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Jacques Lusseyran - And there was Light

Clear Water of Childhood

As I remember it, my story always starts out like a fairy tale, not an unusual one, but still a fairy tale. Once upon a time in Paris, between two world wars, there lived a happy little boy. I was that little boy, and today when I look back at him from the midpoint of life which I have reached, I marvel, a happy childhood is so rare. Besides, it is so little the fashion these days that one can hardly believe in it. All the same, if the water of my childhood runs clear, I am not about to muddy it up. That would be the worst kind of foolishness.

I was born in 1924, on September 19 at noon, in the heart of Paris in Montmartre, between the Place Blanche and the Moulin Rouge. I was born in a modest nineteenth-century house, in a room looking out over a courtyard.

My parents were ideal. My grandfather, a graduate of a school for advanced physics an chemistry and a chemical engineer by profession, was both intelligent and kind. My mother, who had studies physics and biology herself, was completely devoted and understanding.

Both of them were generous and attentive. But why say these things? As a small boy I was not aware of them. The small boy attributed no special qualities to his parents. He did not even think about them. There was no need, for his parents loved him and he loved them. It was a gift from heaven.

My parents were protection, confidence, warmth. When I think of my childhood I still feel the sense of warmth above me, behind and around me, that marvellous sense of living not yet on one's own, but leaning body and soul on others who accept the charge.

My parents carried me along and that, I am sure, is the reason why through all my childhood I never touched ground. I could go away and come back. Objects had no weight and I never became entangled in the web of things. I passed between dangers and fears as light passes through a mirror. That was the joy of my childhood, the magic armour which once put on, protects for a lifetime.

My family belonged to “the petite bourgeouisie” in France in those days. We lived in small apartments but they always seemed to me large. The one I know best was on the Left Bank of the Seine, near the great garden of the Champ de Mars, between the Eiffel Tower, with its four paws spread apart, and the Ecole Militaire, a building which was only a name to me and whose shape I have quite forgotten.

My parents were heaven. I didn't say this to myself so precisely, and they never said it to me, but it was obvious. I knew very early, I am quite sure of it, that through them another Being concerned himself with me and even addressed himself to me.