, 1946 the building caretaker, wrote this note to certify that my grandmother had been arrested on July 30, 1943 at her place of work and never reappeared nor gave any news until that day.
This piece of paper probably entitled my father to some rights. Eventually, my grandmother was declared “dead for the motherland”.
I wear her wedding band. Because she was divorced at the time, she was not wearing it, and this is the only memory I have left from her, that I carry all the time with me. Inside the wedding ring there are her initials and her estranged husband. LH TG: the first two initials happen to be also mine. There is the date May 17, 1925. I can hardly take it off my finger now.
The desk and the ring are part of my surroundings, and they keep reminding me of those who are not here anymore, and places and stories I barely knew, and certainly never lived. They have a lot of power though, and they do shape who I am.
See the other posts of the series: