Maud Julien: “Mother just threw me into the water”
In 1960, the Frenchman Louis Didier bought a house near Lille and retired there with his wife in order to carry out the project of his life – to raise a superman from Maud’s little daughter.
The mod was waiting for strict discipline, tests of willpower, hunger, the absence of the slightest warmth and sympathy from the side of parents. Having shown amazing resilience and a will to live, Maud Julien grew up, became a psychotherapist and found the strength to publicly share her experience. We publish excerpts from her book, “The Story of a Daughter,” which is published by Eksmo Publishing House.
“Father reiterates that everything he does, he does for me. That he devotes his whole life to me in order to educate, shape, sculpt from me that higher being whom I am destined to become …
I know that I must show myself worthy of the tasks that he will set before me later. But I’m afraid that I can not meet his requirements. I feel too weak, too clumsy, too stupid. And I’m so scared of him! Even his overweight body, big head, long thin arms and steel eyes. I’m so afraid that my legs give way when I approach him.
It’s even worse for me because I alone confront this giant. From the mother neither comfort nor protection can be expected. Monsieur Didier is a demigod for her. She adores and hates him, but she never dares to contradict. I have no choice but to close my eyes and, shaking with fear, take cover under the wing of my creator.
My father sometimes tells me that I should never leave this house, even after he dies.
My father is convinced that the mind can achieve anything. Absolutely everything: he can defeat any danger and overcome any obstacle. But to do this, a long, active preparation is required far from the filth of this unclean world. He always says: “Man is inherently evil, the world is inherently dangerous. “There are a lot of weak, cowardly people on earth who are being pushed to betray their weaknesses and cowardice.”
Father is disappointed with the world; he was often betrayed. “You don’t know how lucky you are to be rid of desecration by other people,” he tells me. That’s what this house is for – to keep the miasma of the outside world at bay. My father sometimes tells me that I should never leave this house, even after he dies.
His memory will continue to live in this house, and if I take care of him, I will be safe. And sometimes she claims that then I can do whatever I want, I can become the president of France, the mistress of the world. But when I leave this house, I will not do it in order to live the purposeless life of “Madame Nobody.” I will leave him to conquer the world and “achieve greatness.”
“Mother considers me a quirky creature, a bottomless well of bad will. I obviously deliberately spray ink on paper, and just as deliberately, I broke a piece off the glass top of a large dining table. I deliberately stumble or strip off my skin when I weed in the garden. I fall and get scratches on purpose too. I am a “liar” and a “pretender.” I always try to attract attention.
At the same time, when reading and writing lessons began, I learned to ride a bicycle. I had a kids bike with training wheels at the rear wheel.
“Now we’ll take them off,” her mother once said. Father stood behind us, silently watching this scene. My mother made me sit on a bike that suddenly became unstable, firmly grabbed hold of me with both hands and – well, well – pushed me forward along the inclined driveway.
Having fallen, I tore my foot on the gravel and burst into tears of pain and humiliation. But when I saw these two impassive faces watching me, the sobs ceased by themselves. Without saying a word, my mother put me on the bike again and pushed me as many times as it took me to learn how to balance myself.
So, you can fail exams – and still not be a walking disappointment
My abrasions were treated on the spot: my mother held my knee tightly, and my father poured alcohol directly on aching wounds. Crying and moaning was forbidden. I had to grit my teeth.
I also learned to swim. Of course, there was no question of going to the local swimming pool. In the summer, when I was four years old, my father built a pool “especially for me”, at the end of the garden. No, not a beautiful pool with blue water. It was a rather long narrow strip of water, squeezed on both sides by concrete walls. The water there was dark, icy, and I did not see the bottom.
As with the bike, my first lesson was simple and quick: my mother just threw me into the water. I huddled, yelled and drank water. Just when I was ready to go down to the rock, she ducked and caught me. And everything repeated again. I yelled again, cried and choked. Mother pulled me out again.
“You will be punished for this stupid nagging,” she said, before unceremoniously throwing me back into the water. My body tried to stay on the water, while my spirit each time curled up inside me into a slightly tighter ball.
“A strong man does not cry,” said the father, watching this performance from a distance, standing so that the spray would not reach. “You need to learn how to swim.” This is vital in case you fall from the bridge or you have to flee.
I gradually learned to keep my head above water. And over time, she even became a good swimmer. But I hate water, just as I hate this pool, where I still have to train. ”
(10 years later)
“One morning, going down to the first floor, I notice an envelope in my mailbox and almost fall, seeing on it my name, drawn in beautiful handwriting. No one ever wrote to me. My hands are shaking with excitement.
I see on the back of the letter that it is from Marie-Noel, whom I met during the exams – a girl full of joy and energy, and, moreover, a beautiful woman. Her luxurious black hair is pulled at the back of her head into a ponytail.
“Listen, we could correspond,” she said then. “Give me your address?”
I frantically open the envelope and unfold two full sheets, covered on both sides with lines of blue ink, with flowers painted on the margins.
Marie-Noel tells me that she failed her exams, but it doesn’t matter, she still has a wonderful summer. So, you can fail the exams – and still not be a walking disappointment.
I remember she told me that she got married at seventeen, but now reports that she quarreled with her husband. She met another guy and they were kissing.
Then Marie-Noel tells me about her holidays, about “mom” and “dad” and how glad she is to see them, because she needs to tell them so much. She hopes that I will write to her and that we will meet again. If I want to come see her, her parents will be happy to receive me, and I can stay in their summer house.
I am overjoyed: she remembers me! Her happiness and energy are contagious. And the letter fills me with hope. It turns out that after failed exams, life goes on, that love does not end, that there are parents who continue to talk with their daughters.
What could I write to her about? I have nothing to tell her … And then I think: no, there is! I can tell her about the books I read, about the garden and about Pete, who only recently died, having lived a good long life. I can tell her how in recent weeks he has turned into a “lame duck” and how I looked with love at his waddling gait.
I realize that, even cut off from the world, I have something to say that life goes on everywhere.
I look right in my father’s eyes. I know everything about maintaining visual contact – even more than he does, because it is he who averts his eyes
Mentally, I write her a letter on several pages; I don’t have a loved one, but I’m in love with life, with nature, with newly hatched doves … I ask my mother for beautiful paper and stamps. She demands first to let her read Marie-Noel’s letter and almost suffocates from indignation:
“You went outside just once — and you messed up with prostitutes!” The girl who marries at seventeen is a prostitute! And she was kissing with another guy!
“But she gets divorced …”
My mother confiscates the letter and strictly forbids me from contacting “this dirty whore”. I am discouraged. So what’s now? I walk around my cage and fight on the bars from all sides. I am both annoyed and offended by the pathos of my mother at the table.
“We wanted to make you the perfect person,” she says, “and that’s what we got.” You are a walking disappointment.
My father chooses this very moment to subject me to one of his crazy exercises: he cuts the throat of a chicken and demands that I drink its blood.
– It is good for the brain.
No, that’s too much. Doesn’t he understand that I have nothing more to lose? What is he dealing with kamikaze? No, he does not understand. He insists, pronounces, threatens … When he begins to yell with that very bass, which blew my veins in my childhood, I explode:
– I said no! I will not drink chicken blood, neither today, nor on any other day. And by the way, I won’t look after your tomb. Never! And if necessary, I will flood it with cement so that no one can return from it. I know everything about how to make cement – thanks to you!
I look directly into my father’s eyes, keeping his gaze. I also know everything about maintaining visual contact – it seems even more than he does, because it is he who averts his eyes. I’m on the verge of fainting, but I did it. ”