(continued from Tuesday’s note)   Did I mention that I was totally in the dark concerning the details of this evening in early March? Did I also happen to mention that the instant I was going through the front doors of the castle, I was struggling big time against the ‘old man’ urge (read: non-pastoral) to vent my frustrations? When I heard, and saw, the commotion at the top of the stairs, and saw those first three people, my rampaging emotional eighteen-wheeler flipped on its side, coming screeching to a halt. Then, there was this nano-moment of white space – the lurching wreckage of an unspent tirade, the dawning of new data filtering into my brain, Sue’s look, communicating a motherly ‘This is all for you. What do you say, sweetheart?’ Have you ever built up a head of steam – aka righteous indignation – only to have the plug pulled on all that dark, fomenting aggression? And at the same time that that sludge is emptying out, be confronted with an over-the-top display and love and appreciation replacing it? Well, let me just say, as the fog clears, as the protesting evaporates, as the heart attempts to beat in sync with the prevailing mood, it feels like the overturned semi is being roughly winched back upright.

As I climbed the steps, closer and closer to the familiar chorus being sung: “Joyeux Anniversaire! Joyeux Anniversaire .  .  .” for the second time that evening, I experienced a surreal moment. My now aborted Bible study verses and main points were fast fading away as I realized this was ‘the’ agenda for the evening – that I was the agenda for the evening. The color on my face was now part embarrassment, part bemusement. The first person to greet me (who else?) was a grinning Matthieu, pleased with himself that he had played his role to perfection. I began to laugh in spite of myself at having been had, and that by someone normally so serious, so proper! He apologized for lying to me, assuring me it was only because he had been instructed to do so. We hugged.

I mostly floated through the rest of the evening, trying to regain my scattered emotions as French friends pulled off yet another spectacular party – this one a complete surprise, in my honor. I know there was a Chinese meal catered, there were decorations, skits (cringingly accurate because everyone knew me all too well), loving, emotional speeches, tears and laughter (theirs and mine), and gifts, among which was a dark chocolate grand piano, complete with the lid up and a stool! (from a local Maître Chocolatier) It was exquisite! (and later, because, well, because it was dark chocolate, délicieux!)

Did all this really happen? I think so, but you might want to check with Sue. It was so long ago, this dark night of twists.  PD

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