Monday, 15 May 2006

The incredible call

Tuesday 15 May

Yesterday evening, on the dot of 9 pm, my mother called me.

When I picked up the phone and recognised her voice, I felt enormously surprised and also, I think, relief. But not fear, anger, or sorrow. On the contrary, I was happy she called.

She said she had received my letter.

She told me she recognised the writing on the envelope, that she was afraid that I was writing to tell her of a catastrophe and that as a result she read it all at once.

In one way it pleased me that she said she was happy that I had written to her, that she understood the step I was taking, that it was my body and that it was important for me to speak to them about this operation. It touched me that she was disappointed I hadn’t spoken to her about it earlier and that she was sorry not to be able to be there with me tomorrow. Her questions on the progress of the operation and about the consultations with the surgeon and anaesthetist did me good. I liked it when she asked me for the clinic’s telephone number and said she would phone me there tomorrow evening. It warmed my heart when she said she would be thinking of me.

But there was this other part of the conversation. This part where she gave me another version of what had happened. The minutes when she said that she had nothing to do with the circumcisions of my sister or myself, that it was my paternal grandmother who had planned it all in secret, in the absence of my father who had left for Dakar (and not to look for my cousin as she herself had told me).

She told me that, on that morning, when she came to look for us in my grandmother’s hut where we were sleeping, my sister and myself, she hadn’t found us, that she asked my grandmother where we were and that she had said we had been sent to the circumciser.

She told me that it wasn’t something that was done in her own village, that her own mother had never done anything as abominable to her.

My mother told me that my father had never believed her, that he had always believed she had participated in this ignominy, and that during that year and well after she had suffered badly.

At the time I didn’t believe her.

I didn’t say anything, but I thought she was lying to me, that she wasn’t innocent. I don’t know, when she was talking to me she wasn’t crying, there wasn’t really any emotion in her voice. And in particular, she didn’t talk about me. She didn’t say that it made her feel as though we had been sent to the abattoir. She didn’t speak about when she saw me again afterwards. She didn’t tell me about her pain that I had been circumcised. I found that bizarre. I listened well, I felt nothing. In fact it was as if my excision was divorced from her, she was just wrongly accused of having participated in it. It was very strange. I had the impression that the drama for her was having been wrongly accused and not the fact that we had been circumcised, my sister and myself.

This morning, in the cold light of day … well I don’t know what to believe any more, if what she said to me is the truth. She told me, yesterday evening, that I was like her, that I had this reserve which prevents me from expressing my emotions (it’s confusing, my father told me basically the same thing, several years ago, but finding a similarity with himself). If that’s so, yesterday evening was it that her emotions didn’t show in her speech because she’s so much in the habit of not showing them? And in fairness, why would she lie to me?

Honestly, I don’t know what to think about it, I am focused on my going to the clinic soon so I think I’ll put it to one side for the moment.

Yesterday evening she told me that she had called my father who is away until Wednesday evening, to let him know that he too had received a letter, no doubt the same.

I don’t know if she made him aware of the contents but he said he would phone on his return, after he had read it.

I’d very much like to hear his version of the story, I hope he will speak to me about it…

[Original in French]

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  1. Little butterfly, I don't know you, but this evening and tomorrow I will be thinking of you and I will send you loads of positive waves from the south of France.

  2. Hi Papillon, that's great. She has read your letter, she knows, she has called you, and she will be with you for the remainder of your journey.

    She started by telling you of her own suffering, and I understand your disappointment because you would so much have preferred that she talk of yours, your suffering. Because you have your story at heart, right inside, the final straight after your great effort.

    Give yourself time. Her guilt is always alive, she has never dared speak to you about it and has just come face to face with it without expecting to.

    After your operation you will be able to complete the circle finally. Your body will be repaired and you will learn your story little by little, whatever you want to know. You have given yourself the possibility of asking all these questions.

    I too will be thinking of you this evening and tomorrow, that your "last" day will be lovely.

    And for the pain, I give you a kiss!

  3. I'm starting to gather up all my positive vibes for thinking of you!! But I don't think you will need them, you have all the strength necessary and it will go well. As for your mother, that's great, at least she will be with you as Caro B said, and it's encouraging. But you weren't much wating on your mother, it's mainly your father's reaction which you were dreading. As for how your mother reacted, I have no doubt that your father will react even better, don't worry !!;-)
    I understand that you would be a bit "surprised" by your mother's version. If you have the courage, you could ask your father. Or ask your mother questions which have you in doubt. In the end, I think that must be quite difficult...


  4. Hi Papillon!

    I hope you aren't too anxious on the eve of your big day. Try above all to relax, don't give yourself a headache over this call, you will have time to talk after the operation.

    I think that would be even though you have a family reunion with your mother, father, cousin and even your sister. At least that way you can discuss things clearly and set them down.

    Otherwise, concerning your mother, you know, as far as you describe, she seems rather reserved and the sort who keeps her emotions to herself. I would say there is no reason for her to lie to you. I think she too must be suffering from this situation.

    In any case, don't give yourself a headache, it'll be all right, even if it's true that it's hardnot to think about it. After the operation, you will have time to rebuild your relationship with your mother. You have plenty to say to each other I imagine. What's more, I know that African mothers, notably mine, are rather reserved. But it's enough at times to lance the abcess. Don't worry.

    A big hug, and I'm saying a little prayer for you.

  5. Thank you Papillon, for such a powerful account!

    We are really proud of you ;-)

    You give hope back to thousands of women, victims of abuse during childhood or violence caused by the hand of someone close.

    I will be with you in my thoughts and in my prayers for the coming hours and days.

  6. Today is the day after the operation. I hope you are feeling well and not having pain. I hope that you will heal quickly and be whole again. God bless you.


  7. Papillon, I think that herself has suffered in silence too, she suffered from being accused by your father (and by others), suffered for you, for your sister, for not having wanted what happened to you. Perhaps she also suffered from the blame which you have laid on her, although she said she wasn't responsible ...
    After your operation (or before it if you feel like it) don't leave things in suspense, give your mother a call and ask her the questions which have arisen from this phone call. Perhaps it would even be easier to talk to her in your father's absence. Because your relationship is based on unspoken remarks, suppositions, reconstructions of the past, accounts which hurt all the members of your family. At least you have warned them of your operation, I think that your emotional ties will strengthen. And as long as you don't know the truth of who decided on your circumcision, don't lay the blame on anyone from what I have read on your blog, neither your dad nor your mum wanted you to go through what you have suffered.
    Good luck!
    Tomorrow is BIG day.
    Lots of kisses

  8. Yes tomorrow is a big day ... A big bag full of lovely things for the day. I'll be thinking of you. And when you wake you will be You.
    You let us see so much of your sweetness. Keep going.

  9. Hello Papillon
    I came here from Hélène's blog, and I have read you ever since. I find you really courageous in taking this path, to talk about it so sincerely, to have succeeded in writing this letter to your parents. You can I imagine at least be at peace with yourself, that's great!

    I will have a special thought for you tomorrow and the following days, good luck and keep going!


  10. I don't know what to say, if not that I think of you, and other girls and women in your situation. I admire your courage!

  11. Many,many good wishes for tomorow, there are so many of us thinking of you with all our affection that these positive waves are going to carry to you all day :o)


  12. Full of thoughts for you on the eve of the Big Day" My thoughts will go with you :)

  13. I don't know you, and I admit I haven't read all your blog. But all the same I give you a big kiss, and wish you good luck for your operation tomorrow...
    (Myself I have an oral exam tomorrow ..Now I am aware that it's little compared with what you are going to experience..)

    I'll be back to hear your news.

  14. The same as Rosalie and the same message since I too live in the south. I find you have immense courage and an admirable will to live.

    Kisses for tomorrow.

  15. Wow! I find the narration is superb, gentle and structured, pleasant to read. And fair... Good luck for the operation :)

  16. I have been enormously touched by reading your blog, I've even cried, and writing this comment I have a lump in my throat which is preventing me from breathing. I had a friend who was circumcised, done by a barbarian, she lived in the Paris suburbs and she was 14 years old. Except she didn't get over it, she became depressed and died because she didn't eat at all for months.

    You decided to fight and that's wonderful, I respect you from the bottom of my heart and tomorrow I will be thinking of you and give you all possible moral support!
    Good luck little butterfly, good luck.

  17. Perhaps it's that she too has barriers up inside, to resist the trauma and the blame for finding her daughters mutilated when she was away...
    And now she has great difficulty in coming out of that concrete shell to hear your suffering as you would wish her to hear.
    Because she must have fought all these years without resolving anything...
    You know, when you talk at last, you are sometimes disappointed by the reaction of the other: you want them to be more animated, more involved, more "how you dreamt", more "everything's going to change!" But the other is doing what they can...
    It's already great that she is sorry not to be able to be with you, that she approves. There are people who don't have that luck.

  18. A thought for you, with you, for what is happening to you.
    Most important is that your mother has accepted that things change even with the silent relationship. Towards what, nothing can tell you, nor can anyone tell where your clitoris will lead you ..
    But, the game is worth the candle.

  19. Hello Papillon

    Your account has reached as far as Canada. It has touched me greatly, you have enormous courage.

    Plenty of good wishes for tomorrow and good night (time difference necessitates)


Forethoughts, afterthoughts, any thoughts. Tell me.


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