“The stillest part of the hurricane is its centre” from The Secret Language of Birthdays by Gary Goldschneider & Joost Elffers
“Colourful” is a word I think describes Jean-Michel beautifully. We decided to meet across from the angel statue as we both call it, on a bench, and when I arrived, he walked towards me with his beautiful smile and eyes full of spark, and I felt welcome in the presence of this man whose light and warm personality shine through every pore. Musician, he plays “to meet people” and strangers stop to talk to him like a friend. Healthy to the tip of his fingers, he patiently answered all of my questions about nutrition and we paid a short visit to the market together. I was worried I was keeping him from joining the Tam-Tams on the Mount-Royal, but he assured me that I was “funnier”, and whatever that meant (we did have a blast together, getting along famously!), I gladly accepted his gift of time and friendship, and when we finally crossed to join the other musicians, I could see again how people are naturally drawn to him. To a man I hope to meet again, to a beautiful heart and a gentle soul. – Mélissa P
Image © Mélissa Pelchat
An Interview with Jean-Michel
Q. What is your best memory/moment from one of your past birthdays?
A. I’m having a really hard time trying to remember one specific and precise birthday, but I was born the day after Halloween, a celebration I adored, and I was getting ready for it a month in advance; I loved getting dressed up, ringing at all the doors of the neighborhood, being overwhelmed by the scent of mothballs or spaghetti when different doors would open, and being amazed by the generosity of certain neighbors: peanuts, Cortland apples, Oh Henry!, Klandykes, candy necklaces and homemade cookies that arrived home in pieces.
Q. How about the worst? And why?
A. The worst thing I can think of is not remembering what I did the day I turned twenty years old.
Q. What was the present you’ve received for your birthday that most surprised you?
A. My best gift was having a day off, because on All Saints Day, there was no school! I still do not know what a saint is, but that day must have left a mark on my subconscious because I didn’t want to become a bum when I’d grow up; I do not know the definition of sanctity, but health and serenity are appealing to me.
Q. Is there one food or dish that you insist on eating during your birthday celebration?
A. I do not eat cake or anything special, I do not go to birthdays to eat but to see people; the pleasure of encounters, of looks, that’s really all I need.
Q. What do you believe is the most important aspect of celebrating a birthday?
A. Often, after a night of dreams, I don’t remember those dreams, but I remember the emotions they allowed me to live. It’s a bit like that for my birthdays: a pleasant blur. 364 days a year, we’re taken for granted, but, on our birthday, we become special, people appreciate us as friends. Some will call me, will send me a card, will text me kisses, just love.
Q. Do you/your family/culture have any traditions/rituals/ceremonies that are performed to celebrate birthdays? What is it?