Paris Part III

“Lillebeth (my cousin’s childhood nickname),” I said when she thankfully picked up. “It’s Lynnie (my childhood nickname) calling from Paris. “We’ve run into some trouble here.”

“What kind of difficulty are you in?”

“I’ve lost my passport!”

“Oh, God! How awful! How did this happen?”

“I’m not really sure. We were walking in the Tuilerie Gardens. We were lots of places, really. I could have lost it, or it could have been stolen. I don’t know what to do. Our tickets for Oslo are Monday in the afternoon. There’s only tomorrow and Monday morning to fix the situation.”

“Listen, Lynnie,” my cousin said. “I’ll talk to a few people here to see if there’s anything to be done. I’ll call you back later.”

A no-nonsense familiar voice. Heaven!

Lillebeth did call me back and told me to get a police report. She said there might be a slight possibility that the Norwegian airline would let my fly to Oslo without a passport…as long as I had proof my identity was lost or stolen.

Really?

Paul and I took off after the call and, more or less reTRACED our steps looking in vain for my black neck travel wallet. We ended up meeting a policeman in the park and followed his directions to the nearest police station, which–by some miracle of a reverse in fortune heading in the right direction–was still open.

By the end of that day, I had a little slip of paper–an official stamped and dated police report, signaling loss of passport. Paul had contacted the Norwegian airline and the official there said we should come to the airport early on Monday afternoon and try our luck.

We still had Sunday in Paris ahead of us, and Monday morning.

Time to put our feet up on our little private terrace, tear off pieces of our baguette, spread it with some camembert, drink a little wine and Perrier and celebrate having gotten through the ups and downs of this day together in Paris.

Paris Part II

To Paul: “It’s not there!”

“What’s not there?” he asked from the other side of the bed. Our room was tastefully decorated, but small by American standards.

“My God. Everything! My passport, my driver’s license, my credits cards, my medical card, my money.”

“What?” Are you sure? What were they in?”

“You know, the travel pouch that goes around my neck.”

“It wasn’t around your neck?”

“NO! I put it in my shoulder bag so I would look a little more chic, like the French women.”

“Let me look in the bag,” Paul said practically.

I knew it wasn’t there. I knew the second I noticed the bag’s lightness that it was GONE FOREVER, the proof of all my identity along with it.

As Paul foraged through my bag and found nothing resembling my travel pouch, his face began to look like a haunted man.

Consequences, I knew, were dashing into his brain, as they had been seconds before in mine.

Today was Saturday, July 2nd. It was towards the end of the day. We had one more day and night in Paris; a Sunday when nothing in the way of banks, or embassies are open. Monday, the day we were scheduled to leave for Oslo, was July 4th, an American holiday. The chances of the American Embassy being open on July 4th didn’t seem very promising.

I mustered what little pride I had and went downstairs to the exquisitely decorated but minute hotel lobby to seek help. I tried my French on the concierge, but she immediately switched to her proficient English.

I told her what had happened and she told me a supportive story about how her iPhone was stolen right out of her bag on the métro. Then she gave me her seat in her little office off to the side of the petite lobby to research the numbers for cancelling my credit cards and helped me do it.

I went back upstairs feeling a bit better–I had at least done SOMETHING–only to find Paul’s sitting on the bed, all of our travel arrangements laid out in front of him. He looked up at me with skin taught over his cheekbones and wild eyes.

Nothing seemed very romantic at this moment in time, even with French wine and Perrier in the little fridge, a crusty fresh baguette, camembert, and a private flowered terrace to sip and eat in.

“There’s just no way we are going to be able TO GET OUT OF Paris in time TO GET OUR FLIGHT OUT OF Oslo TO MAKE OUR CONNECTION TO Kirkenes,” (the very north of Norway, where we were going to begin our very expensive much anticipated trip on the Norwegian Coastal voyage). “Unless you can get an emergency passport on Monday.”

American Express having already told me when I was on the phone with them downstairs that the American Embassy in Paris was closed on July 4th, and therefore would not be able to offer an emergency passport, I was ready to admit DEFEAT and go drink a little wine.

“What the hell can we do?” Paul said desperately.

I had no idea what we could do, but I hated to see my husband so upset. “I can call Lillebeth (my cousin) in Oslo,” I suggested.

One big difference between my husband and me is when in trouble he always tries to figure things out himself; I always ask for help–almost from the start. I’ve learned over time that both strategies have their advantages.

With no other obvious alternative, we squeezed into the little elevator, pushed the button and downstairs we went to the efficient concierge.

Paris Part I

What other ghosts remained for me to confront on this trip across the Atlantic?

Ghost as in:

phantom?
the seat of life or intelligence?
the soul of a dead person believed to be an inhabitant of the unseen world?
a false image in a photographic negative?
spirit?
a red blood cell that has lost its hemoglobin?
ghoul?
specter?
poltergeist?
banshee?

Ghost as in:

supposed spirit remaining after death?
a faint shadowy trace?
haunt?
shadow?
specter?
shade?
wraith?
secondary image?
nonexistent person or thing?
same as ghostwriter?
soul?

It was over forty years since I had been in Paris. And, the last time I was in Paris, Paul and I were, well… WE BROKE UP.

Paul had since been back for six weeks in a role as a university professor. He knew the city quite well. I used to speak French and read French and felt thrilled by all things French. I had taken a two week course at the Sorbonne when I was sixteen, had spent two summer months with a French family near Lyons when I was seventeen. I majored in French in college, spending a semester at the University of Rennes in Brittany. I was dying to re-experience my love for everything French.

I suppose you could say Paul and I were trying to lasso a ghost from our youth as in reTRACE, put it in the pen and start anew.

July 1.

As our high-speed train sped towards Paris my spirits picked up. Who wouldn’t like the idea of spending a few romantic days in this city of great beauty, with its distinguished gardens, sublime architecture, exquisite French cuisine, abundant selection of excellent French wines, lovely language of the senses, plus exotic people and their languages visiting from all over the world sprinkled into the atmospheric mix?

I had booked us a room near the Luxembourg Gardens–a room with a flowered terrace–as my gift for Paul’s birthday. We arrived at the hotel before lunch, set our suitcases in our room, then took off on foot to find the restaurant Polidor, 41 rue Monsieur Le Prince, recommended by a friend for a casual and delicious lunch. We had suprême de poulet velouté de morilles, purée……16 €…about $21. It was yummy–a sort of poached chicken with mashed potatoes and a white creamy sauce, although I did not taste the morels and I only ate half (a small tragedy caused by the “organic slinky” stomach problem from London).

On our way back to the hotel, we strolled through the Luxembourg Gardens holding hands while we took in the splendor of this park.

This city is intoxicating, I thought. A city for lovers. For friends. For families wanting some culture. A city of beauty, imagination. A city that makes people expand. In such an intoxicating atmosphere, nothing could ever go wrong…again.

The next morning we had our petit déjeuner, a croissant and thin bagette, butter, jam, fresh squeezed orange juice, and a hot coffee at the open and light-filled terraced Le Rostand across from the Luxembourg Gardens. I ate a little.

Afterward, we found our way to the Musée D’Orsay to see the exhibit: “Manet, inventeur du moderne,” but were perturbed when we saw the long line. However, it went pretty fast. We were in by 10:22.

I responded strongly to the way this exhibit was presented, all the paintings and writings about them centered around twelve questions, rather than in a linear fashion. This inventive presentation captured the breadth, depth, diversity, and historical significance of Edouard Manet’s work leaving me with greater understanding of how he refused to be pinned down with a past conception of his work as an artist, and of how he continued to try to capture what he saw in the present–however shockingly unpopular. Hence: “Manet, inventor of modernity.”

Lunch was at Le Miroir, 94 Rue des Martyrs–métro stop: Pigalle. Our friend had also recommended this bistro as reasonably priced for the quality of the food, presentation and ambience with no tourists around. (He was right!)

I thrived on watching, listening and tasting our roast lamb with little vegetables, one I indentified as julienned turnip–perfectly cooked, but couldn’t really eat much (a second culinary tragedy). As I listened to the voices of the people sitting near us, I realized my French was coming back to me. Quel Bonheur!

That afternoon, on this second day in Paris, we walked up a steep hill in the Pigalle area to visit the majestic Sacré Coeur.

It wasn’t until we were back in our hotel room later in the day that I noticed my shoulder bag felt a little light. Quickly looking inside it, I was relieved to see my iPad. But something else of importance wasn’t there.

England Part XIV

 

The curtains were now opened in the upstairs bedroom facing the garden, always Grandmother’s bedroom to me, but in reality Freud’s bedroom until he died, and Anna Freud’s bedroom when she became ill towards the very end of her life and where she died.

Visiting as a teenager, I responded to the light in this large airy room, the painting of Grandmother’s mother by her father, Louis Comfort Tiffany–if memory serves–over her bed. I responded to the cut flowers Grandmother always had in a vase and the photos she had of my father here and there from when he was a boy in Vienna. I liked to go to the windows and gaze out at the garden.

With light now coming into Grandmother’s room, I searched for signs of her. Very little evidence remained, even though this room was hers for over thirty years. I was horrified to see a little placard on a table saying something like: Miss Burlingham was a companion and colleague of Anna Freud for many years and slept here. MISS Burlingham! If she had been MISS Burlingham, that denied the existence of her marriage and of her four children; therefore, of my father, of my sisters and brothers, and of me.

How narrow an opening does one have to adjust a telescope in order to FIX a certain vision for the public to see?

I had some moments by myself sitting on a bench in the garden. It was a beautiful day. The garden afforded breathing room and straightforward enjoyment.

Such lovely roses!

Finally, I went up the side stairs to the top floor, a whole floor–to what was once Anna Freud’s consulting room, now a large office for about five museum workers, containing Anna Freud and Grandmother’s library and archives of their work, primarily of course, Anna Freud’s.

Having never been in this room before, I now saw THE PLACE where my father had come for so many years to, I imagined, lie down on Anna Freud’s analytic couch–which was still there, and do the endless “talking cure.”

I thought, at least there were windows, lots of windows. At least the room was flooded with light. At least…

God, I couldn’t wait to get out of that house!

***
Jesse had come to say goodbye while I was still sitting in the garden. He and Scott were off to see some London architecture.

Paul and I said our thanks to the Freud Museum Director–who had been gracious and quite understanding about my negative responses to the world of Anna Freud and Grandmother from my past.

We walked down Maresfield Gardens and found a pub on Finchley road. Over a clear soup, for my stomach was still unwell, I told Paul, “I just can’t go to Golders Green Crematorium where my father’s ashes reside (along with Grandmother and Anna Freud’s). Even after all these years, it’s all just too weird and painful. I’ve had enough of THESE PARTICULAR GHOSTS.”

England Part XIII

I remembered the feeling throughout the whole house as told by the sign in the backyard:


Sometimes, you shifted weight from one foot to the other for ages before Grandmother and Anna Freud’s cook/housekeeper, Paula, came to answer the door. If you walked into the dining room, it was for a particular purpose. You didn’t walk upstairs unless very specifically asked to do so. You NEVER went into Sigmund Freud’s study. The warmest atmosphere is the house was in the kitchen where Paula made us grandchildren feel welcome with her wonderful cheese straws and Austrian cookies, and outside in the garden–which was tenderly groomed, with a lush lawn and a beautifully chosen and nurtured flowers.

The house was like those Russian dolls that open to reveal another secret doll, and another and another…what secret lay in this doll, you wondered? What secrets were upstairs behind bedroom doors? What secrets were in Professor Freud’s study? Behind what closed door did my father go when he spent so many hours in this house? What secrets kept him riveted to such an atmosphere? Why did everybody act so carefully in this place? Did no one laugh out loud; get excited about ANYTHING in any normal way?

Jeez, it was enough to give you the creeps!

Today, June 30th, I was INVITED into Sigmund Freud’s study; “Spend as much time as you would like,” I was told. I have to admit I was curious. I had a vague sense of the room from my father’s memorial…something about the combination of THE COUCH, the desk, the old books, the oriental carpets, the abundance of Greek, Roman, and Egyptian artifacts had a heavy commanding commemorating-lives-of-the-dead sort of tone.

I walked right in and took it all in.

The couch:

The books and Egyptian mummy masks:

The artifacts:

Some of Freud’s things were very beautiful, such as this sculpture of horse and rider:

A shrine of remembrance, I thought, as I left the room: Sigmund Freud to mythological representations from the past, Anna Freud to her father. How very strange that my father’s life was marked here!

England Part XII

Was it something I ate? Was it not eating anything since my weight watchers one-piece-of-toast-with-one tablespoon-of-peanut butter breakfast and my nibble on an old biscuit? Was in nerves?

Whatever it was, my stomach didn’t feel right. While Paul, Jesse and Scott went off to experience The London Eye, I rested on the hotel bed, hoping my stomach would improve.

At around seven, we set off for an Indian restaurant recommended by one of Jesse’s friends. It took us a while to find the place, which turned out to be small and intimate with no more than eight tables. The waiter fluttered around us making various suggestions. While we were deciding, I asked for water. Then, more water. “Another glass of water, please.” “Could I please have another glass of water?” I pointed to something on the menu, “I’ll have that, and another glass of water.” I thought I saw the waiter raise an eyebrow.

I was in a dire predicament. My stomach was lurching up, down, side-to-side. I was sure I was going to pass out. But right here? Could I make it out to the sidewalk where there was some air? The toilet? Was there a bathroom in this place? I suddenly stood up, grabbed my purse. “I’ll be right back,” I said.

I went round the corner, and gasped towards a waiter, “The ladies’ room?” He pointed to the stairs. I put one foot on the top step and out of my mouth poured the shiny, slimy, smelly greenish vomit like an organic slinky jumping down the stairs. I sidestepped the mess, ran into the bathroom and locked myself into a stall.

God! How could this happen? Now? Here? Over dinner with my stepsons?

I dampened a towel and wiped off my shoes. Took another damp towel and washed off my purse and my knees. Took another damp towel and washed out my mouth. Finally, I peaked out the door. A waiter had just finished mopping up the stairs.

I gave him a wan smile as I passed him on my way up and whispered loudly, “I am so very sorry.”

He nodded his head, as in apology accepted.

***

The next morning, we arrived at 20 Maresfield Gardens–The Freud Museum–just before 10:00 a.m., our appointed time.

I whipped out my iPad to capture my grandmother’s house with my newfangled device while Paul took a photo if me with his own iPad.

My first impression was, well, it is a beautiful house…substantial, even imposing, with such lovely roses in front. And, It’s kept up. Two blue placards stamp its historical significance onto the front red brick facade: one to honor Sigmund Freud, the other to honor his daughter, Anna Freud.

I pressed the intercom for the office to the left of the side door and was buzzed in.
We traipsed up the side staircase where the present offices are, through Freud’s bedroom, which became Grandmother’s bedroom after he died. The shades were still drawn. It was too dark to see anything much. We came out on the landing where there was light and space and I thought…this is a bit better, Paul and his sons can at least see what the house is like.

But, I shuddered as I went down the stairs to the front hall, the scene of so many ice-cold formal visits; the space a visitor (granddaughter) such as myself would be let into after you rang the front door bell. The secrecy of the house came back to me…so many nuanced relationships (alive and dead) for a young girl to contend with.

England Part XI

Back on my own again, I boarded the train to London. I thought about what lay ahead of me: reuniting with my husband, Paul; catching a glimpse of my two adult stepsons, Jesse and Scott, who had just done Wimbledon with their father; visiting Grandmother and Anna Freud’s house in Hampstead–The Freud Museum; visiting my father’s ashes at Golders Green Crematorium; seeing my old grammar school–Camden School for Girls; seeing my old house at 35 Queens Grove, St. Johns Wood. What else? I wasn’t sure.

The closer the train got to London, the colder I began to feel. I wished I could just wrap the warmth from Ann’s home around me and take it with me. Instead, I opened up a little old English biscuit left over from somewhere and gnawed away at that.

It didn’t help. I was REALLY hungry. I could just feel the old undertow reeling me back towards GHOSTS…

***

I heard my husband’s card fiddling with the hotel room door. I smiled inside.

Thank God!

I jumped up and hugged my husband hard, but not amorously for his boys, Jesse and Scott, were right behind him.

The four of us were scheduled for a private visit at The Freud Museum the next morning. I had very mixed feelings about this private visit, but I had set the whole thing up. I had lots of questions. Would it still look the same? Would I feel the presence of Grandmother? Of Anna Freud? Would Sigmund Freud’s presence still be in a shrine as it was when I returned in 1971 for my father’s funeral–the memorial for him in Sigmund Freud’s study? Would I feel the ghost of my father somewhere in that house?

England Part X

The hug goodbye with Diana was sweet and genuine and touched with sadness because I think we had the same thought: we would never see each other again. Tassie said a warm and quick goodbye and went off to work on an upcoming art show due to open in a couple of days.

I tried to focus on the present, which was Ann and Tiggy at Diana’s door, ready to steal me away.

So far my friend Ann and I had shared wine, fish and chips, old memories from our childhoods, and my iPad photos at the table reserved for locals at The Anchor in Walberswick. Now Tiggy grabbed my bag, placed it in the trunk of his fancy car and off we went towards their 300 year-old family farm.

I fell in love with the farm before I even saw it because, as soon as we turned off the main road, there was that peaceful feeling that comes with the privacy of miles of rolling hills of wheat…just like the vast calmness of my uncle’s farm in East Berlin, Pennsylvania.

And then after some minutes, their farmhouse–just as I thought it might be: large, rustic, made comfortable for living; containing the stories of generations of family members.

In I went to their kitchen, up I went to a guest bedroom, down I went onto the soft white eiderdown comforter on the bed, and snooze I did like I had slept over a hundred times. Good thing I did, too, because before long I was whisked out to Ann and Tiggy’s car to meet both their grown daughters and six of their grandchildren, with an age range from about six to sixteen. The fourteen year-old engaged me in a conversation about To Kill a Mockingbird. “So what do you like about it?” I asked him. “The trial scene. It’s quite interesting, really.” I smiled to myself on that one. The husband of one of the daughters, a principal of an elementary school, engaged me with conversation about the American educational system. “What’s this No Child Left Behind iniative?” he asked me. “Oh,” I replied, “a system of dumbing down vitality in learning for any kid with smarts.” It doesn’t work. Everybody hates it; it forces teachers to teach to tests.”

Back at the farm, while Tiggy made a Thai chicken dinner, Ann and I talked about our friendship, “It was sad and lonely for me,” Ann said, “when you went back to America; all my good friends in the village left.” We talked about my cousin Annie, also her good friend. “Annie and I used to go over to your grandmother and Anna Freud’s house to have dinner,” Ann told me. “I don’t remember there being much conversation. I also went with Annie to stay at your grandmother and Anna Freud’s house in London several times.” “You did!” I said shocked. “That’s two more times than I ever did. I was allowed to stay there once when I came from America to go to my father’s funeral. Let me tell you, it was weird!” We laughed, sharing some of the same wacko “Freudian” history. With my seat at the dining room table facing the kitchen, I could see that Tiggy was all ears.

Next morning, Ann looked through old photographs and found some of her marriage to Tiggy. Ah, that was the way I remembered Ann…and that village scamp!

Also, among the photos was one of her and Tiggy with some of their grandchildren when they were little kids.

This photo brought home the way Ann’s and my histories had diverged; Ann lived pretty much in the same area of England her whole life, married young, stayed married and lives a stable life rich with seven grandchildren nearby. I, on the other hand, was born in Johnson City, TN, lived in Hopewell, NJ. Riverdale, NY, London, UK, Princeton, NJ, Beloit, WI, Washington, DC, New York City, NY, Titusville, NJ, and Lawrence, KS, flitted from one marriage to the next until THE ONE (the story of which is in my memoir–Jewels That Speak), had two kids with one husband–not with THE ONE, was a teacher of gifted kids, wrote, and was always searching for answers…answers…answers.

Soon enough a baby grandson arrived for a day of grandparent care. We said a long goodbye chatting about a possible visit to the States while I brought my clean laundry in from their outdoor laundry line and folded it, and chatting some more while Ann gave the baby a stroll down the farm lane in hopes of settling him down for a nap.

An agreement between Ann and Tiggy had been made. She was to stay with the baby; he was to drive me to the station. So once more Tiggy swung my suitcase into the trunk of his fancy car. I settled into the passenger seat next to him and he drove off carefully but fast, like most men who have been in “the carriage trade” and know and love cars.

I don’t like saying goodbye, in fact, I hate it, so I asked Tiggy not to wait for my train–which he would have done because he is a gentleman now, no longer the village scamp…although he has kept that mischievous twinkle in his eye.

The last thing I said to him as he took off was, “Tell Ann I love her.”

England Part IX

On the way to Snape, Tassie chatted about her life; about how she much preferred English country life to living in London. “It’s so much more civilized, fun, and manageable,” she said. She whisked her car to the side of the road when she saw some azure blue sweet peas for sale. The first thing she did on entering her house, was to find an appropriate vase for these delicate flowers and place them on the table.

The outside, and the inside of Tassie’s house were sensational…a blend of old and modern that worked because it honored the aesthetics of old structures by simply cutting out part of an old wall while adding the beginning of a new modern addition onto it. TASSIE RUSSELL is a Suffolk artist whose large paintings illustrate her innate knowledge of form and space: ‘Separation and Distance’, ‘Pieces of Ground’, ‘Limits of Space’, ‘Descent’, ‘Protect’ are the names of some of them.

Tassie darted around her home, garden, and studio in much the same way she used to move as a little girl, her speech also bright and quick as it used to be. In her office in the new modern wing of her house I found a photo of her father, Clifford Russell, when he was young.

How we all loved Clifford! Paralyzed from the waist down as a young man fighting in WWII, he carried on with life with a witty sense of humor, quietness–he painted, and gusto–he could beat us at badminton racing around his back garden in his wheelchair.

Later, at Diana’s (Clifford’s wife, Tassie’s mother), I asked her what she had loved best about her husband. “Diana gave me a big infectious smile and said, “His sense of humor.” I knowingly, smiled.

Diana is another example of an eighty-nine year old woman for me to admire, living alone in her own home (the other was Vida). She said, “It gets a bit lonely, sometimes, but I like my independence.”

Diana chatted about the old days when we were next-door neighbors in Walberswick; both Tassie and Diana mentioned our lively–very American–Easter egg hunts. Diana told me of my father’s intense eyes, and she laughed and said she was always being called upon to go down to the marsh to organize Grandmother and Anna Freud’s horses, which had a tendency to “get away.”

Tassie decided to take me into Aldeburgh to have a bite of lunch before Ann and Tiggy were to come by and pick me up for the visit to their farm in Stowmarket. Over curried fish soup in this sunny seaside town, we discussed her career as an artist.

She knew I was going to London soon to spend some hours in Grandmother’s house, The Freud Museum. She entertained me with the tidbit that part of her training as an artist back in the day took her to this museum to portray her responses to Sigmund Freud’s famous collection of antiquities; it was part of her Fine Arts curriculum.

Hmm, I thought. The last time I was in THAT Sigmund Freud consulting room with THOSE OBJECTS was at the memorial for my father in 1971. What would it be like for me now?

England Part VIII

Invitations had come in through the pub phone, one while I was sipping my Adnams the evening before and taking notes about my little adventures on my iPad.

I slipped behind the bar to see who it was. “Tassie here.” “Tassie, so good to hear from you!” Of course I had spent days before the trip to England trying to track this little blond curly-haired agile girl down–her family our next-door neighbors in the village. What did she look like, now? “I’ll pick you up at the pub round 11:00,” she said with her clipped, crisp English accent. “We’ll go have coffee at my house in Snape. You can see my studio. Then we’ll drive to Aldeburgh so you can see Mum.”

I was excited to see Tassie, to see her art, to see her mother Diana–a favorite person to my whole family, and to hear some memories of my family from them. My friend, Ann, and her husband Tiggy had also come through with an invitation to spent the night with them at their farm in Stowmarket, which is not that far from Aldeburgh. So with somewhat mixed feelings, I made the arrangements to leave Walberswick a day early. Had I really seen everything and done everything I wanted to do here?

After dinner that night, I walked up the main street a ways, then down a side street to check out Grandmother and Anna Freud’s house. My footsteps were slow; I sort of dragged them along, like I did as a kid. The end of the lane was unfamiliar because what was once one large property is now divided into two, one new house standing where their garden used to be. I spent a moment staring into painful memories, these two spinsterish ladies who had–in a way–provided Walberswick, at the same time they had–in a way–taken my father away by claiming him for themselves. No wonder, I wanted to avoid them as a kid.

Yes, I thought, I was just about ready to leave Walberswick, its simple obvious joys; its complex hidden jabs, after one more night…to spend some hours in new places with old friends.