Monday, 5 September 2011

Non! Je Ne Regrette Rien

Sometimes my children like to play a game that involves me having to make a choice.  They present me with two things of which I am only allowed to choose one. 
I’m not entirely sure, but I think the aim of the game is for them to come up with the most difficult pair to choose from and render me momentarily speechless in my inability to decide.  My daughter is a Libra and finds it almost impossible to make choices.  When she is faced with making a decision about something, I can almost see the scales lurching up and down in her little brain. Decision making is a terrifying and thrilling roller coaster ride and I think she likes to see if she can inflict this bitter sweet response in others, by playing this game.
It goes something like this:
“ Mum, if you had to choose between the ocean and the river, for the rest of your life, what would you choose?”
“Nits or fleas”
“Oh God!  I don’t know... fleas”
“What about tea or honey”
“Too hard, they can’t exist without eachother... well... ok, honey”
“Trees or buildings?”
“ Painting or teaching?”
Usually this game takes place while I am driving.  This coupled with the fact that a fast game is a good game, makes me attempt to answer quickly and intuitively.
But one day I was asked this:
“If you could have your mother or your father back, who would you choose?”
My immediate response was to give in.  The choice was way too hard.  Ella then decided to rephrase her question.   So she then asked me:
“If you could go back in time and have both your parents back, would you do it?”
In the first instant, it seemed like a no brainer.  Of course I would.  
But then my brain did something funny and went into an overdrive of considering all the repercussions such a decision would have.
I realised in that moment, to what extent my parent’s deaths (and lives in their exact duration) have informed me.  Though hideously painful and difficult, these were peak experiences for me, experiences that have made a monumental contribution in shaping the course of my life and my identity.  What sort of person would I have been had these events not occurred?  What sort of lives would my parents have continued to lead had they not died when they did?  What sort of relationships would I have had with them as an adult?  What kind of old people would they have become?  What sort of decisions would I have made with their assistance and advice over the years?
The fact is, that although my heart sometimes lurches painfully in my chest when I see a woman of my age going out to lunch with her mother, I cannot really envisage myself in this scenario. It is not part of my repertoire.

This innocent game certainly got me thinking.  Not just about the death of my parents but more generally about all the events in my life.  I really came to the conclusion that I wouldn’t undo any of it.  This is not because I feel that I have had a perfect life or that I am the best person that I could be, but simply because when reviewed retrospectively, there is an illogical sense of rightness to the way that life transpires.  To interfere even a little would unravel the lot. There is so much strength to be gained from overcoming grief and so much learning from supposed mistakes.  How could I possibly try to rearrange these things?  It would be like giving a bad haircut or starting down the road of plastic surgery.  When to stop? And what would you end up with?  A slightly stretched, character free face and a bald head.
So it took me a while but I was finally able to answer my daughter and tell her that I would not go and bring my parents back to life.  I could not meddle like that because if I did.... she may never have been born!

Finally quiet in the back seat.


  1. Ni le bien qu'on m'a fait, ni le mal
    Tout ça m'est bien égal...

    love to you..jordeaux

  2. em - we play this too and I love how it lets me bypass the expected. Speed is good and in doing this game fast you do come up with lovely unexpected gems. We also play in the car and being in LA you can imagine I am quite familiar with this little Q+A!

  3. Hello Emma,
    Barbara F put me onto your blog, and a very interesting, well written, thoughtful blog it is. Look forward to reading more.
    All the best,
    Ross Wilson

  4. Thanks Emma for blogging...These things that you write about are so personal and yet so universal, a peek into humanity.I enjoyed listening to Piaf (good song choice) appropriate that she was called the 'little bird'. jan

  5. I lost my mother at the age of 21. While often envious of friends who get to have a relationship with their parents as adults, I also wouldn't change things. I can't really explain this. You did well.



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