This is the story of my life so far: 68 years and counting.
Prequel: A Brief History of my Family in France
When Syrille and Gaëlle arrived in France from Cameroon, they were basically illegal immigrants. The only identity papers they had were their Cameroonian birth certificates. And on these birth certificates, the year of birth of their mother, Madel, has been modified from 1963 to 1968. For Syrille that was supposed to be born when his mother was only twelve year old, this could have seemed suspicious, but nobody ever made any remark about that.
However, that did not prevent them to go to school. At this time at least, the schools would not object to welcome a child that was living in its catchment. So, Gaëlle went to pre-school as soon as she arrived, and the three others, Roseline, Betty and Syrille went to elementary school.
Gaëlle who knew no French at all when she arrived was very quick to learn, mostly by interacting with her siblings and the other children at the pre-school. Before Christmas 1987, she was able to have an intelligible conversation with us.
For the pronunciation, she had a hard time mastering the 'R' as it is pronounce by most French people. She tried to pronounce it as the 'J' in Spanish. It took her several more months to get the correct sound.
At the dinner table, Gaëlle was sitting on my left. Often, in the middle of a conversation between myself and the other children, she would pull my arm and say "Papa, papa ...". To teach her that it was not correct to interrupt a conversation, I would ignore her, until there were an opportunity. Then, when asked what she wanted to tell me, she would look very sad and tell us: "A cause de vous, j'sais plus c'que j'voulais dire!" (Because of you all, I don't know any more what I wanted to say!).
There was a small courtyard at the back of the house in Fresnes, with a cherry tree. The children were able to play there after school. And they were climbing on the cherry tree, of course.
Roseline had a desire to grow plants. On the front of the house, she had planted some strawberry plants, and every day, after school she was checking the fruits, that were slowly becoming red.
One day, she was sadly disappointed to discover that the strawberries were gone: Syrille, that has returned from school before her, had picked them and eaten them. More than 30 years later, we are still talking about this incident!
[If my children are reading this, and I hope they will, and I made some mistakes, please tell me before the seven days period]
Continue to Part 88
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