Je ne devrais pas écrire en français, mais c'est la langue qui me vient maintenant. Pourtant, c'est de mon grand-père américain dont je veux parler. C'est lui qui vient de partir.
Je suis allée en Oklahoma ce week-end, pour Thanksgiving. On fêtait les 90 ans d'une de mes grandes tantes, Aunt Marie. J'ai pu rencontrer des membres de ma famille dont j'ignorais jusque l'existence, et je suis éblouie par le pouvoir de ce qu'on appelle "famille". Des personnes ont beau ne pas se voir, ne jamais se voir, il y a quand même quelquechose qui les lie. Pas forcément un lien du sang, parce que les familles se nouent aussi par alliance et par adoption. Mais il s'agit d'un lien qui dépasse l'individu, qui voyage de génération en génération. Si quelqu'un connaissait ma grand-mère, connaissait ma mère, alors, ce quelqu'un me connait, un peu. Si quelqu'un connait ma cousine, et que je suis aussi sa cousine, alors, on est cousines. On ne se connait pas, mais on peut commencer la relation quelque part. En tout cas, ce quelqu'un m'accepte. C'est assez fort, mine de rien.
Ok, English now.
I had never been to Oklahoma, that I remember, so this trip was a first. Although I hadn't been there geographically, I had heard of Oklahoma from different family members. From my grandparents, first of all. Oklahoma was the place where they spent their childhood, and their years as young adults. Oklahoma was the home land. That arid farmland, those endless plains. Now I understand. When we were sorting out my grandparent's belongings when they moved from their house in Richmond, I came across this picture of my grandmother, who couldn't have been more than 6 years old, with her brothers. It's a brown and white picture, but you can still tell that the kids are squinting because of the harsh sunlight. They are barefoot in a dusty garden. My grandmother has a short cotton dress, and my great-uncles are wearing pants and suspenders, and scruffy shirts. Oklahoma farm kids. The dusty soil, and the incredibly bright light. Now I understand.
I remember my mom fondly talking about her paternal grandmother, and I can now imagine how her accent could have sounded. I remember my grandfather talking about the landscapes, and now I have seen them. It wasn't planned, but going to Oklahoma has made sense in the grand scheme of things. As my grandfather passed away, I finally discovered where he came from.
We stopped by OBU, Oklahoma Baptist University, which is basically the family university. My grandfather went there, my mother too, as well as most of my uncles. I heard great things about OBU from my grandfather, since it's the place where he was able to access to higher education, and think about becoming a pastor. It's also the place where he met my grandmother, who was also a student there. I didn't hear such great things about OBU from my mother, or some of my uncles, but - good or bad memories - it remains the place where most of my american family was educated. And when I see the results, I'm thinking that, either they were able to recover from that experience, or OBU taught them some valuable things along the way.
We also made it to Thomas, my mother's birthplace. When I think that she comes from that little town, in the southwest of the USA, I feel slight vertigo... to see where she is now, in Paris, France (and not Paris, Texas - which wouldn't be so far from Thomas!). I'm starting to understand more clearly what she means when she says that she has had "several lives".
And to finish off this Oklahoma hommage, here are a few other photos I took during the trip...
... of my sister on the phone with my mom in Shawnee
... of the old Santa Fe train line sign ( rail no longer in service, unfortunately)
... of the Oklahoma-city skyline.