The other night I was walking home from a movie completely absorbed in thought. Suddenly I’m being hailed down by an elderly woman who is asking for help in negotiating the icy winter sidewalk. I extend my hand and in an instant, my pace has shifted and I am walking down the street with a perfect stranger on my arm.
She was dressed smartly and she smelled of booze. The first thing she said was that it wasn’t funny to be a drinker, and I said, no…it’s not….well…..sometimes it is. And then we both laughed, and she said, well…I suppose that’s so, because here we are laughing.
Then she told me about her black cat, the love of her life, and asked me if I had a lover, a cat or a dog and I told her that I had a daughter. She stopped in her tracks and tears welled up in her eyes. As we walked on, she told me that some 50 years ago, when she was 20, she got pregnant in her small hometown and her parents had insisted that she come to Montreal to give up the baby for adoption. Babies, as it turns out, she had twins. It still made her sad to think of those babies. After the birth, she just stayed on in Montreal, working in the textile factories.
I told her she should write her story down. She said, right, it would be the story of an old fool, and I countered with, No, that’s not the point, this is your story, you should write it down! Do you really think so? she asked. By the time we got to the door of her apartment, she was really starting to think that maybe….this could be a good idea. She was also remembering this little schoolyard skipping rhyme about her name “Ginette Ginette qui mette de brume dans les lunettes”, and she wouldn’t let me go until we had a rhyme about my name. After a few moments, the best we could come up with was “Deborah Deborah, dites-moi plus de ton histoire” and we agreed that if you said it really fast, it sort of rhymed.