Since childhood, I’d dreamed of going to Europe, particularly France. However, when that dream became a reality last spring, I found my beatific imaginings of a Parisian holiday initially accosted and crushed, like my body, by two Metro pickpockets. In truth, I was shaken by the incident. But oddly, my aversion to further Metro travel led me to a place more precious than any envisioned in childhood dreams.
My trip to France transpired shortly after the country had suffered a series of national tragedies. Like the plywood and lock laden bridges that spanned the Seine, Paris seemed to be under a great weight. As I walked along the city’s streets, encountering both beautiful sites and armed guards, I found myself not only drawn to the lovely wisteria covered facades, but also the torn, graffiti clad posters that punctuated my path. Their marred imagery seemed to capture the beautiful ferocity of a besieged city. Later, those images, along with others I procured in Belgium and the Netherlands, emerged in my creative work.
Recently, as I sorted through some lovely French ephemera, I began reflecting upon my time in Paris. I recalled the small, determined sparrow that nibbled at my tarte à l'orange, the tiny terrier that played fetch along the Seine, and the fragile pink blossoms that swirled about me at Notre-Dame.
Looking back, I believe my travels abroad caused me to travel within. And now, I find myself wondering if that childhood yearning was related to something other than a faraway land; for a Parisian boulevard became my yellow brick road, a place to confront my fears and reaffirm what I valued most. It seems the woman was led by the child, granted yet another glimpse into the world’s unassailable beauty and a truer understanding of the sweet, delectable ordinariness of everyday life.