I hadn’t seen her in so long, I kept imagining what it would be like to walk and just be in her hold. She always had my heart. So much young love and discovery had happened because I had gone to her and each time I visited she would awaken those sweet memories of early mornings wrapped in her clutches.
When people spoke ill of her I always came to her defense. She has often been described as “cold,” and “clipped,” and “unwelcoming”– but not for me. I would melt into her language and the sweet smells of her morning coffee. I felt so energized with her and I liked myself best when I was with her. Somehow my voice sounded softer and more melodic when I spoke her language and my sensuality awoke.
I was thrilled that I would have yet another chance to see her again.
It was my mom’s 80th birthday and her vision was to take her four daughters on a trip. We discussed several ideas and to my surprise she chose Paris. Amazingly, my four sisters, all BA50s, were able to clear family and work obligations and set aside six days to be together. What a feat! That in and of itself is usually the obstacle to pulling off a reunion of any sort. But our motivation was to honor our mom and, after all she did offer to “take us to Paris.”
I decided to visit a day early, before the rest of the group. After all, Paris and I had our own special relationship that I wanted to savor alone, without distraction. She was my paramour.
I arrived in the pouring rain and as the taxi pulled up to the front of my hotel, the skies cleared. My welcome mat was laid out. In less than an hour I was eating baguettes with sweet butter and jam and easing into familiar comforts.
It was my junior year abroad when I fell in love for the first time — not only with Paris, but with a Parisian, his family and his friends. The rush of images of dinners on Rue Jacob, the cafés on Rue du Bac, incessant political debates and the excitement of a new language falling easily from my lips now channels youth into my veins.
I wake from my reverie of first love to receive a message from new friends – it’s an invitation to their Mom’s apartment for lunch. I am thrilled. Bounding through the backstreets of Saint Germain I find the street number, press the secret code on the outside door and enter a quiet courtyard behind the bustle of the street.
At the top of the winding stairs, three flights up, my friend welcomes me in. The scene is set for a dejeuner typique. The TV is replaying last night’s Obama vs. Romney debate, and we are instantly engaged in a political discussion. She and her husband have invited a few friends to the lunch: a painter, a yoga instructor, and of course her 94 year-old mother is there smiling sweetly–thrilled with all the activity. I feel my heart racing, as I know I am just where I am supposed to be.
My friend hands me Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book, just translated in French, and the moment is complete. I read the French title, Ou Tu Va – Tu Es, and the stars align–it is one of my favorites–Wherever You Go, There You Are.
As we eat our harticots verts, the freshest of salads, fromage, crisp-crusted French bread, jambon, and of course melon with dark chocolate for dessert, I feel a smile form from my toes to my tete, knowing I have found my familiar seat at the table.
It is clear to me that Paris is toujours my friend. She never disappoints. This city is where my parents showed up one at a time, after having separated three months prior to my going abroad that junior year. They came to be alone with me, and it was the first time I saw them as separate, vulnerable adults, not just as my parents. It’s strange to think they were younger then than I am now. Those individual visits launched me into adulthood, confirming the dissolution of my nuclear family. Paris caught me in free fall and held me safely as I let go from my parents’ net and began to weave my own web.
And now, here I sit at this lively table of new friends speaking French — eating, laughing and enjoying. I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I have made the journey into my 50s with memories blending into new stories as the years melt away.
Grateful, content and still in love with Paris— the journey begins again set on this perfect canvas. I know when my sisters and my mom arrive tomorrow, the next chapter will be written and I will welcome that in with open arms.