The sun shone warm on Maya’s back as she stared out into the fields of the South of France. Spring at Last, Maya thought. It’s about time. She was staying with her grandparents for three weeks, or was it months? It was so easy to lose track of time in a timeless place, so seemingly cut off from the rest of the world. Maya was eighteen, had just finished school and was more than eager to spend a year sorting through the where, when and what of the next stage of life. France had been her mother’s persuasion, “go take a holiday while staying with family”. It had barely been a holiday and staying with her grandparents had been her favourite escape from reality. It had been years since she had seen them and had cried bitterly when they immigrated. Their farm in South Africa had been the golden days of her childhood, her own little piece of magic in the world, but their home in France had it’s perks too.
Maya’s Grandparents lived in a tiny little cottage at the edge of a large field, where a family of sheep seemed to drift around in their own world, but never leaving each other’s side. Maya had been delighted when the little lamb was born, so teeny tiny, a perfect family of three. Since the day she had arrived, she had stared at these sheep for long periods of time, day dreaming, writing, listening to music, filling her mind with all things that made her long for home. It was generally after lunch when everyone was sleeping that Maya would drift into this world of sheep, home and dreams. Whenever she stepped back inside her grandmother, Meme, would be mending clothing for the few other inhabitants of this ghost like town, or doing crosswords or whatever else would jog her brain. Meme had Alzheimer’s and she could barely remember any English by then, but she and Maya had their own giggles about it, making their own language with bits of English, French, hand-gestures and sounds and whatever else made any sense. Maya did not need things that made sense to other people, she needed things that made sense between two people to understand. Maya’s grandmother was the perfect person to share her own little world with, she was one of the first people to ever tell Maya that she was wise. She had taught her how to be ladylike throughout her childhood, gently telling her the what-not-to-dos of life. She wished everyone had learnt from her grandmother. What beauty, grace and faith she held every moment of her life.
Maya’s grandfather would put on the news and get the kettle boiling, never a man to sit idle, if there was someone to be sought to and looked after there he was, on the job. He may have been the opposite to gentle, but the gentleness was in his heart. “Me, I love all my children and all my grandchildren. You know, your mother, she’s a beautiful lady, all my children are beautiful.” Sometimes it would be muttered in drunken tones, other times it was simply random ramblings. His grumpy facade could get quite tiresome, but he meant well. Maya enjoyed his company, so what it he complained about every country he veer lived in, so what if he got angry about silly things, he was “mister charmer”, a man of many languages and many humble skills. Maya thought about when he took her to the market. It was like being in an olden day movie, Maya was in a thick European style jacket, boots and all, for it was a chilly day, but it was all so excited. Being an observer, it a pleasure to the mind, so much to take in, culture, things, people, language, the diversity compared to home. The Arab ladies and their strange stalls, the Chinese stalls, Italian, Spanish, like stray dogs looking for a way to survive. The Arab refugees had always fascinated her in France. What was their story, what had they been through on the other end, how were they living behind the scenes, what separated them from the beggars she saw in her own country everyday… Her Grandfather, Pepe, would by from people he had become friends with, he had a knack for befriending the Chinese, from what she had heard from her mother’s childhood. he bought fish from them, bought meat from the strangest people Maya had seen and herbs and spices from the Arabs. The Caucasian French sold your usual boring goods. There were even gypsy-like ladies who sole leather jackets and your standard hippy attire. With his farmer’s buy for the week, Pepe would make the most divine meals, the best Mauritian food on offer ever since before Maya could remember.
Maya longed to spend more time there, but it did get quite lonely. Once when Meme had taken her into town to an old library, she had felt a shiver down her spine at the emptiness of it all. Yes, there beautiful buildings with a beautiful historic village look, but it felt like another time and another place in which she just did not belong. Whenever she went with her grandmother to a church service, it felt empty. There about five priests and a handful of old ladies in the congregation. The church was over the hills an far away, which didn not make anything less creepy, almost like watching an ancient ritual take place, Maya was lost in all the French incantations and responses, she could not pick up on which prayer was which and whether they were following present day order of mass or their own ancient version born pre Pope John Paul.
All of these little absurdities made the South of France feel almost like home, but just a little too far from. It was almost time to take a long and lonely train ride back to a little town just outside of Paris, and she could definitely wait for that, she could wait forever.