Ever since the abominable attacks on Paris, I’ve been emailing French friends for first-hand news. From what I understand, I believe that my friends have been carrying on as best they can, as though nothing has happened, all the while knowing that something terrible has happened.
I carry on, too, though I feel the weight of sadness and grief. I can’t get Paris out of my head. I remember the city’s cafes, streets, bars, bakeries and the Parisians I have known since 1961 when I first went to Paris, when the French were at war with the Algerians. Bombs exploded. Bullets punctured the walls, and life went on then as now.
Yesterday, to make myself feel better, I took to wearing my French beret. I suppose I look a bit absurd, though no one has laughed or pointed a finger. I don’t know what else to do except go on wearing my silly hat, sending and receiving emails, reading the news, looking for rays of hope and talking to friends here in Sonoma County, which has long maintained cultural ties to France, through French wines, French food, French culture.
I would like to be in France now. I would like to see my friends, to share their sorrow with them, though I know that now isn’t a good time to go. I don’t want to be a voyeur or an emotional thief living off the tragedy of others. I will have to nurse my own wounds, remember my adventures in Paris, the French language and French words, the music and the movies, the City of Light tugging at my heart.
It feels strange to have this kind of connection to a place so far away, geographically speaking, yet so close to my innermost feelings. I wish that my friends here in Sonoma County might put away their bickering, their big and their little annoyances, and pay homage to the spirit of the French who have welcomed Americans to their shores and brought their ideals to America.
Jonah Raskin is the author of ‘A Few French Scenes.’ He lives in Santa Rosa.
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