Those that keep silence, suffer more
This year my husband and I agreed to spend Christmas apart. Fear not, this is no dramatic announcement of impending divorce, but rather a reflection on the bloated airfares during the season of goodwill. In due time, I will tell of why we presently live one on either side of the Atlantic Ocean, but for now I will keep my council. It was my very own idea and I feel that it was a worthy protest, though I imagine it was inconsequential to the point of silence to those responsible for pumping up the prices with such unfettered glee.
Unwilling to risk being peeved by my own decision, I settled on a different solution to the celebrations than sitting in solitary splendour brooding over a meal for one all the while being eyed meaningfully by The Beady Greedy Bean.
In France, as in many other countries, la veille de Noël (Christmas Eve) is traditionally the biggest celebration. A large and lengthy meal with your loved ones culminates in the stealthy arrival of Père Noël (insert your own word for the snowy bearded wonder with grandeose paunch and snazzy white fur-trimmed scarlet suit) who soundlessly leaves gifts around midnight. It is a time of great joy and festivity for most but for others, to many others, it is a sad, solitary night, a time to dwell on past pleasures and the knowledge that there is little solace in the idea that the sun will rise again on the morrow. I speak of the old and alone. Those whom, for whatever reason, have no-one to care for them, those that subsist on tiny incomes and those that tend to be invisible to the masses. So I signed up to assist the Big Christmas Eve dinner laid on by a wondrous charity called Les Petits Frères des Pauvres. Translated as ‘Little Brothers of The Poor’ you may recognise the international federation it belongs to. If you don’t, I urge you to check it out for yourself. If you feel so inclined.
Donning the compulsary Bonnet de Père Noël, but fortunately no beard nor plumping suit, I had three seniors to collect from their homes, because I had also volunteered my car named Franck. I had one gregarious gentleman (aged a twinkling 98 if you please) and two lovely ladies (87 and 89 respectively). I delivered them to the venue, parked Franck and then joined the, incidentally mostly millennial, gang to serve dinner, play games, sing songs and greet Père Noël bearing gifts at midnight. Before we started and after we had seated our table after table of venerable guests there was a silence to remember those who fell serving in the Résistance. Grenoble is one of three cities and two villages awarded the Ordre de La Libération at the end of The Second World War and it is hard to describe how moving it was, that moment of respect standing head bowed amongst those who were directly touched by the indescribable bravery of those who refused to be cowed.
It was 2 a.m when I finally took my exhuberant and energetic charges home to their still silent dwellings. We had sung songs I knew and others I didn’t, played games that had to be explained to me and others that were comfortingly familiar and danced polkas they foot-perfect, I flat-footed. I feel tremendously priviliged to have been allowed to join in and to give beaming cheer where otherwise there would have been the bitter chill of loneliness in a world that too often scurries past rather than observing, for a moment, and perhaps acknowledging that, if we are deserving of conviviality and gaety and levity and simple companionship, then they surely are too. The waning years of human life should not label the bearer untouchable and past your sell-by date and fit to be cast into a metaphoric bin as though your odour is no longer tolerable.
I was motivated to share this moment by the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge labelled ‘Silence’ and as ever you can view, if you feel disposed to, the far more meritorious entries to the gallery here.
The picture was taken in Massachusetts in February 2016. Of course the United States has seen far more than it’s share of snow this winter season and the fat lady is not ready for the final song yet. I imagine, amongst all the chaos and hardship such weather induces, there has been that sense of muffled stillness that snow produces. That softly muted quiet that I love. Because silence can certainly be golden. It can also be heartbreakingly heavy.
PS: The title is taken from C S Lewis that wisest, gentlest most considered of scolars. He said ‘I have learned now that while those that speak out about their misery usually hurt, those who keep silence hurt more’ … I recommend to everyone that, apart from the ‘Chronicles of Narnia’, you should read his work more widely and that his letters, published in several volumes to the many he corresponded with contain much wisdom, whatever your beliefs or views on faith and spirituality. That aside, I did, of course that morning in the woods, feel that I had stepped into the kingdom of Narnia.
There is a second part to my Christmas which I will chronicle separately in due course
And your bonus: The Tremeloes singing ‘Silence is Golden’. Although Frankie Valley and his Four Seasons recorded it first, this is the version as an English girl that I remember best.
First of all, how is it that I miss your posts when I am both an email subscriber and via WordPress? Gah! Thanks to Vanessa for linking to this as otherwise it would have slipped through my web. A lovely tribute to those who are alone and those who are generous enough to share a very special moment of the year with others who need it most. Thanks also for reminding me of that wonderful charity, Les petits frères des pauvres, entirely worthy whether for donations monetary or of time. I will spare you questions about being alone for Christmas, as it was hopefully a fleeting situation, and look forward to reading the next chapter. Kudos to you, Osyth, for spending your Christmas Eve in noble and joyful pursuits, ferrying people around in Franck, which presumably meant a (fairly) dry night amidst all that merriment, never mind overcoming the language gap to join in the festivities! xo
I had missed you but assumed that you were busy with other things. I had an entirely dry night but it was such fun that I didn’t miss it at all. I really did think I was the fortunate one to be involved with such a wonderful crowd and such a lovely team of volunteers. It took a bit of a leap of faith to get involved but I am really glad I did. Far more interesting that sitting as though it was just another night in with The Bean 😀 xo As an aside I have written two other pieces since Christmas so when you have time by all means dig in. I had issues with some that I was following and rectified it eventually by unfollowing and re-following. Who knows what the hamsters on the WordPress wheel get up to on the sly 😉
What a wonderful thing to do on Christmas Eve. I trust that you and H2B will soon be (more economically) reunited for appropriate celebrations x
That is such a sweet and kind thing to say. He is here now – arrived Wednesday night and all is well and smiley. I just didn’t want to be feeling Grinchy and I am glad I thought I might because the evening was magical 🙂
I never see your posts dearest Fiona! So sorry, I saw this on Bernadette’s blog and I don’t see her posts either! I will read in a minute! xoxo
Panic not …. I think some people have somehow lost connection. Try unfollowing and re following with both mine and Bernadette’s. Who knows what WordPress does …. xxx
oh ok that sounds good!
What a wonderful celebration and a kind and special thing to do!
Lynn .. it was brilliant. I gave nothing at all and reaped a golden oldie harvest of delights!
What a wonderful way to spend Christmas.
I have been meaning to pick up some non-Narnia C.S. Lewis for years – you’re inspiring me to check out the offerings our library has (because I’m doing my best not to buy new books, when I can get plenty for free, and already have a collection of books which rivals most libraries and is slowly but surely being given away to people who can treasure the books I’ve already loved).
I was fortunate to be able to do it.
Lewis is really so worth exploring. I speak from an entirely biased perspective, of course but I do hope you will. I am such a fan of libraries. After years of being I suppose rather possessive, since living in France I have become a devotee of the library system (have even been invited to speak on my own work in several) and in Massachusetts also I joined up and never looked back. My rule is that if I really feel pain at handing the book back and if that pain persists, the book goes on my wish list and when people want to buy me sometime I give them the list to choose from.
That is a great way to keep from becoming overwhelmed with books (not that it’s a bad thing to be overwhelmed with books, but I probably don’t want to live in a home where I can’t walk thanks to the books stacked to the ceiling).
Sounds like a wonderful time with all. are you going to visit any of your guest during the year if possible??? More feathers added to your angel wings for sure !! xxxx
I have already been to all three of my ‘charges’ more than once. I will write to them when I move away. It’s like gaining a whole new family!
A beautifully written and inspiring post. What a wonderful way to spend Christmas…for everyone! ❤️
Tonya – it was! Such a privilege, such fun, and I now have new friends to drop in on and hope they won’t be horrified to see me 😊
That sounds perfect! 😊
What a very inspiring action to take and one which to me seems so typically thoughtful of you. It does seem a law of the universe that you take more from giving that you receive from taking. Did I get that right way round? Anyhoo, hope you and H2B have had a jolly good start to the New Year and long may it continue.
Thank you and the best of all things yet to come to you! Giving in the right spirit results in great rewards, it is true.
Christmas is all the better for sharing around the joy. I’m happy to hear yours was joyful!
It was impossible not to inhale the spirit and I loved being there – my gain was the greatest.
I am beginning to despair, I have followed and re-followed and yet still I get no notifications as to when you post a new post. Any ideas? xxx
I’m going to get in touch with WordPress. You are one of three that I know of who are having difficulties and it makes me extremely cross. I shall report back on progress!
Beautiful! Having worked with older people for many years, it never ceases to amaze me how amazing their stories are when we take just a few minutes to stop and listen. We can learn so much… A lovely way to spend your Xmas Eve. xxx
I love the olds and you are so right … giving a little time reaps immense reward and it is so sad that many never take that little time. I so enjoyed it, Wendy and I did indeed learn so much (including some new and fairly ripe French phrases 😉) xxx
Aww bless them – hilarious!! xxx
Great read Osyth – more about Franck please 🙂
Franck is due a post …. he’s an egg-yolk yellow wonder 😂
Beautiful post. The silence of the lonely is sad. CS Lewis was a brilliant writer, and I’ve read his other works (besides reading the Narnia Chronicles out loud to my children). This title here is perfect.
Thank you so much. I’m glad you felt the title fit well, very glad. I love Lewis and also read The Chronicles of Narnia aloud to my children – and to me too!
Narnia is definitely a place for those of ALL ages. <3
Your photos are bright like your words
How did I miss this post? Honestly, sorry about that….anyway, you are amazing dear Osyth! How kind you are. Lovely, warming post. Hope you are ok and back together with other half. Xxx
Poof! No need to worry … I miss most of most parties due to innate discursiveness 😉 Husband was with me from 17th – 29th during which time we visited the crumbling renovation in Cantal, drove to Paris for a critical meeting (me), on to Calais for the night and thence to Oxfordshire, up to Liverpool (him) to a grand party in Richmond (us) back to Boston (him) and picked up second daughter home permanently from the Far East after nearly 5 years (me). I am now a recovering limp rag with my mother before hightailing it with two daughters back to France on Thursday (one for 5 days one for a month) … life. I seriously don’t know how you do all you do!! Xx
oh my goodness! That is a crazy schedule for anyone! I hope February will be kinder to you?
Here’s hoping 🤣
The way you spent your Christmas is in my mind the best way apart from spending it with family (though actually that might depend on the family 😉). You’ve done such a wonderful thing, Fiona and I’ve decided to take a leaf out of your book and do the same! And thanks so much for pointing out the other works by C.S. Lewis – I’m a huge Narnia fan and can’t even count how many times I’ve read the books. 😄 Can’t wait to read his letters!
Have a stunningly beautiful week, ma chère amie! Xxxxxxxxxxxx
I missed my family, of course but what I gained was immeasurable. I am absolutely delighted that you are inspired to do the same …. you will be a triumph with your sparkling heart 💖 Lewis’s letters will I am sure be a source of pleasure and learning and delight and revelation. His sermons are worth reading too. He was, of course a devout Christian but somehow he manages to write without preaching and to allow the reader to search themself without judgement xxxxxxx
I’m a bit behind…that was a lovely post and a lovely thing to do. Also enjoyed the music – I met the drummer several years ago – he was working for a removals firm.
It’s always lovely to ‘see’ you … I’m happy you enjoyed the post. One forgets that for most that achieve that moment of popularity there is a prosaic life to follow. I wanted to mention that I can’t seem to leave comments on your site. I have unfollowed you to see if refusing may kick start it. I always find your posts fascinating and liked leaving remarks. I do always click like …..
I loved the years I was an activity director for a nursing home. The activity assistant, Lori plus my wonderful squad of teenagers who were free volunteers made this a wonderful way to gather up groups to go to listen to songs and use embroidery hoops with pretty ribbons wound around the rings and about four trailing ribbons, each with a bead on them. They loved arm exercises with high circles and low circles holding the rings. Other times were the trips to fishing pond with handicapped rental pontoon boats, so we could wheel their chairs onto it for a few quiet trips to the middle and then around the pond.
We loved the trip to the Rose garden and restaurants, as well as baseball games. There’s a special section for wheelchairs with netting to protect from missed balls. Every bus trip meant songs and those sweet teen girls taught the elderly “new” songs from our folk songs (70’s) and rock songs (80-90’s) as well as the elderly singing My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean, Oh, Susanna and My Wild Irish Rose, to name a few. Smiles, Robin 🐦
What beautiful memories, Robin …. an inspiration to anyone reading your story xo
I think you helped add years to those dear souls, as they helped you “earn your angel wings!” The gift of time and caring is such a beautiful one you gave them, Fiona. I liked this so much!! 💕 ❄️
And I like this comment SO much 💕
petje af, osyth!
the tune of ‘silence is golden’ will keep humming around my head
I had to translate that and now I have another way of saying what we say here in France which is simply ‘Chapeau’ but means bravo really. Thank you. I hope I am forgiven for the Tremolos ear worm! 👂 🐛
“chapeau” is said in .nl as well, but i didn’t want to give the impression i’m any good at french.
btw. i don’t mind floating back to the (late) 60’s for a bit
How interesting. I feel I’m beginning the (very difficult) task of learning a new language here. Small steps, right? Glad you didn’t mind the float back … personally I feel I am forever 6 so music up to 1967 is ever comfortable and welcome …. 🎶
This is a wonderful and inspiring post. It sounds like an unforgettable experience.
Oh Ali it really was. I was the fortunate one 🙂
Lovely post! I love C.S. Lewis!
I 💗 your 💖
Thank you …. I do too. Such a beautiful soul and a wonderful writer 🙂
PS … you got there first! Thank you so much for gracing me by following my site. I have been ambling through yours – too much lovely and I have followed you too. I am very much looking forward to the journey and am thankful that I found you via The Munchkin. So much to smile about!
You have such a kind and beautifuk spirit. I’m so glad you happened to find me. I am blessed already💕