Every year, we illustrate, to attach it to our front door, a small sign welcoming guests returning from Mass – or directly from their homes! -, to dine with us on Christmas Eve. Their first names are traced there in colored felt, and naive figurines evoke snow (how long has there been no snow at Christmas for Parisians?), The tree, at night, the Father Christmas. Because the habit does not date from yesterday, and throwing away anything is not natural to me, these posters bear witness, year after year, to the presence and absence of New Years Eve. Sometimes fortuitous presences – passing foreign friends, the ephemeral fiancé of a cousin – or immutable, even if we know that eternity is not our business.
I am about to take out my traditional sheet of Canson paper, my markers and the illustrated books that serve as a model, and like every year, before I start, I dive into the collection of posters from previous years, which me impresses not without sweetness. This is still the case, of course, but even more so this year when, scrupulously following government recommendations, the names I have to write will struggle to occupy the space of the sheet. Let’s be clear, a business card would have been enough. We are however fortunate that those absent are excused by the only caution imposed by the health crisis, and we are counting on them next year.
It is on these evenings, when habits show their strength and sometimes weigh their weight, that the unthinkable happens most clearly, striking two realities. Reality of death, someone you loved was there last year, and will never come back; and the reality of life, which goes on, ruthless, without asking permission. We were all one day the one who, the most shocked because the most touched, found himself at the familiar table, carrying out the gestures and smiling out of politeness, incredulous in front of the brutality of what had to be lived. What can we say this year, when the bereavements will have been in the tens of thousands more numerous than usual, and where elementary prudence prevents the great New Years Eve from playing their role of beneficent obligation?
However, taste must return to things, and it would be difficult on its own to imagine that nothing will remain in vain and that, to use Lamartine’s formula, “These valleys, these palaces, these thatched cottages” will find color and will count us again among their peaceful walkers and visitors.
On France 24, I came across a brief report in Mali, where the epidemic gained ground, the authorities demanded the closure of universities. A student explained with a weary smile that even without Covid, it took good year or so sometimes two years to fully study the program of a single semester, while being constantly upset by this or that, and it is with fatalism that she saw the deadline fall further for health reasons. “Elsewhere you follow the courses remotely on the computer, another speaker explained. Here in Mali it is not possible, so for the students everything stops. ” And if it was only that… The National Order of Physicians of Mali announced the contamination of 150 of them. And the death of five.
For the first time in my life, I am facing an ordeal that does not need to be explained to anyone, for there is nowhere someone who does not experience it. Although this situation is obviously the sign of a tragedy, it also carries the impetus of an incomparable fraternity. This Christmas that takes us away brings us closer than ever, and no sign would be big enough to write all the names of the guests with whom, on Thursday, we will be sharing Christmas Eve.