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Sad Suspense Mystery

THAT WORD , JUST THAT

When she had left her country, so much disgusted and embittered, many years ago, swearing that she would never set foot there again, the thought that she could forget her MOTHER TONGUE had not even for an instant crossed her mind. She had worried about getting by in the country where she was going, and also learning that language.

A Hungarian writer she loved said that the only HOMELAND was the language, meaning above all the mother tongue. She felt so homeless ( stateless) that she could not even dwell on such a statement that would make her think. If had they told her that by speaking other languages and not her mother’s she would have ended up forgetting her mother tongue, she would not have cared about it, but indeed she would even have been happy regarding this possibility.

I WILL GO AWAY and  I WILL BE ANOTHER: this was the phrase she had repeated to herself for days, for months before leaving. FOREVER because she would never go back to the country where she was born and raised.

Then, despite all the oaths she had sworn herself, when her father died she returned to her accursed country for the funeral. She returned above all for her mother, since she continued to hold her father responsible for the unlivable situation that had forced her to leave her country, which had made her hate it.

It had been then she, speaking again her native language, realized that she did not remember certain( some) expressions such as “ go shopping”, “ go for a walk”, and “wasting time”…..

The thing had caused her some disturbance. No, she wasn’t sorry to not remember those expressions, but   SOMETHING IN HER STING at that forgetfulness. It was something that she felt as if it pressed UNDER HER SKIN, stinging her. She had felt the thorns under her skin above all (particularly) stinging when she did not understand the expressions used by her mother which had been familiar to her for so many years.

She had had no children and among the promises, or oaths she had made to herself when she had left her country there was ( had been) that she would never teach her mother tongue to her children.

Jeanne F. had not given weight to having forgotten those expressions that her mother still used habitually, as she too had once done. She had attributed that forgetfulness to the upheaval that her father’s death had caused to her and her having returned to her country which she still hated and where she had sworn she would never set foot again.

In the country where she had now lived for almost twenty years, she had always tried to avoid the opportunities ( occasions) where she could speak her mother tongue. Therefore for some time, she not only spoke exclusively the language of the country where she had moved but she also thought in that language.

Time had passed quickly. She had also grown old when she returned to her native country because her mother had died. She knew that would really be the last time she would go back there. With the death of her mother, there was no reason to return to the country from which she should have left because the institutions and the people had made life impossible for her. She had been subjected to a regime that controlled and overwhelmed her 24 hours a day.

On the occasion of her mother’s funeral, Jeanne realized, absolutely frightened, that she could not remember what “coffin” and “niche” were called in her mother tongue. She had moments of great embarrassment with relatives and friends who stared at her with blank eyes while she kept pointing to the coffin, unable to say the word in her native language. Her affliction and discomfort were considerable, but she thought that her not remembering those words was due to the state of profound prostration in which she was. Her mother had died, her mother…who might have been the last, if not the only, link to her country of origin, where she now could be sure she would never come back again.

The discouragement ( desolation) was stronger, the sorrow more stinging when Jeanne, who was taking a walk in the countryside where she was born and become an adult ____it was summer ____ couldn’t remember the name of those blue flowers that she liked so much, the name by which she had known and called them ( those blue flowers) since her childhood. “ How wonderful…those flowers…I hadn’t ever seen flowers like those. What is their name?” Jeanne, as a child, had asked. She had been enchanted by those blue flowers which peeked out from the green of the meadows, and which stood out close to the red of the poppies in the wheat fields. They had seemed to her special, almost magic from the first time she had seen them. Yes, they had something special, unique that was not only the color….perhaps it had to do with their fringed petals. She had decided ever since they were her flowers. She had been her grandmother Ida who had said to her the name of that flower( those flowers), the name that now she couldn’t remember.

 The blue of those flowers was a particular blue, an intense yet soft blue. It was a blue similar to but not the same as that of the autumn sky after a thunderstorm. Her grandmother had called that blue with A WORD….Now Jeanne did not even remember that word in her mother tongue.

Those blue, magic flowers, with their hard, almost wooden stems, seemed without perfume. But if you held them to ( under) your nostrils you could smell their scent of earth and grass and wind together, a scent you could perceive only by smelling them very closely.

Those flowers seemed to hide a secret that they challenged you to discover…..It was as if they were there, among the green of the meadows and the blond of the wheat fields, yet they were also elsewhere. It was as if they were pointing at you, whispering to you  ELSEWHERE.  

Those flowers glimmering ( peeking) in the green of the meadows and among the ripe wheat could look like BUTTERFLIES that were about to take flight, or even a piece of sky that had fallen to earth.

Those flowers, which contained a secret, were MORE than they appeared. Like their NAME, that WORD she couldn’t now remember was something more than the name of a flower.

December 21, 2022 03:31

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7 comments

Rolade Berthier
07:41 Dec 29, 2022

I like your style of writing, Mara; it's clear and concise. I identified with Jeanne, having lived more than 40 years abroad in two countries with different languages. With technological advancement (e.g. Google Translate and Speech Translator), it's fun dealing with the forgetfulness of words due to immigration and integration. Native speakers do not know the names of all flowers (and vegetables). My adult Aussie nephew sometimes calls zucchini (US)/courgette (UK) "cucumber".

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Mara Masolini
16:59 Dec 30, 2022

THANK YOU ROLADE EVEN if I think you are too good your observation make me fell well THANK YOU

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Wendy Kaminski
15:55 Dec 25, 2022

Beautiful, Mara! So poignant. It never occurred to me until I read your story, but in a way, the tragedy of losing a language could be a parallel to the tragedy of losing your memory due to aging. It is an integral piece of yourself slipping away and there's a certain powerlessness to that. Oh, you can come up with systems in both cases (relearn the language, or leave yourself sticky notes with aging), but it's not the effortlessness that came with youth. It is a profound loss, and you've conveyed it well. Thank you for sharing this story.

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Mara Masolini
18:38 Dec 25, 2022

THANK YOU WENDY, I find you're are too good This brief short story has much to do with my situation that I, in advanced age, decided to write in English, althought my English is not good because of the condition in my country for a woman who wants to write

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Wendy Kaminski
18:49 Dec 25, 2022

You did beautifully well! You communicate in English much better than I communicate in your language, I am embarrassed to admit. :) Your story is most excellent! :)

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Mary Lehnert
20:04 Dec 25, 2022

May I echo the sentiments so well described by Wendy. Having helped my husband to perfect his English I know how he feels when after a lifetime in the US he stumbles a bit in his native tongue. So long as you convey your intentions it doesn’t matter your accent. Go ahead and talk. Good luck and my best wishes

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Mara Masolini
19:34 Dec 27, 2022

THANK YOU WENDY THANK YOU MARY even if I think you are too good

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