Chapter One ~ The Seed Planted
It has taken so many years of unresolved emotions, conflicts, behaviours and decisions to finally reach this moment of willingness to express what I have pressed/suppressed into every cell of my body. My jaw has been locked between layers of experience and feeling with my heart left in permanent and safe seclusion. And I am tired, very tired. I feel stuck in an amniotic sac that keeps me bound up, inactive...Still feeding myself out of instinct and growing ever larger each day running out of room. What to do with a healthy baby unable to be born?
In reality and history, I was born just outside of Paris in the suburb of Boulogne Billancourt.
On every birthday, my mother used to become nostalgic and remember the gentle Spring sighing " when you were born, the forsythia of the Bois de Boulogne was in bloom". I was also born in an extremely posh clinic reserved for aristocracy, diplomats, celebrities and so on. And, historically, it was a royal hunting lodge. It has since been amalgamated into the French healthcare system, I believe. It was known as the Clinique du Belvedere and I came into the world in this location of choice and privilege. From what I gather, my birth was quite traumatic for both mother and child. Firstly, my mother ruptured her coccyx . I never found out if I was in a hurry, too big or simply clumsy, but there she was bleeding on the birthing table with me screaming my head off with no nurses coming to our mutual aid. Mother was justly traumatised by this and only the cellular history of my body knows the truth of this dramatic and cold arrival.
Things improved enormously soon after. At the time, women who became new mothers were given a full two weeks to rest, regain strength, bond steadily with their babies and be roundly pampered. At least at this clinic. Family could visit. But this was a mother's time. And in appropriate French tradition, meals were delicious and served with wine. Wetting the baby's head. A few weeks after leaving Belvedere, Mother contracted German measles and, for my safety, I and my two older siblings were sent to a chicken farm somewhere in France. I believe it was an au pair's family and we remained there for a couple of weeks. According to Mother, among farm activities was the regular slaughter of chickens which fascinated my older sister. As a wry and unkind side note, this may have given her ideas as to how to treat her younger and unwanted siblings. I did physically survive this separation but cannot imagine its effects with the passage of time. I know that Mother was devastated to be separated from her new born child.
I have little memory of the next two years-as expected. I believe that my parents lived in the 16e arrondissement and life had become chaotic and unhappy for both. Their 10 year marriage was coming to an uncomfortable and unfriendly end and, in 1959, my mother travelled back to the United States with the three of us in tow. Now, the US was known to all the others and English was familiar. To me, most of it was a blur and I must have registered the language, but never kept any memory of it wafting about my grandparents house or elsewhere. By then, I had become a very French child trying to keep my head above transatlantic waters.
We stayed at Darrow School of which my grandfather was headmaster and my grandmother a resident dominatrix. It was beautiful there-the open country, the quiet and the routine. The one visual memory that I recall is sitting in the
dining room at a fairly long table with my grandparents at its head. And that is all. The rest was told to me by Mother years after. My father travelled and worked as a Canadian diplomat and his feelings about the States were respectful but not embracing. Consequently, he was determined that his three children obtain Canadian citizenship and, unfortunately, got so angry at my mother that he threatened her with kidnapping us and crossing the border. No protections were really in place where international marriages were concerned. So, after a series of secluded months and a bodyguard at our side, Mother took us all on a train ride from White Plains, N.Y. to Reno, Nevada. I believe that we stayed at a ranch which hosted people getting divorces as Reno was a separation city par excellence. By all accounts, Mother divorced my father then walked across the street and married that afternoon a long-time friend of the family when we were in Paris. As a matter of fact, my new step-father was present right after I was born. In a couple of weeks, we were headed back to France on the Queen Elizabeth. The only souvenir that I carried with me from the West of " The Misfits " fame was a left ear almost torn off by an ill-treated horse who did not like children. I wandered into its corral and soon was pursued into a dusty corner of its stall. I fell backwards and the only image is that of a great black hoof coming down on the left side of my face. So, I was taped up as I stepped onto the great ship that was to whisk me back to safety and to a life that was familiar and far less hostile. It was 1960 and I was just 3 years old burdened already by stacks of heavy emotion and very dramatic experiences.