My mother’s family roots are in France, but she has never had the pleasure of going there. I had hoped to surprise her in a year or two with a trip to Paris and Bordeaux (the city of her ancestors), but then she severely injured her knee and has spent the past six months in and out of care centers, hospice, hospitals and now hospice again — this time due to neglect that caused a Stage Four bedsore.
We don’t know much time she has left (it could be a few months, perhaps even a year), so I’ve returned to a habit that I started the first time she was “dying” in hospice last November: Every time I visit, I make sure that I read something to my mother about France.
Already, I’ve read Peter Mayle’s “A Year in Provence” and “Toujours Provence” to her, along with “A Pedestrian in Paris” by John Baxter and one of Cara Black’s French mysteries, “Murder in the Marais.” I’ve also shown her coffee table photo books about the Eiffel Tower, the hidden passageways of Paris, French gardens and the charm of French cats.
And that’s just the beginning.
I’m almost ashamed to admit that my collection of books featuring France (particularly Paris) now numbers well over 100, not including the cooking and baking books. (I truly am ashamed to add up those.) But I’m also delighted that I now have a wonderful reason to read them all again, from “Coming Down the Seine” by Robert Gibbings, an Irish writer who journeyed down France’s most famous river in the early 1950s and wrote about the whimsical people and beautiful landscapes he encountered along the way, to 2015’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr, about a French blind girl and an orphaned German boy whose paths collide during World War II.
I’m looking forward to reading my mother some of my favorite Claude Izner mysteries (“The Montmartre Investigation” and “The Disappearance at Pere-Lachaise”), a Parisian love story with recipes (“Lunch in Paris” by Elizabeth Bard), an intimate tale of my favorite perfume (“The Secret of Chanel No. 5” by Tilar Mazzeo) and a historical account of the most famous tourist attraction in the world (“Eiffel’s Tower” by Jill Jonnes).
Like me, my mother has a collection of mini Eiffel towers, and she loves my idea of taking a few tablespoons of her ashes to the top of the landmark one day, accidentally “tripping” and sprinkling her remains like confetti over the City of Light.
Of course, I’m in no hurry to make that trip. Just as with the Hitchcock movies we’re now watching every week, I hope that my mom is given the gift of time to experience them all. My voice is always hoarse after 30 minutes of reading aloud, but it’s worth it to see her smile with her eyes closed and say, “That can’t be all. Can you keep going?”
Oui, ma mère bien-aimée. With pleasure, m’dear. : )