Part 9:

The time has come for part nine of the marquoir, which delves into our childhoods and pays tribute to the people who made a difference in our lives.

This is in fact the most personal section that I have designed.

It is also the section that shows our birth month, that you can stitch into the sampler using the numbers that appear on the lower right- and left-hand sides of your linen (parts three and four).

My birth month, April, is represented by two white roses at the bottom, on either side of the numbers, but also by the little flowers and the cherries.   Spring is a season that I really enjoy.   It's the temperate part of the year, when we have both rain -- sometimes downpours -- and the first rays of sunlight.  Temperatures are mild and pleasant, while the trees and flowers are bursting with green and bright colors.  It's a time for rebirth.

In the lower left-hand corner, you'll find the person who gave me life: my mother.  Above her head, I've stitched a one-franc coin, as she worked at a bank before retiring a few months ago.   My mother was obviously a major pillar of strength for me in my youth.  If I were to have described her back then, I would have said she was "old-school", and too matter-of-fact (only with respect to our education, I mean).  I wasn't a difficult child, but I sometimes suffered from not having her trust, especially when I reached my teen years.

I often thought that my mother was different from the others.   With red hair and very pale skin, a flirtatious look, and a first name -- Cosette -- that gave her a particular and unusual charm, my mother is a very feminine, discreet woman with strict morals, who often hid her concerns with a "nothing's wrong" look.  So as to never have to speak about her emotions.

I have a lot of respect for my mother, and we have become very close, confiding in each other more and more as the years go by.

Just next to her is my father with the letters "a b c" above his head, to represent his work as a printer.  He is depicted as a bon vivant, joyous but also proud.

In the early part of my childhood, my father had an important place in my life -- I loved his bohemian side and his ability to fit into society.  Due to his difficult childhood, he is not someone who had good social skills, but managed to use his good-natured personality and his sense of humor to fit in.  The bottle and the glass just above stands for his excesses, which he indulged in probably without even knowing it, and which ruined our relationship.

I won't expand on this subject anymore, I would just like to note that above the bottle is a door,  which can be used to escape from our addictions -- a door that my father recently learned to walk through, to our great happiness.

Cigarettes are unfortunately my addiction, companions that I have had for years, but with whom I parted ways a year and a half ago.

Life is a long journey, and I sincerely believe that we should never judge others, as it is painful and can lead people to plunge into a dark period of excess, the consequences of which we cannot know from the start.

Just next to the "a b c", is a baby -- my little brother.

He arrived a long time after me -- a nine-and-a-half year age difference is a lot between a brother and sister, but I didn't have any trouble adjusting to it.

But I did suffer a bit from the constant "It's a boy!" remarks (signifying the pride of having someone to carry forth the family name).  That bothered me sometimes but nothing more, as I always adored my brother and still do, even if he's not little any more and towers over me at a height of 1m80 (about six feet)!! :)

The number 93 stands for the administrative department in France where I was born, in the town of Montreuil-sous-Bois.

Just below that is a mouse with a tooth.  I wanted to acknowledge all the classic tales we are told as children, and show the one I loved most of all: the one about the little mouse that goes around collecting the lost teeth placed under our pillows while we sleep, replacing them with a shiny coin.  I had great pleasure recreating the "tooth fairy" tradition with my own children.

The character just above the mouse represents my godfather.   He really made a mark on my childhood, as he was kind and true in the feelings he expressed for me, and those feelings have never changed.  My godmother is not depicted in the marquoir, as she first appeared in my life during adolescence, due to typical family problems, and I didn't really get to know here until years later -- an opportunity that was a precious gift.

In the lower right-hand corner of this section of the marquoir is my maternal grandfather, with a key above his head to symbolize his job as owner of a Paris hotel.  My grandmother is just next to him along with a medical cross, marking her work at the Pitie-Salpetriere hospital in Paris.

The two rings just above are their wedding rings, apart as I always knew my maternal grandparents living apart.  However, they both had an important place in my childhood.  Looking back with a bit of hindsight, I smile thinking of being practically rocked to sleep to the rhythm of their arguments.  My mother was definitely the most disturbed by these sometimes trying situations, which created a bit of a stir at the house.

Having separated grandparents is no big deal these days, but at the time it was looked down upon, at least by their generation.  Even more so because my grandfather lived with his "male friend" after leaving my grandmother.  It was much later, when I was old enough to understand, that everyone explained to me the reason for their separation.

What was equally unusual, and which greatly amused me, was to attend my grandmother's second marriage.

Having never known my paternal grandparents, I still ended up with two grandfathers, both on the maternal side!  (My grandmother's new husband was so nice that I kind of adopted him and called him -- and still call him -- Poppy.)

My grandfather is someone who opened the door to a world of dreams for me -- he was always a bohemian and an artist at heart.

My grandmother has a very strong personality.  We often had generational battles, and it was only by getting older that I was able to get to know her better, to know more about what was going on in her heart, her troubles, her life...  She is someone I adore even if sometimes her expression of her generation's views is a bit much.  :)

Finally, at the top, you'll find a clock and a windmill.

The clock keeps the time that was given to us at birth.  It cannot be estimated and is unpredictable -- it's a precious gift, to be savored every second.  The needles show the exact time at which I was born.

The windmill represents the clock's friend.  It works just like the clock but stands for the house of memories, where we store throughout our lives the most memorable events that we've been through -- happy, sad or moving.  The windmill shuffles them all around.

The elements of our personalities come in part from this windmill.   We all have a certain potential at birth, which evolves according to our surroundings and the love we receive as children, but which also strengthens and matures as we get older, based on the choices and decisions we make.

At this point in the marquoir, I realized I have a lot more things to design, knowing that I can tell a story and breathe life into it through a thread, and flip back and forth from the needle to the pen.

I saw as I sat next to my linen to narrate each section that the major themes, at least those which I needed to express, have been stitched.  I am happy to have taken the time to see how my life has unfolded, and to give some meaning to these crosses you have stitched and shared with me, and adapted according to your own lives.

Thank you for this long thread of friendship...

Isabelle Vautier

PS - My dearest thoughts go to the lights of my life, who shine like never before in part five:  Lulu and Dede, Grandma de la Roche, Claude, Olivier, Laurence, Dolly and Gavroche, and my Pompon.


Textes et illustrations ©Isabelle Vautier
Thank you very much to Susan Stumme for the translation in English of the pages of the Marquoir Story.