Memories shared and experienced


Mother and child

This story is based mostly on hearsay. My mother told me about the kinds of things I did and said when I was a toddler growing up in Paris, France. I do not have any memory of these events myself.

Apparently I was very late in starting talking. At one point I was in some playground with other children and one of them became interested in a toy dog that was my favorite toy and he wanted to have it, probably for a short time, but I didn’t want to lend it. So, when he tried to take it, I grabbed it forcefully and started shouting: “C’est a moi, C’est a moi”, my first full sentence in any language: “It’s mine, it’s mine.” I guess I was quite selfish at that young age.

My mother also told me that I liked cheeses very much and once in a restaurant a server offered us some cheeses from a big platter with different kinds of cheese in it and when he retired the platter thinking we had made our choices I cried and didn’t want him to take the platter away and said so in quite a loud tone with my recently acquired ability to talk.

She also explained to me that when we as a family moved from France to Mexico at the end of 1939, after the Spanish Civil War had ended, our boat stopped in New York City and we spent a few days there before resuming our trip to Mexico. In New York my mother took me to a zoo so that I would be entertained. The zoo had a special exhibit of live snakes which gave me something close to a panic attack. To this day I have never been able to look at snakes, either live ones or their photographs, even drawings of snakes make me uneasy, with the single exception of the snake that ate the elephant in Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince.

The last anecdote of my growing up years I remember myself distinctly. A Sunday afternoon in our first home in Mexico City sometime before 1942 my parents, a close friend of the family and I were playing a game with a spinning device that had signs for “give 1,” “take 1,” “give 2,” “take 2,” “give all,” “take all.” We played with dry raw chickpeas as tokens. The game proceeded with each one sometimes taking one or two or giving one or two to the pot. After a while it was my turn, I spun the gadget and got “give all,” the worst outcome: I had to surrender all my chickpeas! I screamed that this was wrong, unfair, and made quite a scene. The adults explained to me that this is what happens sometimes in games of chance and that it did not reflect on any of my qualifications as a person. I had none of this talk and I went directly to the kitchen, climbed on a stool to reach for the chickpeas container, grabbed a handful and returned to the game with sort of a victorious grin on my face. I don’t remember how that ended, but now I hope I was not allowed back in the game and got some further educational adult talk.

I have to say that over time I became much better behaved and reasonably humanized, especially when my twin brothers were born in December 1942, when I was almost 7 years old. They were a very good influence in my further development!

Contributed by: Federico Dies

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