Friday, July 18, 2008

And Now for Something Completely Different...

I have here a Friday treat: a passage from the short memoir I mentioned earlier by Elizabeth McCracken. Her piece "This Does Not Have to Be a Secret" appears with several other poignant and original voices in this month's O magazine's "Memoir Feast"*. Her setting is the time surrounding her first son's still birth.

********From "This Does Not Have to Be a Secret" by Elizabeth McCracken*************
"As for me, I believe that if there's a God...then the most basic proof of his existence is black humor. What else explains it, that odd reliable comfort that billows up at the worst moments, like a beautiful sunset woven out of the smoke over a bombed city.

For instance: In the hospital in Bordeaux one of the midwives looked at us and asked a question in French. [...McCracken explains her and her husband Edward's mediocre French proficiency...] This particular [midwife] was a teenager, checking itmes off a list. The room was like a hospital room anywhere, on a ward for the reproductively luckless, far away from babies and their exhausted mothers. Did we want to speak to -

'Excusez-moi?' Edward said and cocked an ear.
'Un femme relgieuse,' the midwife clarified. A religious woman. Ah.
Here's what she said:
'Voulez-vous parlez a' une nonne?'
Which means, Would you like to speak to a nun? Of course in Catholic France it was assumed we were Catholic.
But Edward heard, 'Voulez-vous parler a' un nain?'
Which means, Would you like to speak to a dwarf?

When he told this to his friend Claudia, she said, 'My God! You must have thought, 'That's the last thing I need!''
'No,' Edward told her. 'I thought I'd really like to speak to a dwarf about then. I thought it might cheer me up. '
We theorized that every French hospital kept a supply of dwarves in the basement for the worst-off patients and their families. Maybe it was just a Bordelaise tradition: the dwarves of grief. We could see them in their apologetic smallness, shifting from foot to foot.

In the days afterward, I told this story to friends over the phone. Our terrible news had been relayed to my friends...and now I phoned to say - to say what I wasn't sure, but I didn't want to disappear into France and grief....We ordered carafe after carafe of rose', and I told my friends about the dwarves of grief, and I listened to their loud, shocked, relieved laughter. I felt a strange responsibility to sound as though I were not going mad from grief. Maybe I managed it...."

********Dear Oprah, Please don't sue me. Love, Sarah

Read more!


At 1:50 PM, Anonymous David Fiske said...


I am K8 Hammond's Brother-In-Law - Just wanted to drop you a note letting you know I am prayerfully "following along" I think of the three of you often.....

David (Fiske)

P.S. This was really funny!!

At 4:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. That first paragraph...yeah, that one spoke to me.

Although I would not ever compare what I've been thru the past almost 2 years to your plight, I have been thru my own hell. Thankfully I'm on my way back. I truly see it as a blessing and have seen many, many rainbows on my way out of my war-ravaged, bombed-out city.

I think of you all almost daily & send up prayers for you on so many different levels & for so many different things.

Thank you for allowing me access into your journey.

Hugs & Love,
~Kellee McDonald

At 4:40 PM, Blogger kate5kiwis said...

sarah, i wish i lived next door.
i'd be over with the nail polish, and the fromage, and the carafe of rosé.
if you feel like that.
love X

At 7:20 PM, Blogger roxana said...

ha ha!!!

At 10:39 AM, Blogger Babs said...

thanks for sharing. a closet full of dwarves would be useful in hospitals.


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