The Gleaner
Nanette Workman

A Mother’s worst nightmare

My heart stopped. I was frozen on the sidewalk. I could not move! Absolute terror struck my heart at the thought of him gone, never seeing him again.

I flashed through in that moment all the horrible things I had heard and read. There were so many stories where children are snatched right off the street and taken away to be sold.

Oh my God, I can’t move!! I can’t breathe!! Oh, please God! This can’t be happening!!

Everyone who was with me in the laundry room went outside and took off in different directions, frantically calling his name: “JESSE!!” I remained on the sidewalk, unable to move.

During my pregnancy and for three years after Jesse was born, I worked on an album with Serge Fiori. I believe that album, Changement d’Adresse, was the best album of my career. It was certainly my favourite, as the lyrics revealed so many of my personal feelings.

But the timing of the album’s release was very sad for me; I was not here in Quebec to do its promotion, as I had gone to Paris to rehearse and perform in La Legende de Jimmy, a rock opera about James Dean written by Luc Plamondon and Michel Berger. They were also the author and composer of Starmania, the first rock opera in Paris that I performed in.

I had accepted the role in Legende knowing I would miss my album release in Quebec, but I needed to work and have an income, especially with the arrival of a baby and all the financial responsibilities that come with it.

Serge came to Paris with his mom to join me and hang out with Jesse while I was rehearsing at the theatre. I was absorbed in the character I was portraying and not much fun to be with, as the role of “La Diva” is dark.

One morning, Serge, his mom, Jesse, myself, and a couple of people from the theatre went to the self-serve laundromat just down the street from the apartment that I had rented overlooking the Eiffel Tower.

We were all busy doing laundry, when at one point I looked around and didn’t see my son. I asked, “Where is Jesse?” He had been running around the room and talking with everyone, and suddenly he was gone. Serge had crossed the street to go to the tobacco shop, and someone said that he was probably with Serge. I looked out the door and saw Serge coming back, but Jesse wasn’t with him.

Panic struck!

We looked everywhere inside, but Jesse was nowhere to be found. Everyone went outside and took off in different directions to try and find him.

For what seemed like an eternity, I stood anchored to the sidewalk, my heart in my throat and unable to breathe; then I turned my head, looked down the street, and saw Serge’s mom walking towards me, holding Jesse’s hand.

I don’t know what could be in the mind of a three-year-old to go off by himself wandering the streets. It seems he was headed back to the apartment and had even crossed a four-lane road on his own.

Jesse would always say to me, when I would grab his hand to hold it when we were walking, “I’m a big boy, Mom.” So, I would let him walk on his own, but always watched him like a hawk.

I was so relieved to see him, I couldn’t be angry with him. I just took him in my arms and cried. I told myself that I would never let him walk on the street without holding my hand.

“Mais quand ton coeur

Ira battre ailleurs

Si tu veux Je t’aiderai

À déplier tes ailes.”

This is a lyric that comes from the song, Jesse, written by Jacques Venerruso.

Jesse, a grown man today and taller than me, now holds MY arm when we walk together.

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