We’ve returned from a journey to Istanbul, and traveling to another great, distant city reminded me of a trip Jeff and I took, over twenty years ago, now.
My husband and I had finally made it to Paris. “Finally,” because I suppose I’d always wanted to see Paris, one more of the great cities of the world. We had had one trip to Paris cancelled at the last moment when my sister’s partner died unexpectedly in Hawaii, and so, at the very last minute, we changed our plans to be present to her as she took care of the details of his death. We had a small, meaningful memorial with a small group of his friends on his little boat in a harbor in Pearl City. During our few days there, we had lunch with the father of our nephews, my sister’s ex-husband, and I turned to Jeff at one moment and said: “we’ll always have Paris.” Indeed.
A few months later, we made the trip.
We stayed at a lovely old hotel with our room a walk up on the third floor, its windows overlooking the Seine across the way. We arrived so tired from our always-busy lives that we almost slept through the first full day! The front desk called us to ask that the maid be allowed to clean a bit in our room, so we dressed and made our way down the stairs and into the waiting city – Paris!
I’ve always loved cities. I expect I’ve always loved cities because I grew up in the city, and feel comfortable with cities. I have good sense about what places are safe – and those that are not. I love the country, of course, but my first love is city life.
The next morning, I was ready to go out from our hotel before Jeff, and so, we agreed to meet at a cafe on the corner, a short walk from our hotel. I walked to the cafe, ordered a latte and croissant, and sat there, enjoying the morning, star-struck in a way: “here I am, in Paris!”
After a few minutes, I got up to walk along the Seine. I watched as vendors set up their booths, walking toward Notre Dame, in the distance. I walked and walked, and I found my way to a little known museum dedicated to those who lost their lives in the Holocaust. As I left the site, I looked over at Notre Dame, got my bearings, and walked slowly back to the hotel. Before I arrived at the hotel, I saw Jeff in the distance. He saw me and walked toward me, appearing frantic. “Where were you???” he asked. “I was walking.”
Later, he told me that he had been beside himself with worry! He’d involved the front desk clerk that I was not to be found at the cafe where we’d agreed to meet, and he enlisted the clerk to help him. The clerk had assured him – again and again – that I was okay. This was a Jeff I did not know well – he’s by far the calmer of the two of us. What he couldn’t understand was that I hadn’t kept the date.
When we ended our trip with a dinner a few days later, we offered our simple, repetitive prayer at dinner, remembering the ups and downs of this trip. We end every trip this way, reflecting on what comes to mind, what stands out in memory. With each memory comes the response: “And God was with you.” Jeff mentioned the exciting morning he’d had, waiting on the street for me to keep our date for our first morning in Paris. I began to laugh, to giggle. I didn’t understand.
After all, I’d simply been enjoying the morning in Paris! And here we were – the trip almost ending!