Friday the 13th was a dark day. When the news of the devastation in Paris hit that afternoon (California time), it was simply unbelievable to me. I don’t think of myself as naive but I have a hard time comprehending how it’s possible for people to be so hideously awful. To say the attack on hundreds of innocent lives was an atrocity is too generous. It was barbaric. I’m unbearably sad for the people of Paris and quite honestly, I’m sad for us all. It was a direct attack on freedom, regardless of where you live or your religious beliefs. It was a call against love, humanity, humility and decency. It was a call to fear. Much the way 9/11 was fourteen years ago.
I’m not French. I don’t speak the language. I don’t have family or friends there. But I love Paris. I’m quick to let anyone who’s interested know the my favorite place in the world is New York. But my special place is Paris.
It’s the first European city I felt comfortable to walk alone and explore as a young college student. I have fond memories of being in Paris during a particularly warm week in July. I remember having a difficult time finding a waiter willing to dole out ice cubes, but happy to bring more bread (my kind of guy). I loved roaming the cobblestone streets and taking in the breathtaking sights… places I’d only dreamed of, like the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower. I’d been cautioned that the French weren’t friendly to Americans, but they were wonderful to me. I never met anyone unkind or unwilling to help a starry eyed student whose best French tapped out at “deux croissants, s’il vous plait”. I fell in love with the city of lights and I vowed to return again.My next visit was a year and a half later with my boyfriend. He asked me to marry him on a stone bench next to the River Seine in the shadow of the Louvre. I said “yes”, of course. It was too romantic! That was twenty-four years ago and easily the best (and easiest) decision of my life. I’ll never forget that day. It rained at some point. We found a tiny pub on Rue St.Michel with a roaring fire and a gorgeous old dog keeping guard at the hearth. We drank delicious wine and stared at each other as though wondering how we came to be someplace so completely amazing. We vowed to return.
And we did. With our family. That’s right. We were the crazy people who thought traveling with three kids, aged 5 and under (our daughter was 5 months old at the time & teething 😦 ) would be a slam dunk. Don’t worry. You would have commended their behavior on the planes. They were fabulous and we were over the moon to be there. This time we had an agenda. We were stopping for a few days in Paris before heading to England to visit family and attend my cousin’s wedding in Scotland. It was an ambitious trip, but the memories were well worth it. Trips to the park take on a new significance with children in tow. Anywhere they can run free is where you want to be… Jardin de Tuilerie, Jardin de Luxembourg… you name it, we did it and even managed to squeeze in a few museums too. Once again, the French people were wonderful and welcoming. We couldn’t wait to return. We vowed to make it happen.
But it’s not easy to travel when your kids get older. They suddenly have busy schedules too. I managed to travel to Paris for a full day with my mother eleven years ago. I think my reasoning at the time was that if I was close to Paris (I was in London for a week), I had to find a way to get there. It was a cold day in December but it was wonderful. I vowed to return… and next time with my husband.
We haven’t been since. We’ve sent our two sons on various school trips. Our older son even managed to learn the language! We’ve talked about our next holiday, but with two college tuitions and heck… life in general, it’s difficult to plan big trips. But my husband insists we do something special for our 25th anniversary… he insists on Paris because Paris is our special place. It’s a beautiful, romantic city steeped in history (and not all of it pleasant) and intrigue. It’s a place to dream, to create and to remember the beauty of life and to find a voice for sorrow. In the words of Victor Hugo, “Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace.”
I pray for the people of Paris and for all those who have been affected by the travesty of this barbaric act of terrorism. I’m sad my special place has been marred by hatred, but I vow to return. And I will.
“Même la nuit la plus sombre prendra fin et le soleil se lèvera”… “Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise”- Victor Hugo, Les Miserable
Paix pour Paris et amour