In Eric’s wonderful autobiography, A Dysfunctional Success, he describes Easter as being the worst holiday - “like four Sundays in a row,” (note to myself: reread Eric’s book, one of the best autobiographies ever) and it certainly was true here in rural France. Everything was closed. Plus it rained, snowed, sleeted and was generally dark and dreary from Friday until Tuesday morning, when we woke up to a beautiful sunny day.
We’d started off the weekend by watching this Visconti film called “White Nights” with Marcello Mastroianni. Beautiful to look at, heartbreaking, funny, a perfect depiction of what it is to be lonely. I get hung up on French movies and tend to forget that it’s often the Italian films that really have it all going for them. We went to our friends’ house for dinner on Saturday night and enjoyed an incredible hearty dish from the Haute Savoie region called tartiflette. Outside we saw our own white night - it was snowing.
On Sunday the sun came out for a little while in the afternoon, just long enough to take a walk. We drove to the nearby village of Vayres which is our current favorite - there’s an old deserted bar with an adjoining dance hall that sits looking just as it must have in the fifties and sixties, with red and yellow café tables, mod wooden chairs and barstools, and blue, brown and red tiles on the floor. Of course we fantasize about buying the bar and turning it into the swingingest nightspot around, knowing full well there are not enough people around here to support the few bars and restaurants that already exist. Still, it’s nice to imagine it.
We’d packed some sandwiches and fruit and chocolate and went hiking up past cow pastures and through some little hamlets with falling down stone barns and eventually found a sunny spot where the wind died down long enough that we could sit and eat. It was so quiet, the only other living things we saw were a couple of cows.
Monday the weather was really bad, and by the end of the day I was starting to climb the walls. It’s like being aware that there’s nothing open and nowhere to go makes me desperate to get out. If things were as normal I would probably be happy to sit around at home. But if it feels like some greater authority is restricting when and where I can go out I have to rebel.
Luckily, the movie theatres were open. We went to see Juno, and though I dismissed it when I saw it in the US last month, it was perfect for a cold rainy night with nothing better to do. I’d seen it with my daughter the first time and the wisecracking teen dialogue kind of got on my nerves (possibly because I had my own version sitting right next to me?). But in a small town in France, watching with Eric, it seemed like such a sweet love story. And I couldn’t help but wonder what all the small town French teenagers in the theatre must make of cinematic America with the suburban houses and wide open highways and minivans and those huge sodas everyone’s always carrying around. I even found myself affected by Kimya Dawson’s songs.
So perhaps that was the magic of Easter (or Paques, around here) kicking in? You wind up in a sort of semi-coma for a few days, whether you like it or not. Your critical faculties get slightly readjusted. So that when it’s all over, on Tuesday morning, you wake up feeling alive again. Renewed, even.