A Different Bastille Day

A Different Bastille Day

Today’s Bastille Day, France’s national day, or “le Quatorze Juillet” as we call it plainly in France. The reference to the Bastille prison that was stormed by a rebellious Parisian crowd on a hot summer day 231 years ago is of course entirely relevant but the term “Bastille Day” is a purely English coinage all the same.

I usually spend Bastille Day (or at least the nearest Sunday) in New York, at Simply Gourmand’s booth at the Bastille Day on 60th Street fair, the largest celebration of France’s national day in the United States. I have told in a previous post how much I enjoy this opportunity to meet with French and Francophiles, and with loyal and new customers. The 2020 edition of Bastille Day on 60th Street, originally scheduled to happen last Sunday, has been cancelled due to the pandemic.

Likewise, we had to call off our summer trip to France that was to immediately follow our Bastille Day expedition. We are sad we won’t spend time with Grand-Père and Grand-Mère and the rest of the family but we have made our peace with the fact that traveling overseas right now is not a reasonable option (even though French citizens and their families are allowed to come to France).

In a recent online conversation with my parents, my father said we would make it up in a not too distant future. But my mother said she felt differently about not getting together this summer: for her something was lost that would be missing even after we can meet again. I feel like that too. My sense of time passing has become more acute, which I guess is usual in people around my age. What I knew intellectually has become a more profound truth: our lives and the lives of our loved ones are likely to be different in a few years. Now is a precious time.

So now being the 14th of July, 2020, what are we up to ? Well, we are going to celebrate at home, of course! The fact that we are in Cleveland at this time of the year is unusual enough to feel somewhat special. For one thing it means we can hang our 5′ by 3′ French flag at our front door. (Full disclosure: we also have an American and an Indian flag of the same size ready to float on the special occasions of our other two countries.)

Minette and I have dressed in the colors of the French flag. Tonight when Appa comes back from work we will have home-made gougères (cheese puffs) and clafoutis (cherry cake) and we will drink something bubbly – sparkling apple juice for Minette and champagne for the grownups. We will also dance to the chanson française playlist I put together a couple of years ago for our French celebrations.

I am not sure we would do all of this if we were living in France. I am quite sure we would not do all of this if we did not have a child. Living far from France and India and being parents are the main reasons why we mark our respective home countries’ national days and festivals. We want Minette to relate to her heritages and we have figured this is one of the fun ways to achieve this.

Coming up in our multicultural calendar: India’s Independence Day on the 15th of August and the centenary of U.S. women’s national suffrage on the 18th of August. Interestingly, women in Appa’s southern Indian region were granted the right to vote the same year as American women, whereas French women had to wait until 1944… Minette has read a lot about sufragettes lately and she is more than ready to duly celebrate.

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