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Sunday, October 17, 2010

C'est la vie

One thing I love about having a huge family are the family get togethers.  On Sunday, I had the pleasure of eating not with one or two but four of my aunties and one uncle (mom comes from a family of 10).  With them came the cousins, David and Brooke, Frankie and Rena (a lovely Nepalese family who married into one of THE funniest, craziest families on earth…I can’t help it, I was born into it) and of course Meme and Pepe.  All up we numbered about 22 souls, munching on French cheese, French apple pie (yum!) and a number of other French foods.

There was loud talking, hand gestures (the family IS half Italian, after all), laughing and general fun.  The French kiss…on the cheeks all the time.  This can be off-putting, perhaps, to someone who isn’t familiar with physical contact.  Men kiss men, women kiss women…it’s a whole cheek kissing orgy.  When I explain that kiwis don’t kiss on the cheeks and rarely hug, the French look at me aghast.   For them, physical contact is a must.  You don’t feel like you have been to France unless you have been kissed on both cheeks, hugged, had your cheek pinched (I have chubby cheeks, they can’t resist), and your bottom smacked, usually loudly and with a great deal of force.

I’ve really enjoyed bonding with my family, dusting off my poor French and learning a thing or two about where I come from.  Spending time with my grandparents is the best.  Pepe is still pretty sharp for 90, even though he spends most of his hours sleeping.  I think with Pepe, when he realized he couldn’t paint anymore, he just sort of gave up a little bit.  For Pepe, painting was his communication to the world; his source of his self expression.  When he lost that about five years ago, he just sort of retreated into his own world of tranquility and sleep.

I understand the importance of self expression.  Its one of the main reasons that I write this blog.  But also, one of my favorite outlets of self expression is through music, whether listening or playing it.  I really lost my love of playing music for about eight years and recently I got back into it.  I had always loved performing and got a chance to do it again recently at a talent night at work.  For me, it was something so small but so important to just get back out there and play in front of other people again, even if it wasn't very good.  It was just freeing to sing and play piano and generally make an ass of myself in front of other people.  It helped me connect with a part of myself that had long gone; sometimes things come back to you, even after a very long time.  It was like meeting up with your first love; awkward at first and then just happy because you can relish in the fact that somewhere, that part of you still exists under all the life experience. 

Meme, on the other hand, is very aware.  For her, self expression comes from…well expressing herself to other people through talking and sharing.  Meme is very much a social person; she loves having her huge, beautiful family around.  And she does have a beautiful family; each of the Petetin girls are stunners, beautiful and strong.  Meme says that my mother was like a little commandant with her sisters, always telling people what to do (you can tell she was destined to run her own business at a young age).  My aunt Katie, on the other hand, was the intellectual, a "very good, nice girl" Meme says and always trying to keep the peace.  Claudine, my oldest auntie, was calm and serene.  The list goes on...

In my family, women are the matriarchs, the power centre.  Meme and Mom and all the Petetin sisters are the movers and shakers in their own families.  The power of the women is very much evident here.  They get things going and organize.  It makes me feel embarrassed too; all the women here are super busy, amazing professionals but still find time to bake an amazing apple pie or go hunting for mushrooms (I love a good mushroom hunt myself) or tend to their garden.  It makes me feel slightly ashamed; I should have worked harder to be a good homemaker…instead I just didn’t invest myself in my home very much.  Something to learn when I settle in the Solomons.

Being in Auxerre is wonderful; it’s an ancient French city, with three huge cathedrals that grace the city’s skyline.  Dad and I visit the oldest cathedral, and for the first time, visit the crypts downstairs.  The old frescoes are amazing in colour and how long they have stayed vibrant; Jesus sits on top of his cloud, looking solemnly down.  The Four horses of the Apocalypse flanking him (I have been recently called one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse by my family due to disasters following in my wake).  Therefor I feel an natural affinity to the horsemen; nobody asked them to be death and destruction on earth; they just had a role to play.  I understand.

In the centre of the town is the old part; a completely medieval city perfectly intact.  We walk the cobblestone streets.  Autumn has come; I love the smell and sight of autumn in France.  The starting of the fires being lit in homes (yes they have open fires here and no, the French government is going to do anything about it).  Everything is about autumn food; stewed apples, grapes, sausages etc…it’s a lovely time of year to visit, it’s cozy.

My dad and I spend a lot of time walking and talking about life.  Dad is sort of my spiritual adviser; he has a gentle, soft approach to life.   He is more of a contemplator than a doer; my mom is a “go out and getz it done, even if you have no ideaz whatz you are doingz!”.  Dad is much more a planner, a thinker. 

I remember that I was really upset about something earlier this year, something someone had done to me (I can’t remember what it was) and my dad softly said “Everyone needs a justification.” Whether its family roots or blaming other people, no one likes to admit that they fucked up, that they have made mistakes.  I tend to do the same thing; I reference my family a lot in the blaming. 

So to answer my dad, I will say that in life, I have fucked up, made horrible choices and at times, been downright selfish.  No excuses, no one else to blame.  I’ve been the bad guy, I’ll admit to that.  Its freeing, in a way, to say yes I’ve been wrong.  But hopefully I’ve learned something for next time and I won't make the same errors twice...or in my case for the 20th time...Dad always says that what we resist persists, because we haven't learned the lesson yet. I hope I don't have to ever learn certain lessons again.

But generally my mood is super happy; am so ready to get going and head to the Solomons. So the last few days in France are spent contemplating the strike and whether there will be enough petrol to fly the plane (just received word…there is!).  And also how many pairs of underwear I can wear under my clothes into the Solomons.  You see, I’m only allowed 20 kilos before they charge me 13 Aus. more per kilo (eek!), so I’m going to do what we call “layering”.
I think it will go something like this: six pairs of underwear on…one pair of shorts, one pair of jeans, one dress over all…four bras on, one tank top, two tops, and a jacket (don’t worry, I’ll take photos). 

I’ll look like the Staypuff marshmallow girl…but I won’t have to pay as much (hey jeans weigh a lot…so does my fancy lacy granny panties!). 

Must be those Scottish roots that allows me to suffer to save a bob or two…either way, there is always some ancestry of mine to blame the way I am on!  Wait, didn’t I just say that I wasn’t going to blame my roots anymore?  God, navel gazing can get confusing…