My cousin, Barb, just left for Zurich after having spent a week with me in Paris. We are eight months apart in age and so have known each other all of our lives. Barb is actually my mother's cousin. Her grandmother was my great-grandmother. As girls, we spent a lot of time together. We had sleep-overs, went to movies and even attended the Hudson's Bay Teen Charm School together. Please don't laugh.
We got older and our paths diverged. Barb followed a sciences path and went away to Medical School and I followed a meandering path of the humanities, marriage, motherhood, part-time studies, divorce, many years of independence and remarriage in a form that I couldn't have imagined 40 years ago. My heroines are Simone de Beauvoir, Edith Wharton, Georges Sand, Mavis Gallant. That says something!
We didn't see each other that much in the intervening years. Barb was a doctor with two children and a husband. I was busy updating qualifications, building a career, raising a teen-ager and juggling a relationship. A few years ago, we reconnected through a set of opera tickets, another marriage upheaval, a fondness for walking and two sets of understanding ears. In spite of our differences, we share some common issues.
I can't help feeling a connection to the Marie Laurencin paintings at the Musée Marmottan . Laurencin depicts an idyllic world of girls amusing themselves in a completely nonsexual way. Before boyfriends and insecurities and nonsense. As older women, who have lived, loved, lost and survived to go again, we can re-enter this world sometimes. I felt no envy when Barb came home and told me of her tango partners and was happy to be curled up with my book and my iTunes version of BBC. Barb appreciated that I knew something of the history and culture of France. We are able to celebrate our differences and to enjoy activities together and separately.
We can learn about ourselves by spending some time with others. Barb worries that I might get lonely in Paris while I relish time spent with my own thoughts. My Paris is peopled with the characters of books and paintings and my imagination. An unknown name on a street sign is a possibility for a new acquaintance. Barb sent me an e-mail from Zurich thanking me and stating in her direct fashion that it is great when relatives can get along. We are same girls as we always were.