By Emma Palova
Lowell, MI- As our time together with Ella winds down, I write this with deep sadness in my heart.
Today is Ella’s last day at the Early Fives summer program at St. Patrick’s School in Parnell. I went into my husband Ludek’s experiment with butterflies in my stomach.
“Ella will stay with us this summer and you will fly back with her to France,” Ludek said back in May.
Chaos in my mind
Ella Chavent with Ludek Pala on the Showboat during the Sizzlin’ Summer concert series in Lowell.
“Wow, slow down I got to work,” I said surprised.
Ella will be going to the first grade in the wine village of Fixin in Burgundy, France after the summer break in the USA. In six years, we’ve seen her six times, when she came for brief visits with her mother Emma.
“That’s the price you pay for immigration,” I said to Ludek and my friends.
And that’s when Ludek came up with the idea of having Ella here to capture the time gone by over the years, as she was growing up.
It wasn’t just the ocean of time that separated us. It was all the little things that we missed. All the firsts that had gone by: the first steps, first words, first hugs, first laughs and first tears.
I’ve never imagined that I could miss someone else’s tears or laughs.
But, the reality is different.
“I will miss your laugh,” said former publisher Val at the Ionia Sentinel-Standard when I left the paper for good in 1993.
Ella Chavent in front of St. Pat’s school in Parnell.
“How about her work,” snapped the editor also Val.
Ella has grown from the toddler that we took with us to the beach in South Haven back in 2011 to a smart and sassy girl with an artsy flair.
“Why do you get angry,” I asked her the other day in the car on the way back from school as the Queen rocked & rolled to full blast.
“Because sometimes you annoy me,” Ella said pouting.
“Really, so no more crepes or ice cream for you,” I said.
We missed all the sorries, too.
“Sorry, grandpa,” Ella apologized after refusing to follow another one of Ludek’s orders.
However, time apart brings along appreciation, deeper love and understanding.
“I miss my mommy,” Ella cried one afternoon after school as she hugged Emma’s graduation picture hanging in the living room next to Mona Lisa.
Ella’s time in America.
Ella Chavent with one of the teachers at St. Pat’s.
“I am sure she misses you too,” I said.
“I want to be with her,” Ella continued.
“You will eventually,” I said trying to comfort her.
But, Ella was inconsolable. The persistent little girls cried hours into the night.
“Alright, you’re flying back with her to France tomorrow,” I said to Ludek.
The next day was a brand new day.
“Will I see my friends today?” Ella asked on our way to school with Queen blasting in the background. “Tell me one of your stories.”
And I started telling her the story of Scheherazade and the mean king, and the story of the guy with the expensive McLaren automobile who ran a red stop sign.
“Tell me the story about the bracelet and Jake’s wedding ring,” Ella demanded more storytelling.
Ella loves the music of Queen after a Picnic Pops concert at Cannonsburg in July.
“I am like Freddie Mercury, I want it all,” she laughs as we go back home.
Throughout these six weeks, I’ve learned several big lessons. I learned that stories are soothing and healing. I learned that food which reminds you of home is comforting. I learned that the jittery music of Queen can bring on the atmosphere of home. And that the school environment is good for kids.
So, whenever Ella got homesick, I made French crepes and opened a jar of “cornichons.” We call them dills, here in America.
And I spent a perfect day with Ella doing the “Back to School Shopping” rut that was so new to me. Finally, Ella got her ears pierced at the Piercing Pagoda at the mall.
And I told her my endless stories on demand.
I will keep telling them, until I can’t speak or write anymore.
Goodbye, my friend. It was brief, but it was. It really did happen that you were here in America.
I need to assure myself.
Note: Most of my relationship stories appear in the “Greenwich Meridian” (c) memoir, as well as ethnic and travel stories. I hope to finish the memoir for publication my Mother’s Day 2017.
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