Frehel Diaries: Feu d'Artifice
Now playing: Wang Chung - Everybody Have Fun Tonight
via FoxyTunes

In August, in small towns all over France, there are petite public fetes held in the squares. In these small rural towns, the public square, where the fete is set up, is next to a church. Outside of the church, under the stars, there is raised DJ stand complete with lights overlooking the "dance floor." The grassy space and even parking spots are now transformed into "dance space" while around the edges of square, vendors set up their stands. The vendors sell traditional food and drink, like galettes, crepes, and hard cider as well some less traditional fare like coronas and coco-cola. The Sauvage goes to buy us a galette filled with sausage.

The teenagers sit on the edge of the square, mainly gathered by the drink vendors trying to trick or wheedle their way into getting a beer. The dance space is filled with five and six year old children dancing in a large ring doing a version of ring around the rosie to the beat, seventy year old married couples, sun burnt backpackers, pre-pubescent adolescents not yet concerned about being "cool", young marrieds still old enough to be nostalgic and young enough to shake it like ravers. In short, the whole town, the locals, the tourists, the visiting family members are all out there dancing. I've read about the fires of Beltane, but never witnessed such a disparate group of people united in celebration until that night.

The music was late 80s and early 90s. The music I used to dance to at middle school dances, but they were never as joyful as this. A sad gym with a few balloons filled with fear about who was going to dance with who had absolutely nothing in common with this celebration. I go out into the dancing throng. I can feel the sun radiating off my skin. A few girls dance near me and without talking or even really looking at each other we dance with each other. I become a part of the crowd, my arms tanned, my skin burning in the cool night. And nothing else matters. The rest of the trip, the fear and rage and hurt, falls away,and I'm dancing under the night sky, head thrown back, my body on fire, sweating with these ecstatic strangers. A 20 year old girl gets up on one of the picnic tables, barefooted, and begins to dance there. No doubt the ghosts of Romans and the spirit of Bacchus himself would be pleased.

Near midnight, after the crowd was properly lathered, they set off fireworks, or feu d'artifice. The French love fireworks, not surprising considering their love of artifice in general. The dance floor is now transformed into a viewing deck. The Sauvage and Nana come and stand next to me while the Sauvage warns me that because this is such a small town, the fireworks will not be that impressive.

I'm no stranger to fireworks. I live in NYC after all and witnessed what some would most likely be considered the most impressive fireworks displays in the US. We got nothin' on the French. The sky exploded into colors, shooting stars, umbrellas of brilliantly transforming ash-the night filled with the smell of sulfur and gunpowder. We all stood there, necks craned, united in simple delight. The show seemed to never end. A few times I was sure I was witnessing the finale, only to hear the launch of another explosion.

But eventually the fireworks ended and the fete broke up. I watched couples, teenaged and elderly, walking towards their homes hand in hand. I felt a twinge, but I couldn't be angry. After being accepted as part of that crowd, whatever the cost of this trip-it was worth it.

Labels: ,

Comments: Post a Comment

    This page is powered by 
Blogger. Isn't yours?