Master Crow sat on a tree,
Holding a cheese in his beak.
Master Fox was attracted by the odour,
And tried to attract him thus.
« Mister Crow, good day to you.
You are a handsome and good-looking bird!
In truth, if your song is as beautiful as your plumage,
You are the Phoenix of this forest. »
Hearing these words the Crow felt great joy,
And to demonstrate his beautiful voice,
He opened his mouth wide and let drop his prey.
The Fox seized it and said: « My good Sir,
Know that every flatterer,
Lives at the expense of those who take him seriously:
This is a lesson that is worth a cheese no doubt. »
The Crow, embarrassed and confused,
Swore, though somewhat later, that he would never be
tricked thus again.
When I was in grade 5, I had to learn this Lafontaine fable by heart and recite it in front of the class. It may seem like an unpleasant exercise at first, but it was just the opposite. My mother was so glad to know that my teacher gave us this exercise because it reminded her of her childhood. She took Lafontaine’s book of fables from her library, sat down with me, and began to look at it with me. We recited this fable many times until I knew it all. Even though it’s been more than 17 years (my god already ?!), my mother and I still remember this fable by heart.
I hear the voice of my boyfriend telling me that Lafontaine fables are tacky (literally because he heard me listen to this video and really said that). Maybe he’s a little right, but this « useless » knowledge of my childhood proved very relevant a few days ago. My mother and I kept my brother’s twins (yes, twins: twice the fun!) to sleep at her place. They are both aged 5 years old (
no shit…). However, my mom got rid of her childhood books a long time ago (OK I admit, they are all at my place). Since it was my nephew’s birthnight, they demanded to be entertained before sleepy time. So, my mother and I improvised and we began to recite this fable in a theatrical manner for our two loved ones, who were looking at us with their four eyes wide-open, so as not to miss anything of the show. Very convenient when you least expect it!
These special moments, I was able to share them with my mother in 2000 and with my nephews in 2017, thanks to the work of Lafontaine. The morals he inspires are still current, although these writings date back to the arrival of our first ancestors in Nouvelle-France in the 17th century (I have a
secret passion for genealogy).
One of those last rainy days, I was daydreaming, sitting comfortably in my living room with my two cats. I could hear the wind whipping the branches of the trees in front of my house and the rain falling violently. It made me think of another fable that I knew very well:
The Oak spoke one day to the Reed,
« You have good reason to complain;
A Wren for you is a load indeed;
The smallest wind bends you in twain.
You are forced to bend your head;
While my crown faces the plains
And not content to block the sun
Braves the efforts of the rains.
What for you is a North Wind is for me but a zephyr.
Were you to grow within my shade
Which covers the whole neighbourhood
You’d have no reason to be afraid
For I would keep you from the storm.
Instead you usually grow
In places humid, where the winds doth blow.
Nature to thee hath been unkind. »
« Your compassion », replied the Reed
« Shows a noble character indeed;
But do not worry: the winds for me
Are much less dangerous than for thee;
I bend, not break. You have ’til now
Resisted their great force unbowed,
As he said these very words
A violent angry storm arose.
The tree held strong; the Reed he bent.
The wind redoubled and did not relent,
Until finally it uprooted the poor Oak
Whose head had been in the heavens
And roots among the dead folk.
The moral of this fable? Do not look down at those you think are weaker than you. The strength of character required to live with a chronic disease such as multiple sclerosis is underestimated by many. The implications are so heavy that they would make anyone’s head spin. It is to wake up every morning knowing that this day may be the last one where I will get the privilege to walk. It is to continue to work out even if it is possible that I emerge in a wheelchair and in pain from the gym. It is to plan a future I might not even see because MS can affect vision too. The fight against the body is constant, but it is the one against the mind that is the most difficult (I find).
I am not a victim of my situation, but obviously the society is composed of more oaks than reeds. When you are suffering from a chronic illness, some think you are becoming a lesser citizen, that you should not « disturb« .
For example, at a shopping mall near Montreal, at Renaud-Bray’s (kind of like Chapter’s), the rows are not large enough to allow wheelchair access (I have no trouble naming them, it’s a fact). When I shop at the mall, I borrow a free wheelchair at the entrance. I hit the Renaud-Bray shelves several times with my feet (which are oversensitive). An employee gave me an accusatory look when some products dropped, in spite of the deliberate effort I was making for this not to happen. This young man of about 17-18 years of age, who was perhaps at his first job, allowed himself to cast me a look that said: Could you not see that there was not enough room to pass?! Yes and that’s the problem, why is there not enough room to pass? I answered, in my silent altercation with the young man who looked at me from above because his legs work properly (I’m different, so I disturb).
For those who do not know, I work as a criminologist with teenagers who have committed criminal acts. Let’s just say that the youth with the navel-not-dry-unable-to-grow-a-credible-beard, did not impress me much, yet he thought he was an oak. This is the kind of young man I could have met in my office in a completely different context and he would probably have been more respectful towards me (at least it would have been in his interest to be).
That is why it is important to raise awareness. With multiple sclerosis, I may not be equal to others in my physical abilities at all times, but I can tell you that it has brought me an interesting force of character. This is necessary to survive with multiple sclerosis, in my opinion. Otherwise, we are just a sick person and / or a victim of our situation (Guess what, no one chooses where and with what genetic background one is born) and become an inconvenience to the whole universe. I do not want to become bitter, I’m too young for that (and hope I will always be). The other option is to fight.
Another proof of the strength of character that it takes? This picture was taken on December 25th, the day before my return to the hospital for my second relapse. I had a migraine and every inch of my body hurt, but it was Christmas and I was happy to share that moment with the family. Especially my beautiful mother.
The original article had the following song extract dedicated to my mother for mother’s day:
«Cause it makes me that much stronger
Makes me work a little bit harder
It makes me that much wiser
So thanks for making me a fighter
Made me learn a little bit faster
Made my skin a little bit thicker
Makes me that much smarter
So thanks for making me a fighter»
However, as I was translating it, Where you Lead, by Carole King came up and I found it more suiting of a mother-daughter relationship (you know, because of Gilmore Girls cover!)
«If you’re out on the road
Feeling lonely, and so cold
All you have to do is call my name
And I’ll be there on the next train
Where you lead, I will follow
Anywhere that you tell me to
If you need, you need me to be with you
I will follow where you lead»