With notebooks in hand the band of six climbed the front steps to their Great Uncle's home, or as I saw it a treasure trove museum. Instantly each one went in a different room the library, the dining room, the kitchen, one of the numerous bedrooms, the office, even the hallways offered memories as they were covered with gilded framed portraits. The cousins went along taking numbers of items that held something endearing or a time well spent with their Great Uncle Augustin.
I was the last one to enter, right behind my soon to be French Husband. I held his hand as we walked through the entrance hall, through the living room, barely pausing in the dining room, walked down the hallway, where I glanced into the library as he lead me up the three flights of stairs, passing bedrooms, bathrooms and the study to the attic. French Husband opened the creaky attic door, walked over to the window, opened it, then pushed open the shutters. The light of the day filled the attic space... showing us what was hidden: Cardboard boxes marked "miscellaneous", stacks of books not worthy to live in the library, simple wooden closets containing out of season clothing, with bits and pieces of things that had nowhere else to go, yet must have held meaning? Otherwise why would his Great Uncle have kept such things? I looked around the attic noting that nothing compared to what we had passed up along the way.
French Husband lived in Paris in a studio. His furnishings were minimal: A bed, a set of shelves and a table for two. My small apartment in San Francisco had not much more than his had. I had come over from the States to meet his family since only his mother would be able to come to our wedding in California.
I knew that when I returned to California to prepare for our wedding that I would set up a money tree instead of registering at the local department store that I had dreamed about doing since a child. I would not be able to transport more than my two suitcases could hold. Standing in the attic, the thought of French Husband's few belongings, and about me giving away my few possessions before coming to live in France crossed my mind several times over. We could easily label home on many things in the rooms below. I thought of the kitchen... and my heart raced, I covered my mouth with my hand and tried not to scream, "What are we doing up here!!!!"
Desperately, holding back my desire to run downstairs and rip every ticket I could put my hands on, I asked French Husband was there something he was looking for? Was there a reason why we were in the attic, and not downstairs? Without looking at me he sat down by some boxes and simply said, "No. I came to the attic because I do not want anything. I do not like this sort of thing. I am only here because my cousin asked us to come."
I watched him aimlessly open a box, take a few things out.
Thoughts of begging him, to dragging him downstairs to collect a few things for our soon to be home in Paris came to a halt, his misery made me feel uncomfortable to do so. As I sat down beside him dust ran from underneath me swirling around a box containing 1950s Match magazines. I tried to be silently supportive, I tried to understand his lack of desire, I wondered what I could do to make French Husband feel better; I pondered for fifty nine seconds... then I stood up dusted the dust off me and asked if it bothered him if I went downstairs to take a peek.
Downstairs the other five cousins were having a field day, their notebooks filled with numbers and descriptions. Trying to stay out of their way, I stood in the hallway with open mouth wonder. From where I stood I could see the library with its mahogany floor to ceiling bibliotheque filled with leather bond books with gilded detailing. Oil paintings of the seaside, boats, and those portraits in massive gilded wooden frames. A chandelier dripping with rock crystals, a desk the size of my bedroom. I opened a linen closet in the hallway, monogrammed linens were neatly stacked, tied with pale blue ribbons separating the sets of napkins from one another. I wanted to bang my head against the wall. I felt like a dog in need of a bone, and finding an entire house full yet I felt tied ten yards back. I felt myself screaming inside, "God this is punishment for what? This isn't funny you know." Every cell in my body wanted to make French Husband "want" to get into this giveaway.
I thought about running back upstairs, grabbing the notebook and bopping the man-soon-to- be-my-husband on the head. Even now, nearly thirty years later, recalling this memory I want to bop him on the head... "What was he thinking! Didn't he know me at all?"
ALL those brocante things down below to be had just by writing a number... a number.
How I ever got pass this is a miracle.
...to be continued...
Just as I was about to faint with frustrating pleasure, French Husband's sister came into the hallway turning the page in her notebook, ready to attack the kitchen with a clean page. In a manner not to attract attention I closed the closet door with my foot, inconspicuously looked at my fingernails.
To be continued...