To kick off the celebration of Bastille Day today, July 14th, we went to a dinner last night in our village. It was a gathering of the community that began with small glasses of rosè as we talked with friends around the picnic tables set out for families to eat.
Dinner was a simple but complete affair. Beef stew with olives, rice, and salad with a raspberry tart with jam and blue cheese for dessert. Of course there were plenty of baguettes. Everyone went into the community center to get the hot food on red trays. Red wine was brought to the table in plastic pitchers. As we all sat down with our trays, the bread was broken and we said our “bon appetit’s”.
After dinner, as the sun was setting, the children lined up at the city hall (Mairie) to each receive a paper lantern with a candle.
Each child carefully held the bamboo sticks with their lantern. And while most managed quite well, there were some little fires which fizzled out quickly, only to be replaced by another lit one, this time with grand mére holding the stick.
Our friends visiting from Toronto were even able to get in on the action.
After the lanterns were all lit, we walked in procession to the old soccer field just on the outskirts of town.
It was wonderful to walk through the crisp air under a half moon with our dinner party companions murmuring quietly in French while the children all carefully carried their lanterns in the dark night.
Music filled the air as we arrived. A dark mournful chant – something Ravel like – we all felt like it was a real march – to what I wasn’t sure.
As it turns out, it was an amazing fireworks display, coordinated to a set list operatic classical music.
As the fireworks exploded in in their triumphant last gasps, they looked like galaxies falling down towards our breathless upturned faces. They quickly faded into darkness, and the stars, constant, in spite of the drama below shone steadily with the moon to light our way home.
It is at times like last night, that I am so thankful to be here.
Were you there too dad? Is it you who taught me this? To be joyful in life’s small moments of strange beauty? I miss you.
Happy Bastille Day.