WARNING: Totally personal. Memories. Reflection. You don’t need to read this.
Sitting on the couch in living room in Valros, France. Just a few days left and we return to the USA. I started to cry. Decided to write this. Collecting my memories.
The beginning: Reading email from a colleague who mentioned Stony Brook University (Long Island, New York, USA).
The email reminds me of Herb Weisinger, dear friends of my parents…which, of course, reminds me of my parents.
My dad – referred to as “the Frenchman” – was a professor at MSU. So was Herb. Herb was one of the “famous” MSU profs and authors. One day… no idea how old I was but certainly high school…Wandering through my dad’s basement bookshelves…I encountered Herb’s book The Tragedy and Paradox of the Fortunate Fall. I read it. Wow. I think I took the copy from dad’s shelf when he died. Published by MSU Press. Just ordered a copy on the Internet, just in case.
While wandering the Internet (you know how that happens!) I encountered another book by Herb…Co-authored with Georges Jules Joyaux. (Yes, there’s an “s”.) The Crisis in Comparative Literature. Is that when I started tearing up? My dad died of cancer in 1990, 67 years old.
My mom, Jane Peckham Joyaux, worked at MSU, too. She was the managing editor of MSU’s Centennial Review. And helped build the original Sparty when she was an undergrad in the art department. I remember us kids fighting – and calling mom at the office (when she was secretary in MSU’s Department of Statistics) – so she could negotiate. Thank heavens the department chair was a family friend! Mom (also called Grandma Jane or Grammy … even by her own kids, not just grandkids) died in May 2016.
Amazing to grow up within a university. I remember wandering briefly through parent parties.
Talking with Herb (his wife Mildred smoked thin cigars); Pulitzer prize winner Russ Nye (who gave me novels at all my ages … including Sweet 16!); Jimmy Wong (poker player with dad and Sam and others); Madame Abelle and dad speaking French, with English words thrown in. So many more, of course.
And French guests visiting MSU always partied at 975 Lantern Hill Drive, East Lansing, MI. Like the entire French theatre group. And mime Marcel Marceau (very talkative when not on stage!)
So I was searching Herb on the Internet. Wandering around. Herb mentored the author Jim Harrison. I’d forgetten that Jim (MSU grad) wrote the novel Legends of the Fall. Wonderful movie but it makes me so sad.
I encountered an article Herb wrote about the obligations of universities: “Universities Must Consider Ideas, Create New Worlds”. This reminds me of my October 2017 newsyletter article about the University of Chicago and its beliefs: a campus culture committed to “discourse, argument and lack of deference.”
How many universities – and other institutions – embrace (and fight for) conversation and disagreement and cage-rattling questions? What’s happening in our societies and our local communities? Within our governments and institutions and…
I say I’m suffering from PTSD. I laugh (but not really). Apparently a definition of PTSD is “moral injury.” That’s how I feel: Every day, violation of my values and fundamental beliefs.
Memories…. I just realized something: That violation began for me when I was 9 years old living in France. I observed American (USA) disrespect for other cultures. Life moved on. So much nationalism now. And still (and I suspect forever) racism, sexism, homophobia, and on and on and on… We just can’t seem to embrace differences…Yet I was taught that. Thanks dad and mom.
Thanks, Papa Georges for giving me France…which gave me diversity and so much more. Based on an old newspaper interview of yours, I took your message and crafted this: People eat, sleep, and make love in languages other than English, in colors other than white, and in pairings other than opposite sex. And that’s beautiful. That’s what I fight for. (Tom says that’s our family mission statement. You never knew the detail of all this, Dad. Because I became all this only by the early 90s. You helped me become this. Thank you.)
Anyway… I’m rambling. Just wandering through memories.
I’m crying now. But that’s okay.
Thank you Jane and Georges for the life you’ve given me. I hope, Dad that you would be proud of me. You never knew this Simone…author and teacher like you. Oh, how I suspect you’d dislike the tacky rings and weird hose!!!! I actually remember blue shoes with ties that I bought in France. You commented on those!
I know, Mom, you were proud of me – although I’m not sure you understood what I do.
Thank you both. What a life.