You kept me from going mad
Who are we without someone to talk to?
Yes, just like the rest of you, I used the months confined at home to do a thorough cleaning. Especially all those drawers that rarely get opened, wardrobes full of clothes that I am keeping for the day I can finally fit into them and countless colourful accessories, enough to probably open my own flea market booth. I also sorted through the double garage from one side to the other and scrubbed the cement floors clean with a brush.
Then I weeded the flowerbeds around the house. I even dug up some wild lupines in the neighbouring woods and transplanted them here and there around the balcony. I watered them, pampered them and watched them all summer long until they began to thrive again. I also grew onions, celery and flavourful fine herbs in pots on the kitchen counter. And every three days, I returned from my morning walk with a fresh bouquet of wild flowers, to place on the kitchen table, where I sit to write my letters to you.
I tried out new recipes as well as those I shared with you, plus I read up on how to make caramel.
The best caramel in the world I might add!
And almost daily, at the end of the afternoon, after showering and just before sitting down to dinner, I’d take my Mini Cooper for a spin, with Radio-Canada playing from the speakers, simply to enjoy a change of scenery.
In the past, fired up by my passion for my work, I would dream of a few days alone at home doing nothing – reading, watching movies and jotting down poems in my secret notebook. And then, in the middle of a snowy March, a nasty virus served me a huge helping of solitude, as big as a dragon, to eat on my own. This lady, content to have her hormones finally subside, got exactly what she asked for.
It only lasted the time it took to exhaust my full tank of energy. Quietly, the monster on the plate opened an eye, then its mouth, to finally unfurl its tongue and unleash a string of bad news. Suddenly, like a gust intent on toppling Michelangelo’s David, an invisible flame started to desiccate my heart. And I quickly realized that I missed the people in my life: the comforting face of my young son, the generous arms of my daughter and the sincere affection of my many grandkids. I missed the smiles of my colleagues, the confidences of close friends and especially the sight of another human. Who are we, after all, without someone to talk to?
Just in the nick of time, as my heart brimmed with tears, the wonderful busy bees in charge of the company’s communications suggested that I pen a few words to our dear customers, temporarily deprived of our delicious breakfasts, on the Cora Facebook page.
I swear, I slayed that dragon with a flick of the wrist! And what immense happiness I have felt by reaching out to each one of you. I spent a long time pursuing the things that mattered to me: acquiring new kitchen equipment, the opening of a fifth restaurant, the first franchise contract, the inauguration of our 100th location; our fabulous first national award, a Governor General’s Award and one gratifying thing or another!
And not one of these accomplishments moved me as much as the act of siting down to write these brief weekly letters to you. Through them I have discovered the tenderness in sharing a common condition and the comforting solidarity of emotions.
For the most part, I’ve been alone in my head, in my aspirations and in my writing. And now life has shown me the “other,” all you who read my words and with whom I can share my delight in telling stories.
This tenderness that has appeared in my heart and between us has gradually worn down the overly serious public figure I often thought I had to be. All your kind words, your delicious comments and your great warmth have melted the rigidness that comes with wearing the boss’ hat.
Not only did you keep me from going mad, but thanks to you, thanks to sharing fragments of my daily life with you, I can now envision a much healthier balance between my responsibilities, my joy for living and my need to create. I hope to see many more golden years, full of life’s small joys, tenderness and fabulous storytelling.
With every letter I post, I am dying to have tea with each one of you. To chat with you, over the fence as if we were neighbours, or to hurry to a restaurant and greet you there. My heart hums with love when I sit down to tap away at the keyboard, digging around in my memories to pull up a story and find the apt words to let it speak.
The dessert for me is finding the courage to express my feelings to you each time. I am nearly brought to tears by an overwhelming sense of gratitude for this extraordinary opportunity to spend these days together with you, between the lines of each letter.
Psst: Don’t worry, I will share the recipe for the world’s best caramel with you in another letter.