by Alizée Chesnoy
I do not know you yet; you are a nebulous thing, slipping between my fingers and my thoughts. I practice the feel of your name on my tongue and do not know that I want you. I do not know that we will ever belong to each other.
On Christmas Eve, we’ll all sleep together. We’ll pull out mattresses and set up camp in whatever room is biggest; drag our quilts along and pile atop of each other like puppies. At first, it’ll be just the three of us; somewhere down the line we might throw in a sibling, or two. We’ll make up stories until you fall asleep – when you’re older you’ll be the one telling them to us – and quietly slip back out of bed to put the presents under the tree, even when you’ve long stopped believing in Santa.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, but I wouldn’t know. It took a village to build me, though. And it takes a village to build me still, day after day. I know this because I am one of them – because I have made myself as surely as they have made me.
You see, I am moulded by the people I have met along the way – by those who came in passing and those who stayed. I am a patchwork of the things they gave me – things I have held and made my own so we could better fit together. I am a puzzle of Sunday morning routines, of quiet prayers whispered under my breath daily, of movements my body knows better than my mind and that make my heart hum. I am held together by rituals I was born into, easy as breathing.
I’ll bring that village with me, should you ever come around. Carry the memories of it into your own little town.
I want the things that make me to make you, too.
You’ll learn to gift white flowers to the water. We have no religion but the one we built for ourselves, in this family, picking up pieces along the way that rang true. Our faith lies in pagan rituals – we give tribute to the ocean, and you’ll watch the flowers disappear into the current and the waves on every first day of the year. We find comfort in the water like we would in a goddess. This is how we thank it.
The way you move, the familiarity of your smile, how your hands dance when you speak – I’ll look at you and wonder at the puzzle pieces you’ll have picked up from us. Your father’s eyes and the curve of my mouth, sure, but also – the way you’ll collect conversation snippets from strangers when you ride the subway, or light candles on rainy days, like I do.
Because, love – these things? They hold some of the sweetest moments I’ll ever get to live on this side of the planet. They are a testament to the people met, to the memories made, to the years of growth, to the building of a life, to the continuing of an inheritance. They’re a mess of rituals made from scratch, of accidental family traditions, of gestures pick-pocketed from strangers when I thought no-one was looking.
They tell the story of where I come from and of where you’ll go.
I’ll tell you all about brunch. I taught myself that one, in an empty apartment with high ceilings, when I first learnt what it was to live alone. Our Sundays will be slow – first one pot of tea, and then another. There will be bacon strips and smoothies and pancakes made from scratch, sprinkled with chocolate chips. On the days we’re lazy and the weather is warm, we’ll eat out. You’ll be allowed to read at the table, if your book is that good. Sometimes, there’ll be champagne.
Brunch is worth getting excited about.
There will be your own village to make you; your own tribe, your own patchwork of traditions to make for yourself – the ones we’ll give you, the ones you’ll borrow from your friends and forget to return, the ones you’ll piece together when you take off on your own. You’ll twist them and change them so they fit you better, and infuse them with your own adventures.
And then, it’ll be your turn to pass them on, carrying the imprint of your fingertips.
And you can be damn sure I will show you how to properly brew tea.
Alizée Chesnoy | @thequietandthewild
Alizée is a French poet in Berlin. When she isn’t writing, you’ll probably find her photographing street art, practicing sarcasm, and drinking unhealthy amounts of tea.