Of all the children that come to the house, none have a 'normal' or 'complete' family. As a result it is easy to keep up with the gossip. The mother of Yves has left with a Vietnamese man, Cécile and Anna have left not having shown any sign of life in the relationship for eighteen years. The father of Francis left Geneva to live in the country, that the father of Cladine is dead and so is Jean-Francois' father. On the other hand Sylvie, Sarah, Bertrand and Françoise, live with their parents. They claim that they are imprisoned, often acting as though they have to do strange things around the house such as 'ringing the bell.'
Lots of people talk about the youth. They are a source of worry, indignation and curiosity. Everyone speak about them except them the youths themselves. Marie suggested writing a book about themselves although if they had they would have become the butt of jokes. They can sit around all day doing nothing, not talking much just listening to their music. They dream. A few years ago she would have found this irratating, saying that they are lazy. However she realises at their age she spent her time half asleep doing nothing too. She would leave books strewn about her bed so that they thought she was working. Her grandma had tried to get her to try knitting although she never insisted on her doing something rather she would ask.
They slip into a reverie through their music. They knew their music like her mother knew the thousands of routes from Marceline Desbordes or Musset to Valmore, like how Marie knew Rimbaud, Apollinaire and to certain extent the typical bourgeoise composers such as Bach and certain symphonies of Mozart. She is familiar with jazz from her youth.
In amongst the din is nuances to which the youth are extremely sensitive. They listen to the beat with passion. This sort of music is the only thing that belongs absolutely to this generation. It represents their thoughts and motivation.
Marie does not understand how people born after 1945 are shut off to those born in 1975. Those that were teens before or during the 39-45 war have difficulty in understanding all this. They lived a different life. But as for the youth it is impossible for them to forget Boogie Woogie, Swing, New Look, Be-bop. Juliette Gréco, Les Caves, Sartre, Camus, Merleau Ponty, le chewing gum, les Zazous, Boris Vian. Marie sees her generation of the generation of transistion between talking about free love and bop dancing, yet still firmly the generation from the war, where setting an example is paramount. They do not want to bring up their children with ideals of revolution personified by Jaon of Arc, and Viennoise Waltz.
Marie came from a divorced family and a torn youth. She also had all the books, records and space she needed. She was brought up by the Mediterranean where the heat opened windows and doors, provoking more communication between the people.
Learning attitudes towards drugs and music are both ways of better understanding youths but will not guarantee full compreshension. Marie knows of a friend who has done drugs since she was young yet her children do not want her around as much as her parents did.
According to Marie, money distorts things, making people blind. Children are merely investments of effort and money at the price of bitter arguements and rudeness towards others fighting for the same social positions and jobs. Pitying theirselves to have struggled so much just to get them to their twelth year at Lycée, knowing that they are merely 'following the fashion' in not trying in class. They will sit their baccaleaureats and become the head clerk, dentist or primary school teacher. They will be much more sucessful than their parents. The parents believe that one day they will be repayed with the American ideal of a rich lifestyle full of dishwashers, electric polishers, great cars, a yacht and a villa in the Bahamas. Unfortunately they often become some obsessed and bitter that they forget love. After they go in the Lycée they either run away or become silent, either way the parents loose contact. They try to win them back with money but to no avail so they resort to increased restrictions and dicipline. It soon becomes war and the parents feel that they have been cheated.
Marie believes that mes vieux is one of the most pejorative phrases used by the youth when referring to their parents. It sums up the inter-generation conflict. It is firstly irritating but also conjures images of tired parents working hard so that their sons can bathe in the sunshine, believing that they will pay them back one day. Slogging away with their out-moded thoughts and their out-dated memories, mumbling quietly to themselves, without importance.
She believes that music is very important for understanding the youth, alhough she cannot fully understand what fascinates them so much and so believes that she can never deeply understand them. She has seen trainee engineers, workers and tramps from England, Holland, Canada, America, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Japan and Africa, and they all had music as a kind of lingua franca. Ever since life became intersting for Marie in Canada and America, there has always been music whether it was songs, folk music on banjo or guitar or Jimmy Hendrix on full volume.
The summer Alain came with Charlotte they (six teenagers, Marie, Jean-Pierre and Dorthée who was twelve,) were camping by a lake in Canada. Marie left them all by the fire and she was just about to go to sleep when three bikers came over the sand-dunes towards them. Thinking of the film Easy Rider it scared her. It was three tough looking, frightening, twenty two year old blokes dressed in black leather. The children sensed fear, probably thinking about the American reputation for violence and so stayed still. Jean-Pierre said the first word "Hello, good evening". They did not reply and came closer to the fire. Everyone was stood up and so when the children started to sit down, the bikers did too. Gregoire took his banjo and Alain his guitar and they started to play One more blue and One More Grey. Charlotte hummed along, the bikers smiled. Marie claimed it was one of the most interesting nights she had spent in her latter years. They were electricians from Detroit who each Friday evening would leave on their bikes to go as far and as fast as possible trying to find in the evening campers who have a fire to cook their meals on, although it was difficult. They were generally not welcome. They helped wash up the next day and gave rides in the dunes to thank them. Marie liked them.
It was the music that opened the door, their records were Marie's books. There are a lot of stories, dreams, messages and adventures hidden within them.
Once Gregoire got Marie to listen to their music through headphones and for a brief moment she experienced the intensity and hope of the song. She noticed nuances she had never before experienced. She realised that these moments were exactly what the children waited for when they played a song at least three or four times a day. When a friend who was around asked Marie why they play their music so loud, she responded that it was to become completely engrossed by it, it being more than just a passtime. They are crazy came the reply.
A family normally weighs heavily on each of its members each getting in everyone elses way. On All Saints Day, Marie accompanied her mother to the cemetary and it was this that would weaken Marie's relationships. It was before the war and they went by car, the chauffer carried the bags and would have to change to tram to get up to the steep graveyard overhanging the Mediterranean. It was a sombre and mysterious place. Cyprus trees followed the paths giving off their peppery odor. Other smells of faded flowers, the sea, the dead. Rocks were everywhere. Although even in this place their was an air of happiness making you want to dance, especially around All Saints Day whith all the flowers. They came to their tomb which was overly decorated with chrysanthemums. On climbing up the slope her mother would merit all the other tombs. Marie found that artificial flowers, porcelaine cherubs and marble books were all okay for some but she also saw beauty in the more discreet simple stone cross without adornments.
On passing the delapidated tombs with a few mustard flowers in a glass and a couple of plastic flowers, her mother said "Better there than elsewhere" which Marie translated as 'better dead than poor'. Because of this, when her mother said to a member of her family that if they went ahead with a certain payout then they will have to beg on the street, Marie was deeply frightened. Her mother left a flower on such an abandoned grave, despite her bitter-sweet remark.
They got to their tomb which was simple being only a large white marble slab with only a name at the top left. That of Marie's sister who had died at eleven months. Her mother carressed the rock crying and saying that she had got the best tomb she could and bought special flowers. Marie's job was to fetch water in a bucket. She passed the rows of pidgeonholes where flowers could be placed for those who couldn't afford their own plot. She reflected on the fact that in life the poor were more of a community in life as in death and vise versa for the rich.
Her mother had cleaned the tomb thoroughly and Marie had to rinse it and get more water. She knew that her mother had been crying when she had been gone. To begin with her mother always visited the cemetary, now seventeen years after her sister's death she does not need to visit so often as her mother began to imagine her child with her and growing up with her. She now realises that her baby is no longer the huge slab of rock that she was so affectionate to earlier. At those times, Marie had wished she was that rock, even lying dead under the earth.
School, after family is the second most important thing in the life of youngsters. They had to attend the Lycée (La Bastille 1968). Marie believes that state education is a shambles. They are trying to reform the system but it is still bad. This generation are just guinea-pigs and the children know this. Parents pass the responsability onto the Lycée and vise-versa, the children remaining forever in the middle. Marie had just gone to a parents evening of Dorothée's. The other parents wanted the system to go back to how it used to be with lines and detention and conjugating verbs hundreds of times over, a system that Marie certainly does not remember with the same fondness. She could not stay around them any longer and so left into the corridor. There was two children who were trying to listen in, and they panicked when they were found out but one of them recognised Marie from coming around to the house and asked what was happening, Marie replied that the parent were all idiots. She regretted this because it is not through raising such walls that you solve problems, although she still did not savour the evening. Marie does not believe in making children tremble with fear in order to learn. She hated lines which were a waste of ink and useless as she never took ny notice of what she would be writing.
Marie went to see the the headmistress of the Lycée. She was very friendly and in the know when it came to children's problems but seemed helplessly torn between the students, the parents, the teachers and the administration. A facade of authority. She said that Those leaving school early will only find crappy litle jobs, the way she phrased this made Marie smile and so she forgave the bad language. She trusted Marie because Marie was once an academic, and she had not come to criticise or give her a telling off. What really worried her was drugs.
Marie asked Dorothée whether she had heard talk of hash, she replied pretending to smoke a joint Where did you learn that? Its grown ups that do that. she then laughed. Marie once saw two big lads who were drug addicts and it disgusted her. Once on the corner of l'avenue Breteuil and La Rue de la Sèvres there lied a man on the pavement surrounded by people. At first she thought it was a road accident and crossed the road quickly to the bakery so as to not see anything unpleasant. The crowd grew outside and you could no longer see the body. The baker said calmly, It's an addict in cold turkey. to hear a grown up from this part of town use that language took Marie by surprise. She went over to investigate. She managed to get to the centre of the crowd. There was a boy of about eighteen, with long blond hair wearing 'trendy' clothes. He had a moving beauty about him like a child victim. His was groaning whith his head rocking from left to right and a look of suffering on his face. He was pushing the air away with his arms and was saying No, no. One spectator kicked him in the leg, the boy was limp like a puppet with no-one at the strings. Marie cried shouted at the man syaing that they should not blame him alone, it was people their age who sold him the drugs that put him in this state. He looked at her as if she had blasphemed and said that in their day they got drunk from time to time but that was healthy. The other men laughed. To look upon this ill youth made them feel superior, wiser, like they knew best. The police came and took him away on a stretcher. Marie hates drugs.
Cécile a friend of Gregoires spoke to her about drugs. She admitted that she did drugs at Simon's house but now it is no worse than a bit of hash. They did it all from LSD to heroine. She described LSD as being in another colourful world, where objects change shape. She recounts seeing amphibians. She said heroine is fantastic, she took some once knowing that she must never do it again. Everything was agreeable and happy and somehow different. Indescribably beautiful, only when you come down you sink into a terrible depression, no longer being able to bear reality. This is when you learn that the only way to escape is to try it again.
Lakdar was an addict who went all the way. Marie sees him infrequently. He is twenty years old, sensitive, intelligent, shy and Algerian. His life has been cut in two by drugs. His father died in a car accident and his mother returned to her country, one of his sister's is an English teacher, the other is at Lycée. He visited a few days ago, he didn't know where to stay. At the moment he is selling potatoes on the market. Marie likes Lakdar, he is discreet and courteous. They understand each other well having a kind of direct link when they talk. She is starting to pick up Arabic again by speaking with him. She is becomes scared that he is back on drugs again if he dissapears for long amounts of time.
A long time ago Marie asked whether it was true that he was an addict. He confirmed it and explained that it was after the death of his father when he was in his final year at school that he left for Marseille. He hadn't anything to his name. He found a girl who he liked and she had been an addict since thirteen. The first time he saw her inject he was like a fool, being around her meant being around people who were doing the same. Her parents were rich and gave her money which she spent on drugs. She was fifteen at the time. He did not inject straight away because drugs meant nothing to him although he was curious to know what it was like. One day a friend made his first syringe up sat in a stairway in a block of flats. He went first then injected Lakdar in the arm. He had to hurry because people were coming in and out. When the drug gripped his heart it felt like someone had hit him, he got up staggering as if he was drunk. He found himself in the road, his friend running behind him saying that he should not go out and die in the road on your first time. He was really scared. However Lakdar felt great, everything was the same but he felt the best he has ever felt and honest like he had a direct link to all people. The thing is, it makes you impotent and you cannot urinate although he never thought of that until afterwards. When asked what it was like coming down, he said that it was so gentle that you hardly realised it, but when you have come down completely you are really nervous, not being able to stand the company of anyone. You are like a run down battery. You have to take another dose to get the peace back again.
It was an unknown dutch person who found Lakdar in the road and sent him back up to Paris. He was about twenty five. He made Lakdar realise that it could not go on. He went to get de-intoxified. It took him two months to kick the habit during which he slept for most of the time, and the day he left he injected again because he was taken off the drugs completely. When asked what happened then, he retold how he found the girl from Marseille again who was in a bad way, her body and nerves were in a poor state. After seeing her he realised that he did not want to go that way. He had started to inject himself in the gums as the police inspected the arms for marks and he lost his teeth. He tried simply to not take drugs again and just get a a job and he never wanted to take drugs since. He says that the girl still writes to him sometimes but it breaks his heart as she is going to die soon. He pities addicts now.
Marie says how because of Lakdar she never takes the key from the door. It is essential that children have a homely place to stay and also that they find work.