French Friday: En Mai, Fais Ce Qu’il Te Plait

EN AVRIL, NE TE DÉCOUVRE PAS D’UN FIL; EN MAI, FAIS CE QU’IL TE PLAIT

In April, don’t take off a single thread (of your clothes); in May, do as you please

In plain English: the weather being finicky in April, it’s unwise to wear light clothes since you could get a cold, but in May you can wear what you want.

No panic, the  A to Z Challenge is NOT starting again 🙂

But I could not resist to use one of the French expressions used to depict the month of May. The other one compares May to a piece of Gruyere, due to the copious amount of holidays (Labor Day, End of WWII, Ascension Day, and Pentecost).

This month of May is quite special since it marks the fiftieth anniversary of May 1968.

Sadly May 1, 2018 was marked by violence in Paris. About 1200 Black Blocs, coming from anarchist and libertarian movements, infiltrated the peaceful march, destroyed shop windows, restaurants, bus shelters, and burned cars.

Embed from Getty Images

 

Embed from Getty Images

 

Even though violence also happened in May 1968, the ultimate goal of the French back then was Change. Political, economical, and social reasons ultimately converged and France was indeed forever changed.

I would change too!

If you don’t read French I recommend this article published in the New York Times since it recapitulates an intense French period of time. The photos are also excellent. In fact, they reminded me that France was a country mostly run by men back then.

My very own mini Mai 68 rushed to my mind when I read:

“It is hard to find any Frenchman or woman born before 1960 who does not have a vivid and personal recollection of that month.”

I was seven that spring and my sister six. School was closed. For kids, it meant an extra month of vacation. What’s wrong with that? The weather was gorgeous, even warm for the season, and our maman let us play outside even more than usual. Playdates, at least in my village, were inexistent. Impromptu ruled. I could either be totally alone on the backroads where I was allowed to bike or bump into classmates. That spring, I suppose that parents were tired to see their kids home all the time since they were homebound too, now that the country had almost stopped. With kids outside, so were bikes and plenty of energy.

Even though women are clearly absent from most photos and reportages from that time, girls my age had no doubt they were as good as boys. We only had to demonstrate it, again and again. Although I was limber my sister was more daring than I was. Racing ran through her DNA. So over this long, unexpected estival month, while in Paris students and factory workers united, built barricades, and threw cobblestones to oppose the police and SWAT teams, elementary school kids in rural France had a blast.

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All was good on our front, until my sister braked with her left brake and was ejected from her bike. She landed on a rock and blood immediately gushed. Her eyelids turned red and I thought she had lost her eyesight. She had not lost her good common sense, though, since she urged me to check on her bike and to take it home with us. Our parents weren’t as strict as others, but we didn’t swim in money. My sister knew as well as I did that she wouldn’t get a new bike if she had wrecked this one.

The boys who had been racing against us only minutes ago had vanished. Thanks for not helping us. So I pulled my bike and my sister’s while talking to her the whole time as we made our way home. I had read that it was crucial to keep an injured person alert until receiving treatment. I was 100% that my sister needed treatement. Maman was hanging the laundry in our backyard when we showed up. She dropped the sheet she was holding and our goat trotted over, excited at the perspective to eat something fresh. She was a sucker for laundry. Like me, Maman believed that my sister had hurt her eyes. But when she washed her face we both gaped at the sight of the deep gash on my sister’s forehead. My diagnosis had been pretty accurate.

In May 1968, I had never seen my father home that much. Papa must have felt weird too since he still drove with his Solex to the “office” where he met his colleagues at the truck company that employed them.

Courtesy Solex

My father allowed me to drive his Solex when I turned fifteen. He was right about the instability, but had not said anything about the feeling of freedom I would feel riding it.

Now that I’m an adult and know more about strikes I imagine my father and colleagues worrying about money, wondering when they would sit behind the wheel again, and bring a paycheck home. But I also detected hope for change when I overheared conversations.

In any case, Papa wasn’t home that afternoon and had exceptionally taken the Dauphine.

Courtesy Wikipedia

Our Dauphine was blue too, but much lighter

Our nextdoor neighbor informed Maman that he hadn’t been able to refill his car at the gas station. Deliveries of all kinds were sporadic in May 1968.

Maman decided to hitchhike to town, only four kilometers away. Ironically a taxi driver stopped and drove the frantic trio to the doctor. Family legend says that he refused to be paid. I think it’s true.

Our family doctor was not on strike and quickly closed my sister’s wound with staples. He was a charismatic man, very well dressed, a father of seven, and a smoker of blonde tobacco that floated through his wood-floored and high-ceiling office. To this day, even if I don’t smoke and know that smoking is a bad health choice, the distinct smell still conveys an image of elegance, confidence, and comfort.

Our doctor owned several cats that wandered in and out and he strongly encouraged the outdoors and even rough games for kids. That day, he only reminded my sister to use her right brake when she biked. Later, Papa would echo the advice.

If my parents worried during this strange month of May they never shared it with their kids. We didn’t have TV at that time, but I read well and tried to understand what was going on, based on the newspapers’ headlines.

Maybe this is when I understood that Paris was the place to be. Clearly May 68 was different there. More than words, photos leave their mark on young minds.

These photos were intense. Even though I would have liked to see with my own eyes I also wondered if this could be the End of the World that the priest described at Catechism.

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In May 68, students and young people who had not known WWII were hungry for a different France. In May 68, the working class was fed up with inequality. In a unique moment in French history, the needs of these two radically different groups of people met.

Years later, when I moved to Paris and studied at the Sorbonne, I thought of them, gathered in the heart of the Latin Quarter, and once in a while envied them.

Soon I grew more grateful than envious. Things would never be the same in France from now on. I had no idea that one day I would write in English a novel set in France in the direct aftermaths of May 68.

At that time, a raw, palpable feeling of change infused the air. Even a seven-year-old could breathe it. The reader I was noticed an expression that took its true meaning only much later.

Sous les pavés… la plage.

Under the cobblestones… the beach.

 

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Courtesy Le Nouvel Observateur

 

 

 

P.S. TO EVERY MOM, MAMAN, MOMMY, MUM, MAMA: HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

I WISH EACH OF YOU A BEAUTIFUL SUNDAY.

DON’T FORGET IT’S MAY. YOU CAN DO WHATEVER PLEASES YOU.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflections Post 2018 A to Z Challenge

 

The 2018 A to Z is over!

Whoever writes every day knows that it’s not an easy task. Posting for 26 days, following the alphabetical order, can be quite a challenge. What do you say about the last letters of the alphabet, people?

It’s now time to wrap up the 2018 A to Z Challenge and to highlight a few of the bloggers who not only finished the challenge but went far beyond most others, either through unique themes, outstanding research, or gorgeous photos. Often, all of the above.

Here they are.

In alphabetical order, of course:

 

This year Claire featured Literary Maps in Children’s Books. She shared classics as well as outstanding atlases and books that help children gain a spatial understanding of the world. As a traveler who has trusted maps more than her phone far longer than the majority I loved Claire’s theme. Her research is impeccable and her selection of books pretty awesome. Don’t miss this unique journey through the land of maps.

Through poetry and fiction, Mona’s blog Life Between the Sheets (of Paper) reflects her Mexican heritage. For this 2018 A to Z Challenge she blogged about all things Latino, specifically culture, language, music, food, in her Mexican American heritage. She specifies that her writing reflects her family, not the entire Mexican American or Chicano or Latino experience. Don’t miss Mona’s A to Z Series filled with stories, gorgeous photos and food. Oh the food…

 

I was meant to find Stepheny’s challenge. For a month she wrote about bookshops located in the States and occasionally abroad. The research behind her theme is quite phenomenal. Her photos made me want to browse through each and every shop she described. In fact, Stepheny’s challenge triggered a new challenge idea for me 🙂

Though I will likely return, at least for another year, to the French expressions I love so much and sometimes think I’ve forgotten. In fact, as soon as I start writing them down, more pop up, just waiting in the deep layers of my memory.

Susanna lives on Martha Vineyard where she works as an editor and also writes fiction. This is the reason why she keeps two blogs. For the 2018 challenge she combined the theme of her blog From the Seasonally Occupied Territories (Life on Martha’s Vineyard) with the theme of Write Through It (writing and editing): How living on Martha’s Vineyard has affected her writing. And that was a pretty cool challenge to follow.

In addition, Susanna blogs sporadically about the license plates spotted on the island. It’s a year round project with the goal to complete the map of the United States. Along my road trips through the USA I play the game too 🙂

 

As a final note:

When I wrote about the French singer and composer Jacques Higelin’s death, Sabra commented that she enjoyed listening to the song Pars but wondered what Higelin sang about. Unfortunately I’m only Evelyne and not Higelin, so the translation is what it is: a translation.

 

PARS by Jacques Higelin

Pars, surtout ne te retourne pas

Leave, but please don’t turn around

Pars, fais ce que tu dois faire sans moi

Leave, do what you must do without me

Quoi qu’il arrive je serai toujours avec toi

Whatever happens I will always be with you

Alors pars et surtout ne te retourne pas

So leave, but please don’t look back

Oh pars,

Oh, leave,

mais l’enfant…

but the child…

L’enfant? Mais il est là

The child? But he’s here

Il est avec moi

He’s with me

C’est drôle quand il joue

It’s strange, when he plays

Il est comme toi, impatient

He’s like you, impatient

Il a du cœur, il aime la vie

He has a good heart, he loves life

Et la mort ne lui fait pas peur

And death doesn’t scare him

Alors pars

So, leave

Surtout ne te retourne pas

But please don’t look back

Oh pars

Oh, go on, leave

Mais qu’est ce que t’as?

But what’s wrong?

Oh pars, et surtout reviens-moi vite

Oh leave, but please come back to me soon

 

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