My grandmother, a teacher and Catholic nun, had babies. No divine intervention whatsoever.
Bella. Although my grandmother’s real name was Annabelle, everyone who knew her called her Bella, except when she lived in Spain. In Spain, the villagers and students of Guernica knew her either as Monja Bella or Maestra Bella. A monja is a nun; maestra, a teacher.
One of Bella’s babies was my mother.
Now, in telling the story of my mother and of my grandmother’s life, and of the village they were born into, it's impossible to separate fact from fiction. The best I can do is to tell it the way it unfolded before me. More or less. It won't always make sense and some stuff may never have happened...but that's the kind of story this is.
Both my mother, Isabelle, and her mother, Bella were born in a tiny French-Acadian village in Canada. It’s such a tiny speck of a village that you can’t even find it on a Google maps. The place is called Papillon (butterfly in English) and it’s unlike any other village I know of. It's the polar opposite of Paris, where I was born, with the single exception being the presence of eccentric characters like those I met when I lived in France.
In Papillon, however, eccentricity seems amplified by isolation, reminding me of the process whereby millions of years of pressure on coal produces a diamond. And, in Papillon, this pressure of isolation can compress eccentricities into pure gems of madness.
Bella and Isabelle. Such pretty names. Had Maman followed tradition, I could have ended up with some other ‘Bel’ derivative, like Sabelle, or maybe Sable. That would have been stylin. But no.
My mother didn’t remember her mother, or even her own name when I was born.
And so, she came up with the name Sabine. That’s me. I think my name makes me sound like a grandmother, but no matter how much I try to get a cool nickname going, I seem to lack the social skills to make it happen.