This is the story of a small bracelet that was never lost but was found anyway. With its medal of the Virgin and its pearls mounted on elastic, it has expanded to infinity.
Michelle is Australian, Léopold is French. She is forty years old, he is ten. She is exiled to France where her husband is appointed. She doesn’t know anyone there. Leopold and she met on the landing of the building where he was born. He’s a real little Lyonnais, with friends in all the buildings in the neighborhood and a football pitch just downstairs, where he often forgets his favorite T-shirts. But he lives his last months of real childhood, because his family will settle in Colombia for four years. Obviously, he’s never set foot there and doesn’t know anyone there. She doesn’t speak a word of French, he doesn’t speak a word of English.
As a child, Michelle had heard the story of Bernadette Soubirous, whom she had always loved. She asked my daughter (the boy’s mother) if she would be willing to discover Lourdes with her. There were only a few weekends left before the big departure, too bad for the move, the trunks and the paperwork, a date was blocked and Michelle, her dog, the child, her brother and her mother took the road to Lourdes .
Skipping three weeks, here we are in July. The Lyon apartment is emptied, the keys are returned, the farewells are said, everyone has cried, the page seems to have been turned. There remains the last vacation for the whole family (uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents) in Noirmoutier. During car races with a detour to the laundromat, a drama is played out. He can be recognized by Leopold’s pallor and his drowning gaze, more than by the incident itself: he has dropped a small fancy bracelet into the hole in the armrest in the middle of the back seat.
I feel my daughter tense. She explains: this bracelet comes from Lourdes. Michelle gave it to the child at the end of the stay. She observed Leopold, especially during stops at souvenir shops, to guess his tastes. My daughter reassures her son: we are going to lift the back seat, it will take two minutes. My husband reports that the back seat is irremovable. I jumped up: “In all cars, you can lift the back seat!” He confirms: “Not in ours. So my grandson turns his devastated face to his mother and I hear myself promise, bombastic: “You won’t go to Colombia without your bracelet.” »
The friendship between Michelle and Leopold, of which we know almost nothing, infects us all. The bracelet mission becomes a priority emergency. One after another we force our fingers into the hole and wiggle them around in vain. One after the other, we illuminate the cavity with our mobile phones and distinguish far in the background the reflection of one or two inaccessible pearls which make us eye. Even crab curettes are too short.
We go to the convenience store to buy barbecue skewers. They have the right length, hope is reborn, but it’s like claw cranes at fairgrounds: they drop the treasure at the last moment of the ascent. It’s raining, it’s selling. One holds the flashlight, another the skewer, others give advice. The skulls press against each other above the bench, while the hindquarters come out through the wide open doors. The hours pass, we forget to have lunch.
Then discouragement wins the ranks. We no longer believe in our superpowers. Only my husband with his lamp, my daughter with her skewer and her son, pale, holding his breath, remain in the car. And soon I hear my daughter, sadly: “Come on, too bad. We stop. Silence settles.
Then suddenly a cry of deliverance rang out: “I have it! I got it ! My daughter brandishes her skewer towards the sky, the bracelet dangles at the very end of the pike, the sun breaks through behind the clouds, the pearls throw lightning, it looks like Bonaparte crossing the Grand-Saint-Bernard. Léopold has taken on some color, everyone is laughing, we know that the Lourdes bracelet, we will still be talking about it in ten years.
But what will stay with us all beyond ten years is the mystery of the victory that comes – one would say even creeps in – just when we give up on it. When we tell him too bad, we don’t want it anymore, the desire is over. It comes when silence sets in, when you put down your Superman cape, it comes when you give way to something other than the immediate result. That’s when she feels invited, and what can ensure that the story ends well: the child is now in Colombia, and you guessed it, he did not leave without his bracelet.