A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Three Monicas & One More
Monday, October 01, 2007

Names conjure people. A lovely young woman at Lyon rose grower, Odile Masquelier's lecture this Saturday to the Vancouver Rose Society came up to me and asked, "Are you Alex? I am Monica. I read your blog." She smiled, turned around and left. She was completely out of context in a room full of much older people. When she had come in and sat in the beginning of the lecture I had wondered about her.

I have been affected by three Monicas in my past. The first one I went to school with in Buenos Aires. She was always invited to my birthday parties and managed to break the piƱata, put the tail on the donkey, win the bag race and break all my new toys. To this day I am not sure if I hate birthday parties and birthday cakes because of this Monica. In the picture here she is below my father, top left.

But I got even with her even if I didn't mean to. I still get dizzy in buses or in cars when I am not driving. As a child it was much worse and I could not enjoy swings or ride any form of transportation except the train. Going to visit my abuelita with my mother in old tram 35 was torture. One weekend Monica and her parents picked me up in their brand new 1949 Chevrolet. I remember it had a pristine cloth interior. I got very sick in it. I have no idea how they cleaned my mess. We arrived at some house and they served what looked like fantastic pizzas. I was famished and I asked for some. All I remember was that they said, "No." To this day that was the finest pizza I never ate.

The second Monica was Saint Monica the mother of Aurelius Augustine, Bishop of Hippo. My mother said I was her St. Augustine and she was my St. Monica. I misbehaved a lot and she suffered, she would tell me all the time. "But there is hope for you, Alex," she said, " because Augustine became a saint and Monica, too for having to bear that burden that he was most of her life." Only in recent years after reading Jostein Gaarder's That Same Flower - Floria Amelia's Letter to Saint Augustine did I find out about Monica's dark side. She was jealous of Augustine's mistress Floria and did all she could (and was successful) to separate them.

Floria writes:

On your way back to Africa you arrived at Ostia on the Tiber. There you and Monica had a "wonderful conversation" in which you sought "to discover the nature of the eternal life in which the saints shall participate." The conversation led you to "conclude that the greatest pleasure the bodily senses can give, in the most radiant earthly glory, is, to the joy of eternity, not even worthy of comparison, let alone mention.

You must forgive me, Your Grace, but I am a cultivated woman now. So in all humility I feel a certain need to suggest that this sounds like some kind of conjuration. For what if you should be wrong on precisely this decisive point?

The third Monica, Monica Salvatella (also an Argentine), posed for me in my tub some years ago. She was a photographer, very cosmopolitan and sophisticated. She told me that she was going to live on a farm on Vancouver Island and I never saw her again.

As for the fourth mysterious Monica I know nothing except that in some way her smile touched my heart and she answered in spades for me when people ask me, "Why do you blog?"


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