My mother, myself

Two years ago, I visited my folks for a too short time, as always, and proceeded to document my stay, with snippets of video, and the intention to publish blogs captioning them once I would be back home, on my computer, with my time and software, as I am far from being equipped when I travel, and my know-how is pretty limited.

I also visited the Normandy landing beaches with my brother, nephew and my two sons, and it was a very emotional and beautiful journey through our common French-American history.

Once I returned home, it was a time of sorrow and distress very soon after I settled down, for the passing of a dear friend who reminded of my own mother in so many unexpected ways.

Being away from my own mother made me particularly  sensitive to that time of loss for those experiencing it. As I was struggling with grief and bereavement, I did something totally stupid without even realizing it, and in a jiff all my videos from the previous trip were deleted forever, before I had had the time to save or back them up as I usually did.

Today I am back again in my hometown, with many more losses that left many of us aching in the meantime, but my mother and father are still the same, and I am well determined to cherish the time I am spending with them, with an urgent desire to safeguard all kinds of memories that would be irreplaceable.

My mother started to document her years too. She likes scribbling notes and telling the stories of the people that she remembers all too well, with details that no one she tells ever would memorize, but she will repeat those details until we agree we are well aware of them, when the only thing we remember is that family details are always obscure and complicate.

Before I have time to grab a pad and make any attempt to organize all this information, she is already gone. Gone to the kitchen with lots of plans to prepare delicious meals that are the center of the family life always, even if everyone else around her is busy on a screen. She will then call everyone to the table when it is ready, and cry that noone is coming because they want to finish their screen time first. It usually takes a good moment before the whole family finally sits around the table, time for her to lament that “ce n’est pas une table” which actually means that this is not how she had planned that we would rush to the delights on first notice, although this ritual has been going on for about fifty years already, and would invariably repeat itself twice a day, when she calls for meal time…

Mother and daughter at the lunch table in Paris, August 23, 2012

Do not assume, just ask

Beware Rude Neighbors Street SignOne of my pet peeves where I live is when I see some random car that has been parked on my assigned parking spot: I live in a complex and I own a garage next to my unit, which I use. Since I have only one car, the assigned parking slot is free, free to be highjacked by any other resident near it, generally someone with visiting or permanent extra vehicle, since each unit in the complex has only one assigned slot.

There are plenty enough visitors parkings spots, but my street is very long, and I live all the way down at the opposite end, when the visitors slots are at the beginning. No big deal, I can walk, I like walking, and I can tell my guests that they have to park far before finding my remote unit. No big deal, if it does not rain, snow, or if it’s not for a quick drop off but a long visit.

But still: I’d love to be able to tell my guests not to worry about where they can park when they come and see me, and to find my numbered spot on the way down my street: they would park there, I would see their car arrive from my window and greet them with my best welcome.

Instead, every time I have a friend come over, I find that an unknown car has been chosing  my spot to park and it annoys me, because I was not aware that it would be there, or because the driver has deliberately decided that it was okay to park there without even reaching out to me.

I went to one of those indelicate offenders the other day, to ask her not to use my spot all the time, because I had seen who she was.  She very graciously accepted my request, telling me in a not so apologetical way that she was never staying very long in that spot (which is certainly not true since every time I was passing by I could spot her car with a very distinctive licence plate), and also warned me that I should also tell some others who would use that spot when she wasn’t parked in it (ah ah! so she knew exactly that it was abused by all sorts of illegitimate drivers!).

Today I noticed a big unknown SUV that seems to have elected this parking slot to rest for the entire Memorial Day Weekend. I suppose some families came from outside and are visiting, why wouldn’t I have also visitors? I went to the windshield of that big car and taped a note stating: “Do not assume that it is okay to park in here. Please ask me before and I might say yes anyway, or no if I need to use my parking spot for myself”, and I signed.

What are your pet peeves with your neighbors? Is it more difficult to have civil relationships within the community because many assume and feel entitled? What is your take on this story? Am I overreacting?

A rule of thumb

I keep my numbers down. It means that I don’t like getting overwhelmed with big numbers. I don’t care if big is beautiful, it’s not my type of beauty, that’s it. I like what I can manage. So if I can’t take it because it’s a big number, I don’t go there.

My rabbi told me once if you can’t pronounce it don’t use it. I’d apply this to numbers rather than language, because I never shy off complicate words to pronounce if it’s the right word that will express what I wanted to say. But I’d definitely apply it to numbers: I am so bad at maths, that if I can’t count until that number, I won’t go there.

What it means, in terms of social media, is that I like keeping my numbers in a range I can manage. That number is generally one-hundred-fifty. It’s called the Dunbar’s number.

What’s your limit?