When it rains it pours, that’s the saying, right?
As far as the story I’m about to tell you goes, it’s been more of a steady drizzle that accumulated in a lake behind the wall of a dam.
That wall broke a few days ago.
Romania, last week.
My plane lands under a damp sky, the familiar landscape gives me a welcome respite from the constant pounding of the work stress in Paris. I drink from that feeling of safety, not knowing that it wouldn’t last long.
The next day, I am sitting on a bench next to my mother, surrounded by the sounds and smells of a lazy summer afternoon. I am sharing details of my life and work. I more or less paint a picture of myself with a red cape around my shoulders, conquering the world.
My mother listens. A pause. I hear fine cracks crawling across that metaphorical dam wall. She tells me that I should have taken a different path in life, that I have changed so much she cannot recognize me anymore. Water starts to gather around my ankles. I keep talking in an attempt to cover the wall fissures with my explanations and justifications. I hear a loud crack and the water rushes in. It’s too late to follow my dreams. I have ruined my life. Where did she go wrong in raising me? What did she do to deserve this?
I am fully submerged under water.
Already teetering on the verge of despair with some recent work/inter-personal dynamics, my mother’s words and the pain in her eyes push me over the edge into a whirlpool of hopelessness.
I have failed her. Again.
Floarea is my great-great-grandmother and Ana, my great-grandmother, is her daughter.
It’s the 1930’s. Ana lives with her parents and six siblings in a tiny house in a remote Transylvanian village. At sixteen, one of her older brothers takes her to the capital to work as a house keeper. Ana is a bright and beautiful young woman, her diligent work sets her apart. The family she works for care for her so much that they offer to adopt her and leave their vast fortune to her.
Floarea doesn’t agree to the adoption, she summons her daughter back to the village and quickly marries her to a short man with an even shorter temper, my great-grandfather. Ana lives the rest of her life in a small house in the village where I was born. Her husband is bitter and cruel. She is kind and patient, never once complaining.
Why am I telling you these two stories? Because I am my mother’s daughter, my grandmother’s grand-daughter, my great-grandmother’s great-granddaughter and my great-great-grandmother’s great-great-granddaughter and because I learned that I can breathe underwater.
I understand my mother’s fear and I understand Floarea’s fear.
There is no uber wealthy family wanting to adopt me but being able to stand on my own two feet, to pursue my dreams and tell my stories is the greatest wealth I can ever wish for.
A little less than a year ago, I started writing a story about a woman who against all odds, forges her own path. Her name is Fleur, which translated in Romanian is Floarea. I found out my grand-grand-grandmother’s name and the story I just shared with you just last week. It’s an uncanny coincidence, the names, don’t you think?
Maybe Floarea is watching me from somewhere.
Maybe she wishes she had made a different choice with her daughter.
Maybe I’m her second chance?
Either way …
I understand my parents’ fears.
I will always love them.
I am going my own way.
Photo by Jordan Buetow.