Home Contents Ch 1 Ch 2 Ch 3 Ch 4 Links
The Island Of Serenity
In fact, from the age of seven years, I was to eat, twice a month, the evening meal with my two parents, although, it quickly became more often alone with Maman, as J.J. was often ‘detained’ elsewhere. The reason for this in-habitual proximity with my mother was that; during a birthday party which I was invited to, by some girl because she was the daughter of one of Maman’s friends’, my mother glanced over at the ‘child’s table’, during the luncheon, and was, ‘totally humiliated’, (her own words of course), by my total lack of ‘any’ table manners. So she decided to take things immediately into hand, and installed the bi-monthly, family, evening meal. I was supposed to be incredibly appreciative of the generosity of my parents to offer to accept my eating with them. In reality, it was often the most awful torture for me, even after Jean-Jacques became old enough to participate in our educative evenings. Maman had been taught table etiquette as a natural acquisition during her young childhood, as she, and her sister regularly ate with their parents, since they were very young. To arrive at seven years old, without ever having to worry about how one conveyed one’s food from the bowl or plate, into the mouth, as long as it arrived at its destination without loosing a part of the cargo onto; the table, one’s clothes or one’s face, only to be confronted with the complexities of correct social dining behaviour was quite a shock, to say the least. Not only was I to learn; how to sit, where to place my arms, (they should rest on the edge of the table, with two thirds of the forearm visible), which knives, forks and spoons, one was supposed to use, how to hold the service, to cut up the food, to place it into one’s mouth, how much and how long to masticate it and the correct fashion to swallow the perfectly chopped and churned product. All the while, participating in polite and interesting general conversation. The shock of hearing my mother ask me; as to what I had been doing over the last weeks, how my school career was progressing and how my social life was developing, was enough to get me to question if she had not been abducted by aliens and replaced by an android or a programmed clone. It was only when I quickly realised that she had absolutely no interest what-so-ever in my responses, that I was comforted, that it was really her. My father, when he succeeded to arrive before the end of the meal, (that is when he arrived at all), softened greatly the experience, even if he was often already fairly drunk. It was during these shared meals, that I gleaned the scraps of their histories, that I have or will share in this document. I found out many years later, that those family evening meals, were, increasingly over the years, often the only times of the month, that he succeeded to arrive early enough to eat with my mother. ‘Well, hello laddie, what a pleasure to see you joining us for supper,’ he would then tangent off into some, long rambling story of dubious authenticity. Maman, who admittedly had a slightly beak shaped nose and closely placed, dark piercing eyes, seemed to metamorphose into some sort eagle creature; no matter where she appeared to be looking, throughout the whole meal, she really never took her beady eyes off of me. ‘Pierre-Alain, asseyez-vous correctement, s’il vous plait.’ (It was only many years later that I became aware, just how weird it was that Maman ‘vouvoyered’ us, being the verbs’ conjugation used to show respect or for referring to several persons at once).