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March 31, 2024

Three desires, three regrets

Dear readers, it’s the end of March and my journalist friend reached out to me, suggesting I answer a few of her weighty questions to remove the dust from my mind. I’m happy to play along.

— What are the three things that give your life meaning?
My children give my life meaning. They give me the assurance that I belong somewhere, that I’m part of a family and an important link that ties the siblings together. Also, the business I created and which has shaped me into a successful entrepreneur. I truly don’t know how I acquired my business acumen. Maybe it’s because of my creativity, hard work and remarkable knack for grasping the franchising concept and doing business in Canada. Last but not least, although it only came to me later, writing is part of my everyday life now and, like a big ocean liner, it allows me to be a tourist in my own life and revisit each port before the final getaway.

— What are your three greatest qualities?
Courage, creativity and perseverance. All my efforts have been wrapped in courage. A bit of creativity drops from the sky every time I need it, and I constantly work on improving myself and my writing. I try to grow flowers in the desert. For hours on end, I can refine my words to make them white Bengal tigers, mandarinfish or fabulous birds of paradise.

— What are the three most courageous acts you’ve accomplished?
The first was to keep my baby although the father wanted me to have an abortion. Then it was to flee with my three children in tow after 13 years of conjugal misery. Finally, without a penny to my name, I opened the first small breakfast restaurant, which miraculously became a major restaurant chain.

— What are three memories that remain with you to this day?
I will never forget my mother’s mummified hand, incessantly plagued my eczema. Her broken face when I had to identify her body at the morgue after she had a head-on collision while she was driving with my three children. The extremely difficult delivery of my firstborn, who had to be taken out of my belly with forceps.

— Name three regrets you’ll never be able to forget.
When I was young, it was easy to regret something: a bad grade in school, a bad tennis game. As I grew older, I learned that everything was necessary. Like salt and pepper, the better and worse are also part of a life’s recipe. To quote the famous Édith Piaf, whom I still like a lot, I would also say Non, rien de rien. Non, je ne regrette rien. (“No, nothing at all. No, I have no regrets.”)

— What are the three most difficult things you’ve had to accept?
Many difficult things have come my way in life, it’s true, but I refuse to count them. You’re more or less familiar with my life story by now. With time, a big obstacle turns into a small flood, which eventually dries up. I try to avoid the extremes: very high/very low, yes/no, the good/the bad, white/black. I prefer thinking of myself as squarely in the middle.

— Name three things that still torment you.
I am terrified of snakes, even the small ones that lived in the fields behind Grandpa Frédéric’s house. I’m also inexplicably afraid of mice. My old country house is right up against a forest. I love the deers, wild turkeys, groundhogs and big crows I come across, but I’m frightened by a mouse’s small black tail in a cupboard! I’m also a bit wary of the police when I’m driving through the towns of our beautiful country. Distracted by the beauty of the surroundings, I sometimes forget to stop at intersections.

— Who are three good friends that are still in your life today?
Generally, you can count your best friends on your fingers. As I get older, however, I’m working less and writing more. For the past three years now, I’ve been typing away at the local coffee shop. As a result, I have more and more good friends around me, and I’m glad for it! I introduced them to you, dear readers, in my letter Thirteen for dinner, published on January 21.

— Tell me about three desires you still haven’t fulfilled.
What a huge hill that word is, desire! A small thing happens to me, like a compliment, a look, a smile, and my heart hits the “desire” switch. Haven’t I passed the age to take my desires for reality? I’m not so sure! I still snatch at the crumbs of affection that fly up when I shake the tablecloth.

— What are the three compliments you receive the most often?
Since I read all the comments my loyal readers write, I honestly think that my letters are my greatest object of praise. My colourful glasses and clothes come in second. I stand out, I have fun, but I firmly believe this originality does me good. Dressing up in bright colours, choosing matching accessories and lipstick, styling my hair – these are all small creative moments that bring me joy each day. Lastly, it’s true that I get a lot of compliments on my culinary skills! They once helped build the business, but I continue to use them to delight those close to me, especially my grandkids.

A thousand thank-you’s, dear Isabel.