When you’re far away from a place you love when tragedy strikes, the feeling of impotence and loss has a nightmare quality. How do you reconcile your memories with the new reality?
I’ve had to sit for a while with Friday night’s carnage. Unlike the rest of my Facebook feed, I didn’t alter my picture with the colors of the French flag or with Jean Jullien’s iconic painting. I did speak to my mother multiple times a day. I lingered over dinner to speak with the kids, to go from a place of fear to a place of hope. But mostly, I just sat with all this horribleness, nursing it.
Paris is my birthplace. It’s the city where I took my first steps, where I learned to ride a bike, where I learned to take the metro by myself. My first working experiences were in France, first scooping ice cream at Haagen Daz in the Quartier Latin and later spending two summers working at American Express at the Place de la Concorde and in Rueil Malmaison, a nearby suburb. I lived in Paris until 5th grade, then returned in summers and vacation to visit my family from 11th grade through college. Those were lonely years for me in the city of lights, lacking high school friends, I would go clubbing with acquaintances, longing for my life in the States.
Paris is both the place of my childhood and the early years of my adulthood. My mother still lives in France, a few hours South in the country of the Loire Valley. After spending time at her house collecting berries in the woods, we tack on a few days to roam the streets of Paris as a family. We would spend entire days walking, arguing over the best crepe of the day.The kids have become masters at the art of “Flaner.”
Flaner: Se promener sans but, au hasard, pour le plaisir de regarder.
translation: “To walk without goal, for the joy of watching.”
The simple answer is that we must continue to revel in the French joie de vivre. We must continue to linger at meals on cafe terraces. We must order another bottle of wine. And most importantly, we must show kindness to all those who have been affected by the madness of ISIS, regardless of color, religion, or nationality.
Paris, je t’aime.