“The castle I drew and painted; never finishing it. Writing and sharing became much more important to me.” ©Natalie Keshing
The picture was quite incredible. It took at least the 10th time for me to notice her, standing there at fifteen months old, with her nanny in front of this American castle; tiny as they looked against the backdrop of pure wealth. It was humongous, a behemoth of a residence; now she barely remembers. What happened when her father died at forty five and she was only fifteen months old? Her mother only twenty. What did her mother do? Did they continue to live in the humongous castle? Did her mother remarry and then she became a stepdaughter…like me.
It wasn’t the first hurdle after Nick had had a brain hemorrhage due to an aneurysm. He would continue to go in and out of the hospital for numerous digestive and life threatening issues. I remember walking into his room in the hospital. I was slim and well dressed. The nurse was shaving him and she said, “Who is this pretty girl who came to visit you Nick?” He replied, ‘my stepdaughter’ that was like taking a knife and stabbing me, the pain so real, so hurtful. I suppose I thought that after the aneurysm, the brain surgery, the crying and the praying that I would magically turn into his real daughter and he would forget I was only his stepdaughter. Why couldn’t he have said ‘my daughter’. After all, he knew me since I was two and half years old. No, but he never adopted me. He and Janis made me write his last name as mine. The first time I saw my real last name, it hung there on the birth certificate as if it didn’t belong there, those four letters with two vowels, but neither did Nick’s last name. He never adopted me.
Her son asked her about the letter she wrote to her father. All I could see was the little girl she was at 91. She was absolutely beautiful and charming at 91. Toying with her son over the letter she wrote to her father. I couldn’t imagine my son and I having the same conversation about my real father. My son never asked me about my real father and he never asked me about his real father? This still is what remains to be said.
He said to his mother, “You used to have this fantasy that your father had written you a letter.” She replied, “Well it’s still floating around there; somewhere, it’s going to arrive someday.” She laughs and describes a beautifully written letter saying how much her father loved and adored her. Like me, she was lacking the love of a real father. A loving father, someone who would protect her. How many times did I dream and fantasize about that. I was Cinderella with a twist, it was my evil stepfather and my real mother most of the time acting like a stepmother. It’s awfully hard to go up against two spiteful adults when you’re just a child; yourself. But I did it and I am nothing like them. My brother knows this.
Her son remembers and mentions to his mother, “There’s a saying by Mary Gordon that you quote a lot.” She said “A fatherless girl thinks all things possible and nothing safe.” and that’s absolutely true.” Well there you go someone to confirm what I’m always writing about, “All things impossible are possible.” The parallel of our method of thinking is strikingly comparable to believe in all things impossible possible. I was fascinated with her persona, her elegance and her truth. Thinking now how many readers will be feeling the same.
There is a wonderful picture of her and her father together and he looking adoringly at his daughter who is just a toddler herself. There is camera footage of her and her mother playing on the grounds and she just being a child discovering everything around her; playful, happy, and free. Three wonderful words. Perhaps she had taken that last walk with her real father at fifteen months old around the grounds of their American castle, as I did with my real father. Never knowing how significant that one piece of information was going to play out in my mind. That my grandparents trusted my real father enough to let me walk outside with him. I was probably the same age. The little penguin wobbling from side to side holding his hand. Did it cross his mind to take me and run away with me? Because he could have and my grandparents couldn’t have prevented that. My grandfather only had one leg and my grandmother was probably preoccupied in the kitchen and there wasn’t a phone to call for help. There was barely running water now in the house finally electricity to replace the glass antic kerosene lamps I remember my grandmother, mother, and aunts carrying around.
Away from New York City and all the hustle and bustle, they were now in the house in Connecticut. Only a small view of the house from the outside the camera man pointing upward towards the attic. I have to say that was one of my dreams to live in the big city; New York City. I had already lived in San Francisco and Los Angeles but New York City is different. I knew this in my heart. Especially when I started painting with all the galleries in Soho, East Village in Manhattan. It was a different tempo and beat, the city streets filled with everyone going somewhere…a day in their life…in a girl’s young mind.
She started by reciting “There was once a child, living everyday, expecting tomorrow to be different from today.” Her son asked you who wrote that quote? She said “Moi” in French “Me”. “Because I’ve lived so long and because I see it almost as a kind of fairy tale, of some kind of a mythical thing that happened to somebody.”
She had written a book of her own story, a memoir, titled, “Once Upon A Time.” The book starts with her artistic paper dolls. I studied them and she was quite remarkable, the dresses she colored with crayons looked almost real. I mean the fabric looked real to me. That is quite remarkable to do with crayons. Then I remembered my own cut out paper dolls that I colored with crayons. They came in a book then you’d have to use scissors to cut them out and their assorted wardrobe with little tabs to bend and keep the dress in place on the paper doll. I didn’t think there was enough dresses, tops and pants. So I decided to make other party dresses and hats and shoes for my paper doll to wear. The difference being that her paper dolls were a real representation of someone real in her life. My paper dolls came from a book and they didn’t represent anyone except maybe myself, playing dress up and attending a party like her mother.
Dodo, who was in little Gloria’s life since she was three weeks old, became the nurturing mother in place of her real mother. Gloria, her mother’s name and she and Dodo moved back to Paris after little Gloria’s father had passed away. They left the behemoth castle. When they arrived in Paris mother bought a house for herself and a house for Dodo and her. Her mother started living a party and lavish lifestyle. Her mother Gloria had a twin sister and she said, “I could hardly tell them apart myself.” She was right, the picture of them sitting next to each other wasn’t showing any notable difference. How many times did I wish I had a twin sister. I always thought that would have been just great to have a twin sister. You could always be together and share half the problems that existed around you. You could conspire and contemplate against the big bad lycanthropic silver wolf with blood shot red eyes. Two red riding hoods. Nick would have had double the trouble. He was lucky that I didn’t have a twin sister.
It really seems much more interesting to tell my story through Gloria’s. I like it that way…
Continue reading at What Remains to be Said – Part IV
A Past in NatsWritingsMind and Life
©Natalie Keshing Editor-in-Chief of NatsWritings.com or nataliekeshing.com