IMG_1772Hardware stores are my happy place. They promise solutions to problems. Often know-how is required (where it all falls apart for me), but still, those neat shelves of fixes lower my blood pressure. Hardware stores set the world straight again.

One day a while back, I was happily strolling through a hardware store when for some reason I found myself actually listening to the piped-in radio. And tears started streaming down my face.

IMG_1798
Doors and windows of Toulouse, to accompany reflections about staying and leaving.

The song, “Je Vole,” was a hit in 1978, written and performed by French pop idol Michel Sardou. The song inspired a movie, “La Famille Bélier,” about a girl whose parents and brother are deaf. She is their indispensable translator. But she discovers she has a gift–an incredible voice–and her music teacher is encouraging her to go to a special school, far from her family.

Here are the lyrics. I’m crying just typing this. It gets me, as a mother and as a daughter.IMG_1790First in French:

Mes chers parents

Je pars

Je vous aime mais je pars 

Vous n’aurez plus d’enfant

Ce soir

Je n’ m’enfuis pas je vole

Comprenez bien je vole

Sans fumée sans alcool

Je vole je vole

C’est jeudi il est 5 heures 5

J’ai bouclé une petite valise

Et je traverse doucement l’appartement endormi

J’ouvre la porte d’entrée

En retenant mon souffle

Et je marche sur la pointe des pieds

Comme les soirs

Où je rentrais après minuit

Pour ne pas qu’ils se réveillent

Hier soir à table

J’ai bien cru que ma mère

Se doutait de quelque chose

Elle m’a demandé si j’étais malade

Et pourquoi j’étais si pâle

J’ai dis que j’était très bien

Tout à fait clair

Je pense qu’elle a fait semblant de me croire

Et mon père a souri

En passant à côté de sa voiture

J’ai ressenti comme un drôle de coup

Je pensais que ce s’rait plus dur

Et plus grisant un peu

Comme une aventure

En moins déchirant

Oh surtout ne pas se retourner

S’éloigner un peu plus

Il y a la gare

Et après la gare

Il y a l’Atlantique

Et après l’Atlantique

C’est bizarre cette espèce de cage

Qui me bloque la poitrine

Ca m’empêche presque de respirer

Je me demande si tout à l’heure

Mes parents se douteront

Que je suis en train de pleurer

Oh surtout ne pas se retourner

Ni des yeux ni de la tête

Ne pas regarder derrière

Seulement voir ce que je me suis promis

Et pourquoi et où et comment

Il est 7 heures moins 5

Je me suis rendormi

Dans ce train qui s’éloigne un peu plus

Oh surtout ne plus se retourner

Jamais

Mes chers parents

Je pars

Je vous aime mais je pars 

Vous n’aurez plus d’enfant

Ce soir

Je n’ m’enfuis pas je vole

Comprenez bien je vole

Sans fumée sans alcool

Je vole je vole

Je n’ m’enfuis pas je vole

Comprenez bien je vole

Sans fumée sans alcool

Je vole je voleIMG_1735And in English:

My dear parents

I’m leaving

I love you but I’m leaving

You won’t have children anymore

tonight

I’m not fleeing but I’m flying

Understand well, I’m flying

Without smoke without alcohol

I fly, I fly.

It’s Thursday it’s five-o-five.

I’ve buckled a small suitcase

And I softly cross the sleepy apartment 

I open the front door

And hold my breath

And I walk on tiptoe

Like the nights

I came home after midnight

So they wouldn’t wake up.

Yesterday evening at dinner

I really thought my mother

Was suspecting something

She asked me if I was sick

And why I was so pale

I said that I was fine

It’s very clear

I think she pretended to believe me

And my father smiled.

Passing next to the car

I suddenly felt something strange

I thought that it would be harder

And more exhilarating a little

Like an adventure

At least less heart-breaking.

Oh, above all don’t turn back

Go a little farther

There’s the train station

And after the train station

There’s the Atlantic

And after the Atlantic

It’s bizarre, this kind of cage

That blocks my chest

That almost stops me from breathing

I wonder whether later 

My parents will suspect

That I’m crying

Oh above all don’t turn back

Neither eyes nor head

Don’t look back

Only see what I’ve promised myself

And why and where and how

It’s five to seven

I fell back to sleep

in this train that gets a little farther away

Oh above all don’t turn back

Never

My dear parents

I’m leaving

I love you but I’m leaving

You won’t have children anymore

tonight

I’m not fleeing but I’m flying

Understand well, I’m flying

Without smoke without alcohol

I fly, I fly.

If your eyes are still dry, you are a tough cookie.IMG_1787It wasn’t until I was a parent myself that I truly appreciated my own parents. Especially my mother. She would do anything and everything for her children. And yet, I felt tethered to a leash. I was pushed to succeed, but in a very narrow sense, defined by traditional gender roles. Good grades in math were not appreciated–nobody would marry me, she warned.IMG_1780IMG_1781All the same, she wasn’t happy with traditional roles. She was an artist and completely uninterested in housekeeping or cooking. We her children stifled her, too. When she would sing with the radio, we would cover our ears and howl for her to stop. Leashes are attached at both ends.IMG_4324But I was rarely there for her. Flying the nest wasn’t enough–I felt the need to cross an ocean, too. I dreamed of seeing the world. I didn’t want to end up like my mom, my life a series of laundry loads and of getting supper on the table. And yet. If “Let It Go” is playing somewhere, and of course I sing/belt along, my kid gives me the same treatment I gave my mom. The circle of life.IMG_1766In a way, I was her translator. She was very shy, insecure, worried about being a problem. She joked that she was Edith in “All in the Family,” and my dad certainly did a good imitation of Archie Bunker. In a store, if she didn’t find what she wanted, she would slink out. If I said, let’s ask a clerk, she’d be horrified–“don’t bother those people! They’re busy!” But I would do it anyway, and almost always they would have exactly what she wanted. All she needed to do was ask. Or have me ask for her.IMG_1771I wish I had been easier on her, had held her hand more through situations that made her uncomfortable. How did she, such an introvert, manage teach me not to be afraid, which is not at all the same as being brave? If you’re brave, you’re aware of just how badly things can go but you feel compelled or obliged to do something anyway. If you’re not afraid, you’re confident everything will turn out fine. IMG_6034She’s the one who gave me my wings, so I could fly.

I don’t approve of Hallmark holidays, and every day should be mother’s day, something you realize most pointedly when you’ve lost yours. If your mom is still around, give her a big hug many big hugs or, if she’s far away, a phone call … and cherish every word.IMG_1792Here are links to the immortal Sardou singing his song, “Je Vole.” And here is the version by Louane, who played the daughter in the 2014 movie.IMG_1788

43 thoughts on “All in the Family

    1. Thank you! Happily, I still have a kid in the house who is very generous with hugs. But when I think of my mom and grandma, who seemed starved for them…even though they got lots, but can there ever be enough?

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      1. For some people there is never enough but for many of us an unsolicited hug or one even given grudgingly adds to our ‘hug reservoir’ in our heart and we are thankful and feel what..enriched…grateful …or just pleased that someone we love or like has touched us .
        There are many people who don’t like to be touched or hugged but oh sad the world would be if we were all like that. Bon nuit, mon ami, it’s somewhat late down under and again, unlimited hugs to add to your reservoir to be taken out when needed

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    1. I don’t think she saw it as holding back. Analogous to Henry Ford’s quote about customers could have any color they wanted as long as it was black. I could be anything I wanted as long as it was mother/teacher/nurse and living not too far away. I just heard the “be anything I want” part.

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  1. What an epic post! I loved La Famille Bélier and I love that song. I think of my mother every day and I feel sad that she didn’t get to visit our lovely home in France. Both my boys have flown the nest but they are both great huggers!

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  2. Magnifique! I am your mother, in many ways… though I did encourage math 😊
    I made sure my daughter flew somewhere, as long as she flew because I never had ghe courage to fly alone. Now, I wonder if she feels like she was pushed out, away, maybe someday I will ask her.
    A little Sardou with my morning coffee… merci et gros bisous

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  3. I’m afraid that I wasn’t in the least moved by the song lyrics (might be different if I’d seen the movie). I was much more moved by your testimony about your own mother. I think we can all blame Joseph Campbell, although of course, following your bliss isn’t anywhere near as straightforward as his apologists seem to think. We retain the leashes forever. They are our guilts and worries. Very few manage to escape them and I don’t know what the answer to managing them better is. Discussing them with the people on the other end of the leash helps, and with others in a similar position to oneself. The guilt never goes away though. One of my consolations is that my own mother would have had her own set, having left her family and moved far away — not immediately, but in her thirties, and her first trip back would have been for my grandmother’s funeral. Now that my mother has dementia, that adds another layer to the conundrum.

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    1. Dementia is most upsetting to the family; happily the one who has it eventually isn’t aware. I wish you strength.
      We all have guilts and worries and woulda-shoulda-couldas–because we’re all human and imperfect. It isn’t useful to beat ourselves up, be we do need to reflect, lest we stay in the same rut.

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  4. Michel Sardou ! (Tu me fais sourire.) This is truly lovely and bittersweet. You make the point of the leash being tethered at both ends. It’s so easy to forget that when it comes to our parents. At least, until we are parents ourselves.

    Wishing you a happy Mother’s Day weekend.

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  5. Flying the nest and thoughts about motherhood soften me more than I can say. My folks were busy with careers and excited for me to fly away and test my wings, while as a parent, I wept ceaselessly for hours as we drove our eldest to college. I am so grateful that my mom and I are close friends just as I am now a close friend of my grown sons. I think I’m still a sort of translator in my family of origin in terms of emotional language and heart talk. I look back at the child who was me and want to comfort her because feeling the shadow side of things so deeply demands much maturity and capacity, and if you stay awake like I do, absorbing it costs you dearly. It was important to my mother that I stay humble so she didn’t tolerate any arrogance or nonsense from me. I rebelled of course. And she hates cooking so she encouraged me to take over as soon as I could walk – what a gift to me and my future family since I enjoy it and it became part of my love language. Watching Louane’s performance was moving – especially layered with the Spanish subtitles, signing and French. Thanks for this vulnerable glimpse of your heart’s melody.

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    1. The Spanish subtitles were a surprise, but that was the clip I found that was from the actual film. Our parents do their best (and we as parents do our best), and it’s hard to predict who needs more attention and who thrives with independence…and sometimes the same kid does both but at different moments. You are lucky to be close to your mother and your sons. Happy Mother’s Day!

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  6. Oh C…one of your best posts. You summed up life as a daughter perfectly. I wish my mother could have met me now in my life. She would have been so pleased.
    Ali x

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  7. That song is a real tear-jerker, with such sweet lyrics as well as the melody, although like you I’m able to tear up over a lot of songs and sentiments at odd moments. Never in a hardware store, though! Nice tribute to the joys and frustrations of motherhood!

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    1. Yes, it is such a pretty song. I was surprised the French lyrics got into my head even though I wasn’t paying attention. I guess that’s a sign of something. And I also (amazingly) understood that it was “I’m flying” and not “I’m stealing.”

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  8. Happy Mother’s Day to you, every day. Yes, I have tears in my eyes. The song is so sad and beautiful at the same time. I always read your lovely blog, thank you. The painting! Is that your Mom? I remember it vividly from our joyful stay at La Suite Barbes, in Carcassone. this last March. Steve and I sending warm regards to you and Serge, from St. Augustine, Florida.

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    1. Oh, Cecilia! How wonderful that you read the blog! I really enjoyed chatting with you when you were here. The painting is by my mom of a model named Claire. No idea who the model is; someone at the university, I suppose. All the best wishes to you and Steve and a very happy Mother’s Day as well.

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  9. Thank you for this! I’ve spent the day crying because I have a daughter who doesn’t love me. My fault. I gave her too much. Please re-read The Giving Tree. Don’t make the same mistake

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  10. Reading this post very late — but landing right on Mother’s Day in France, so that works 😉
    That Michel Sardou song made me weep as well — especially as sung in La Famille Bélier (and now I see his songs popping up everywhere — we watched Nos Plus Belles Vacances the other night. . . )
    My mother was also an introvert and very shy and I wanted to be like my father, outgoing, so much more fun. Only now am I admitting how much more I’m like her than I’d recognized and, of course, I wish I could tell her. . . . So much I relate to in this post, thank you!

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  11. Great post, with a lovely story of self realization and love for your family. I find the pictures quite interesting as well. Not at all what I was expecting to experience when I searched WordPress for ‘hardware store’.

    Liked by 1 person

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