After a hurried holiday breakfast and a few lingering embraces with the rest of our family, my daughter and I headed for the airport and boarded a waiting plane to Paris – traditional Christmas celebrations would have to wait until next year. I’ve always wanted to experience life in Paris during the holidays, and a plan slowly came together which captivated our daydreams for months until the sudden jarring news of the November terrorist attacks. After a brief pause amidst real concerns, we continued with our plans, an affirmation that life must continue in the face of adversity. After all, we will always need this iconic French city, and now Paris needed us back.
A strongly persistent tail wind agreed, pushing our plane forward and swiftly delivering us to our destination ahead of schedule in the pre-dawn hours to our beloved city of light. The full moon resting low in the sky guided our driver easily through the streets still twinkling with holiday decorations and deposited us curbside to a vacant Place Vendôme and a sleepy hotel desk manager. As we waited for our room, we didn’t understand that by stepping into the balmy pre-dawn night we were making an unspoken and unexpected agreement with the travel gods that we’d be up and very awake for the next 24 hours. Giddy and energized, we greeted the day with a few other travel vagabonds, and wandered the streets for hours until our dinner at the Eiffel tower and the ride to the top finale. It was the start of a week to remember, seven days between Christmas and New Year’s, a welcome return to a city we love and I think especially this time, a city that truly loved us back.
Our week in Paris was a meandering, window shopping, café lingering, schedule-free visit of sorts, and there were days that no cameras were allowed. A see-with-your eyes only rule was temporarily instated until a visit to lovely Montmartre. The small artist enclave once surrounded by vineyards is of course now a popular tourist destination, especially on beautiful sunny winter afternoons. This hilltop village is like being on top of the world, the vast views almost begging one to spread their wings and fly. Once grounded, the labyrinth of crooked streets come alive with interesting street scenes begging for capture.
The icing on my Parisian travel cake will always be the captivating Eiffel Tower, and upon reflection, it made perfect sense that on New Years Eve all roads seemed to lead to the Champs de Mars. United in purpose, the slow march from the Champs Élysée with thousands of other revelers will be forever etched in my memory. Strangers became friends, united by the pull of the great structure in our need to celebrate a night of new beginnings, an optimism normally taken for granted. The toned-down light show was more exciting than the greatest of firework displays and the exuberant cheers and happy chorus of voices is a sweet sound that I often hear in my daydreams. Cheers for happy memories, and for now, a belated Bonne Année to all.
On Wednesday, September 23rd, the sun’s rays began to shine directly over the Earth’s equator marking the beginning of the Autumnal Equinox in the northern hemisphere. Fall’s arrival reminded us here in the U.S. that the days are growing cooler, that it’s time to dig out sweaters, find the forgotten rakes, and to pick fresh apples and start baking them in pies. It’s the season of leaf peeping, pumpkin carving and cheering through hours of football. It is a time for counting blessings and gathering our families to celebrate all that is good in life, for cherishing our friends and remembering those who passed. This year, remarkably, the sun’s rays also guided a humble man of the cloth to our country, a Pope named Francis, who taught us that kindness and humility, acceptance, and caring for those less fortunate than us remains our daily priority. This year, when the sun crossed the equator, it delivered hope.
Yesterday, our daughter shared that the L.A. area was finally drenched with much-needed rain, and then of course came the funny stories. Everyone walking around campus soaking wet because no one owns an umbrella, athletes puddle surfing on the wet practice fields, the freeways coming to a standstill because water was falling from the sky. You get the picture. The thought of rain quenching the parched area inexplicably made me miss the ocean and the balmy breezes of Southern California, and the people who live there who are wise to enjoy the natural beauty that surrounds them. And of course hearing from her made me miss her very much, our little firecracker, who when she walks through a room, laughter isn’t far behind.
New seasons, new beginnings. Warm days, star-filled nights and hope. Beaches beckon, families gather, food grown fresh finds its way to table. Hammocks are hung, porches swept, flags curl in the breeze. The sun rises, memories are made and tucked away. We celebrate our fathers, cherish our friends and honor those passed. We reflect. Happy summer, happy fathers. Be safe.
It was just over four years ago when our son made his decision to attend Indiana University, a large public research institution in the charming mid-western college town of Bloomington. And it was five years ago during our student tour, that I remember standing at the entrance to the oldest part of the campus from our place under the graceful limestone arches known as the Sample Gates. A few years later we gathered for parents weekend and cheered on the football team, met roommates and friends, and celebrated university life. Time marched on, the distance between the school and our home is several hours, young men aren’t in need of their parents as often, and the visits to the Bloomington campus ceased, until a few weeks ago. With graduation looming, I heard the call of this beautiful mid-western university and felt an instinctive pull toward our son to spend a last visit together, cement graduation plans and to dream of the future. I met housemates and friends, celebrated university life and embraced the instinctive moment of motherhood when I knew that everything would be, alright. Before I drove back to the airport, I stood again at the Sample Gates and imagined a young man from Atlanta, Georgia tossing his graduation cap from the sunroof of his car as he turned left at the limestone gates for the last time, driving towards a friendly fading sun who lightly whispered a future of love, laughter, hope and promise.
The sunset goodbye ritual.
I like your car.
The last ride.
Our family has a seaside sunset ritual when we’re preparing to travel back to Atlanta after a visit with our daughter on the West Coast. Where better to spend our last few hours together in a place we love with a host of colorful characters. See you next time!
Friday, February 21, 2104 5:38 PM.