“Words are gifts of the gifts of the motherworld and of aspects of the collective linguistic and conceptual or cultural commons, created by those before us in their life processes…The speaking/writing subject is thus a giver…while the listener/reader is a creative receiver”
(G. Vaughan, The Gift in the Heart of Language: The Maternal Source of Meaning, 2015, p. 382)
While reading her fictions, I have creative receptive attention for particular words given by Cixous. One of these is “revenant.” This translates into English as ‘ghost.’ But in French, the noun ‘revenant’ is derived from the verb ‘revenir,’ meaning ‘to come back.’ So that to be a ghost in French is actually to be a 'returner,' or to be one who comes back. How poetic, in-sight-full words! In her book Hemlock (2011), Cixous calls ‘les revenants’ her “visitors,” naming the “motif of…revenants” (p. 107) going on in the book. Her visitors meet with her in dreams, returning to her, as well as each other. From dream to dream (or book to book) the visitors travel back to her, her father, Freud, Derrida and Socrates (p. 103).
A dream of my own last night. I am back in my grandma’s house (paternal grandma) who died 5-years ago. It’s a house I re-visit in dreams. I want to be there, the feeling of being with my beloved grandmother. But she is never there in these dreams. She does not return with me to her house. Still, it is a familiar space each time. A place I go to be with her, without her. A very small house, I easily float through these memory rooms, seeing and feeling each space and corner. Last night, the walls are off-white in tone, with new creamy-beige, stripped wallpaper. Sometimes others visit or stay in grandma's house with me, my dad and step-mom, sister and brother. We visit together, without grandma. The house is still ours, to live in these dreams.
In last night’s dream, I am alone there. I go through the side door, explore the garage, and out to the little backyard on the ravine. I look across the street at the familiar view of other homes on this cul-de-sac. It is a safe nest of a house, a little bungalow of grandma-love. All the years of my life she lived there, and I would stay with her. But over and over in these dreams, as in life, she has departed. She is no longer there, even though I visit. In waking life, as soon as she died, she truly left the Earth, without a trace, without haunting. What a feat, a passage beyond. I could not sense one bit of her in that house after her death. She was finished (is not a returner).
In last night’s dream, I feel happy that I am able to visit the house. I am thinking how good it is that I can live there again in my adult years, after she has gone. On waking, a panic sets in. I realize that of course the house is sold. Five years ago, right after her death.
Now, this word, revenant—I am the ghost, the returner, haunting grandma’s house where others now live. I can't really live there again, but I visit anyway. Do they feel me there sometimes? If so, I am benign. A gentle visitor, drawn back by longing. I look around once in a while, looking for what’s left of grandma, taking some comfort in this space.