I’ve just finished a novel, and I wish we could discuss it. Do you remember the afternoon we read the first paragraph of Candide, and you couldn’t stop laughing? We sat at a card table in your living room, and all I can think of now is the wintergreen carpet beneath our feet. It was like threading your toes through a rug of unraveled sweaters. What were you laughing about anyway?
I have an amazing photo of you. It must have been taken in Paris, sometime during the forties. You are walking with your father, who is holding Uncle Dan’s hand in his left and a cigarette in his right. He angles the burning ember inward, so as not to brush the sleeve of your suit jacket. Even then, you were taller than your father. The two buttons on your jacket flatter your waist. You smile – just barely – and look through the camera. Who took this picture? I thought your mother never returned to Paris after she moved to Gary.
I have three of the letters you sent while I was in college. You addressed one envelope to “Mademoiselle A.S.” – the “M” is curled on both ends like ribbon. One letter is written on a small piece of stationary, with a monarch butterfly in the top right corner. You might have enclosed a pressed muguet, though the date was not in early May.
On the day the Allies entered Paris, did all the church bells in the city really ring? Where were you on that day? I try to imagine the acts of resilience you witnessed during those years in Paris and Marseille. I try to imagine you sitting on the train beside a soldier on that particular day you once mentioned. I imagine the beads of sweat collecting on your forehead and your long slender fingers clutching the purse in your lap.
Did I ever tell you about that movie I saw years ago, with Sean Connery and Angelina Jolie? There was a line in that movie I’ll never forget: “I don’t think we have to know everything about the people we love”. You must have had your reasons for keeping it all to yourself, but I will never stop wanting to know more.
I have to admit something to you. I lost your recipes for spaghetti sauce, meatballs, and ratatouille. Do you remember the day I came over to learn them? I walked into your kitchen, and already it smelled like meatballs and warmth. You stood at the stove, and I hovered at your elbow with my notepad and pen. You were frustrated when I asked for precise measurements.
In your honor, I am going to attempt Baudelaire. I have your book – I even found a few of your notes in the margins. I’ll start with your favorites.
All my love,