When a Mom Is a Foreigner

When I started to revise my manuscript about my immigration journey from France to the States, I traveled the complex web of memory and the delicate balance between what had to be said and what had to remain unsaid.

This challenging exercise had in fact begun as soon as I wrote down a compilation of events and experiences, all related to my status of foreigner. The only link between them was chronological. The only goal was to keep track of my first impressions when every day was as new as it is to a child.

Quickly, I knew that I needed more than chronology to give a more universal sense to my writing, but I also knew that in order to do so I would have to dig much deeper through my life. I remember looking for reassurance: But this is fine. Life is a collection of moments. And the life of a foreigner, at least during the first years that follow the departure from the homeland, is like a collection of instants, often lived without an apparent link.

Also since I love short stories, I liked to think that my manuscript was a collection of short stories. Sort of.

Because the more I worked on this manuscript the more I was convinced that I needed some cement between these stories, which mixed funny, corky and more poignant episodes.

And this is what initiated my search for a thread, which several times I thought I had untangled like a fishing line caught in a tree. But each time I pulled on this thread, hoping to meet the starting point I was thrown deeper into incertitude.

Because in the end, I realized, this story has everything to do with my children and not with me.

This is when this essential question started to haunt me:

Do you have the right to write about other people when you write part of your story?

And if the answer is yes, how do you do find the line between what has to be told and what has to remain private?

Although uncomfortable with this discovery, I began to tell the story of a mother who is unlike most but who – thanks to her children and their American upbringing – becomes in the end almost like all other native-born mothers.

So I typed and typed and typed.

Then I became aware that I was eluding another question, one of the most difficult for a mother:

How do my children deal with the ways I am different from native-born mothers?

Yet I typed and typed and typed.

And when I wrote The End, I knew I had done my part.

There is of course an answer to my last question, but I can’t provide it.

Only my children can write about having a mom who is a foreigner.

And this story has yet to be written.

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