Archive for April, 2019

Paris, je t’aime.
April 15, 2019

The emotion of today is difficult to bear. Paris doesn’t belong just to France. It belongs to all of us. A beacon of history, of art, of culture and most of all, of memories.

I feel as if a part of me died watching the Notre Dame spire fall.

There are lessons in Paris that cannot be learned elsewhere.

When I was a little girl, my Grandparents had, in their home, a teeny tiny wrought iron sculpture of the Eiffel Tower on display. How I would stare at it and wonder when I would get my turn to visit the real thing.

I was fortunate in that my high school hosted a trip to France for the graduating class. It must have been expensive. But my parents promised me I could go if I did chores, cooked meals, babysat my annoying little brother. And so I did and so I went.

I had made up my mind that I would love it. But I didn’t. It was noisy, smelly, loud and I thought the people rude. But on reflection, that first trip probably said more about my state of mind as a young person. Fearful, short on confidence, skeptical of how the world was.

But I remembered Notre Dame; Our Lady. She was beautiful, peaceful and a monument to the Catholic faith for which I am grateful still despite my choice to leave the Church.

Five years later, I returned as a University graduate. More confident, more curious, more adventurous. And that is when I found its beauty and its lessons. I found humility. To spend time in a place that my ancestors were from, that my Grandparents had visited, that had informed my Quebecois culture. I fell in love.

I visited again a decade later, her charm still over me. And then again after my post grad degree. I had two weeks between my internship and real life. There was only one place to go. Paris. I emptied my bank account. Jumped on a flight and spent a glorious ten days at the National Archives of France looking at the manuscripts that informed my life,  the highlight of which was the micro fiches showing Antoine de St. Exupery’s hand written edits to The Little Prince. As luck (or misfortunate) would have it, I also got to spend four hours locked in the Louvre because I happened to visit the same day some retrograde decided to steal a painting. Good times.

I went back not too long after with my BFF. We marvelled, once again, at the neighbourhood of neighbourhoods. The culture, the connections, the appreciation for la belle vie. They have much to teach us crazy, busy, money-obsessed North Americans.

And then I had kids and my travels stopped. But I promised myself that one day I would bring my kids to meet the Mona Lisa. I got that opportunity. At least for one of my boys. Just last year. We went to the Louvre. It was busy. It was uncomfortable. It was a city in distress. And my heart broke. It was noisy, smelly, loud and I thought the people stressed. “Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose”. This time, it wasn’t about me. It was about a global crisis that we like to ignore. Climate change and populism is changing the face of the universe. And it has changed Paris. As we boarded the train to the next town, I was sad to think, au revoir Paris. We may never meet again.

That hurt in ways I cannot describe. On nights when I  cannot sleep, which happens more often than I’d like to admit, I used to decorate my imaginary apartment in Paris. On la rue Mouffetard, in the Cinquieme, a few stories up, close to the market. Small but smart. Bright and practical. I haven’t called on that for awhile. I do multiplication tables now.

Until today. Paris, je t’aime. And I’ll be back. Because Paris, as it turns out, I thought I needed you but you will need us. I owe you at least that much.