Dieu Est Amour

Jannah Anne Anouar was born in the house above on the 25th December in 1966. Downstairs was an animal shelter and upstairs a meagre two room shelter that came with the responsibility of caring for the farmers sheep in winter.The house, long since uninhabited, waits observantly for Jannah to return. You can find it on the corner of Chemin de la Gare and Rue des Jardins in Rolle, beside a stone pathway that leads to a junior school in the promenade des Grandes-Buttes where Jannah was educated. 
Jannah’s mother was a French-Algerian woman called Aris Anouar. Aris grew up in the Casbah district of Algiers where her parents owned a coffee shop and cafe. Their home was above the cafe. In 1965, at the end of the Battle of Algiers (Which was the sixties version of the battle in Iraq. It was all about the oil.) Aris met an Australian guy who had come to Baritz France to surf and ended up flying Z-21 (‘flying bananas’ ) helicopters for the French Foreign Legion in Algeria. His name was Jimmy Roy. Aris and Jimmy fell in love but Aris’ parents didn’t take too well to the smooth, French talking Australian and kept her upstairs out of of site of the cafe. Jimmy did the only right thing he could think of at the time and winched Aris up from the roof-top of her Casbah home into a flying banana he’d borrowed from the French government. They landed in Morocco, sold the helicopter for working capital, then laid low until they could organize some passports and work visas that would get them into Switzerland. Six months later they arrived in Rolle in a Kombi van Jimmy had bought off one of his Aussie north shore mates who was upgrading to a Citroen and a French wife.
Aris and Jimmy lived almost anonymously in Chemin de la Gare. Apart from an old Swiss woman called Abigail who also lived in Chemin de la Gare and the farmer across the lane from the barn in which they lived, not too many people took the time to get to know them. The Swiss are very suspicious and because of this quality insular to outside influences.Jimmy would work the ski season in St Moritz flying the world’s wealthy in and out of chalets. If he managed to stay off the drink he would bring home enough at the end of a season to tide them over during the summer and fall. Otherwise he would need to work as a labourer in the local vineyards which didn’t always help his appetite for the fermented juice that was a by product of his labours. Despite his episodes of unreliability, Aris remained very much in love with Jimmy waiting patiently for that last day of snowfall each spring.

Jannah loved her life growing up on the corner of Gare and Jardins. She had everything that she needed. A two story house, baby sheep, moss-covered stone walls, big trees that changed the landscape with the seasons, a school up the lane, a mother and father who loved her and old Abigail to talk to. Not many of the local people had much time for Abigail. A devout Christian, she would pull her battered leather bible out of her shoulder bag where ever she happened to be and loudly recite a relevant chapter to any sinners that she may judge needed her help.  Abigail never bombarded Jannah with quotations. When Jannah’s mother was at work in the patisserie, Jannah would quietly sit up against the wall of the Chemin in the winter sunshine and listen to the stories thatt Abigail would read to her about Jesus. The stories about how Jesus and his friends would walk around near the Sea of Galilee and heal people of diseases and blindness. Abigail told Jannah that she could heal people also and one day she would. Jannah never told her mother the stories that Abigail told her. At night when her mother would read the Koran aloud by lamplight, Jannah would lie on the bed and listen. She thought to herself although the stories were about different people they sounded the same to her. Jannah liked the time she spent with old Abigail and she had a feeling if she told her mother about the stories she might not be able to see Abigail again. And that would make her sad. 
Every winter was exciting for Jannah although she missed her dad a lot when he was away working in the ski fields. To have sheep to look after in the downstairs barn was a lot of fun and sometimes baby lambs were born early at the end of winter. She would make nests for them out of straw and lie with them telling them stories that Abigail had told her about baby Jesus. On the days when the snow fall was heavy down beside the lake, she would take the sled her dad brought home one winter from St Moritz and race it down the slope of the summer farm behind the Chemin wall opposite their home. Some days old Abigail would come and play in the snow with her also. At night after she said her prayers to Allah and Jesus, Jannah would think about how she would heal people one day with her own stories. Stories about her own life, her mum and dad, the lambs and the picture patterns that the coloured leaves would make where they lay on the pathways in the fall.
Jannah loved her life and everyone in it. With a happy smile she would say ‘bonjour’ to all the adults and children who passed by her as she sat waiting on the step to their barn house in the Chemin. Although no-one ever stopped to talk to her it never bothered Jannah. She was beyond being bothered by other people With her inspired imagination and the stories from Abigail and what her mum read from the Koran, there was always plenty to do on the corner of Chemin de la Gare and Rue des Jardins. This all changed one winter’s day when she was ten years old. Two men dressed in uniforms were waiting outside the front door when Jannah and her mother were walking up the Chemin from the shops. There had been an accident in the ski fields. The helicopter her father had been flying had crashed into the side of a mountain and then been covered by an avalanche of snow. The older gendarme said that they would not be able to find the helicopter until the snow melted in the spring and that they were very sorry this had happened. After that Jannah’s mother cried every night after reading the Koran until the snow melted. Jannah would not let her mother see her own silent tears. She would lie in bed at night looking at the cold, dark sky through the cracks in the window shutters wondering why Allah or Jesus did not bring her father back to life like they did the other people that she didn’t even know.
In the spring her father was buried in the Rolle cemetery not far from where she lived. The helicopter company her father worked for made a beautiful grave and headstone for him. Every Sunday Jannah would go with her mother to visit her father. Jannah never stopped missing him. Her father was always kind to her and could make her laugh even when they didn’t have much to eat.  After her mother died in 2001, every spring time, Jannah would always visit her parents graves where they lay side by side in the cemetery. The white and pink scented blossoms that hung down above their graves reminded her of the love she watched her parents share all those summers ago. She would take a day or two, clean up the garden bed around their graves and plant fresh flowers for the summer and fall that lay ahead. It wasn’t always easy to look at their photos glazed into the headstones as they smiled back at her. Her father still looked so handsome and her mother’s beauty had not aged a day since their wedding photo, the one that Jannah had chosen to be a part of their memory.
With the garden replanted and watered Jannah would sit on the grass and pray to Allah and Jesus, giving thanks for the love she shared in the presence of these two people. She no longer knows where old Abigail is but will never forget her stories. Abigail’s stories are with her every day as she works with the street children and prostitutes in the back streets of Algiers. With her own pain, beautifully hidden behind her burkha, she now has understanding of the words her mother had engraved on the marble border of her father’s grave when she was still a child.
‘Dieu Est Amour’. God is Love. No matter what name you might call him by.


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