... was the first time I saw Paris. It took me fifty years to realize a dream.
Four years of high-school French with a fiery little nun, Sister Zita Marie, had planted the seed. By senior year, we were only allowed to speak en Francais in the classroom. It was a heady time of hope and vision. We wrote glowing biographies of Jacqueline Kennedy, the elegantly bilingual First Lady, seated at the side of our handsome President. Refrains of Camelot filled our innocent young minds. Somehow, teenaged illusions of mythic kingdoms and immortal gods provided the perfect backdrop for our newly "crowned" First Couple. They, and we, were invincible. Jackie took Paris by storm, charming DeGaulle. The French were in love. But, then again, aren't the French always in love? French class was the perfect place to nurture fairytale dreams of romance and happy endings. Paris, the City of Light and Love.
Sister Zita fanned the flame. Looking back, I am certain that the good sister had quite a history of her own. She, who warned us not to wear the color red nor patent-leather shoes, was a passionate woman at heart. I can see that now. It was just hard to picture any nun, almost totally covered in black, as a real woman. I suspect that my teacher had at least walked along the Left Bank with a lover before she took up her vocation. There was just too much life in the lady to contain her to rosary beads and the color black. Seriously, how did she deduce that "red excites men"? Oh, Sister, you were imparting much more than a French vocabulary lesson in that classroom!
Camelot crumbled on a sunny day in Dallas. Dreams and illusions of youth, romance, and enduring love dissolved in the wake of gunshots. Later, other assassinations would follow. As children of the '60s, we paid a terrible price for our coming of age.
Yet, my desire to see, to experience Paris, endured. It remained a distant possibility through many years of marriage, children, divorce, and new directions.
It wasn't until I found a group of younger friends online, that my trip to Paris became a reality. Oui, I spent one glorious week en Paris last November. It seems that some dreams do come true.
Look for a Paris Retrospective, coming soon!