4/4/11

My Last Day

 Photo by Paul Ferney
By the end of my week in Paris, I started becoming an advocate of being alone. The "I am a rock, I am an island" state of mind. All this came to a head on my walk to the d'Orsay musuem alone. I watched a couple quietly argued over directions. It's on this side of the Siene, No this side! Maps stretched out, fingers pointing. I saw a bunch of teenage girls on one side of the street get their cameras out to take a picture. But then the light turned green, and their group was crossing before the girls had time to take a picture.  Ha! I thought. I'm alone! I don't have anyone stopping me from taking pictures. No one questioning whether I was going the right way (I wasn't!).

I'm sure I was looking for reasons to be happy to be alone, because I was walking in PARIS: The romance capital of the world. I'm sure there were people kissing all around me, but I didn't see them. Not when I was so happy by myself! Eventually I got the d'Orsay and found my favorite artwork. I stayed an hour and then decided to go to the Eiffel Tower. It was my last day in Paris, and I still hadn't taken the elevator to the top. On my way, I stopped in a clothing store because I liked the bathing suit in the window.

I walked for a while until I finally made it to the tower. As I waited in line for tickets to the top, I noticed the family in front of me. A mom, dad, and two daughters. The girls were around 6 and 8 years old. American. The older girl was looking all the way to the top of the tower. It really is quit tall. Taller than the pictures make it look. And that's when she did what kids do best: cry. Here it goes, I thought. A meltdown. A classic case of parents dragging their kids around to too many events on vacation and wearing their kids out. I've been there! I was still on my judgmental  individuality kick and started thinking things like: Kids ruin everything! Being alone is the best!

The parents of the crying girl waved me past so they wouldn't hold up the line as they figured out their plans. The younger sister was fine, so perhaps a debate was going whether to split up? Have one parent stay on the ground with the crier, while the other goes up with the happy child? I've been there too! But not today! I bought my ticket and turned around to see them still working things out.

That's when things changed for me. The mom was so nice to the crier, saying all the right things like, "It's ok, We can view it from here." And the dad too, "We didn't know you were scared. We don't have to go to the top." And the cryer, "Really? I thought you were going to be mad at me!" In that brief thoughtful moment, I saw them doing all the classic messy emotions that come with being with a family: Comfort. Guilt. Honesty. Love.

I am all to aware of being with a family or group can slow things down or make it impossible to do things.  For this family, it wasn't going up to the top of the Eiffel Tower, one of the quintessential things to do in Paris. Surprisingly for me, when I finally got to the top, it wasn't that great. The elevator was cramped solid with tourist. The viewing area was just as crowded. The line for the second elevator to go to the tippy top was so long that I didn't even bother to wait. After taking a quick view of the city, I found myself wanting to get back on the ground. And as I was squeezed onto the elevator going down, I realized that family didn't miss out on anything and that they actually benefited from staying together on the ground. I hope they got an ice cream and took a ride on the carousel. That's what I'll do when I bring my family to Paris, I thought.

And as I started to make plans for my next trip to Paris, this time with my family, I knew I was ready to go home to be with Rob and Ella and even those sloppy, crying, ghostbuster loving twins. I missed them.

10 comments:

  1. Beautifully put. I am traveling through Europe alone before my summer wedding and share those sentiments exactly. Proud moments of independence and freedom the first month have suddenly changed to wanting to share a baguette in the park or get lost for the thirtieth time with someone. Not that I would change a thing, but with the feelings of loneliness come a sweet surprise that tells me it is almost time to go home.

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  2. Fishing by myself does it for me. D

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  3. This post made me cry.

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  4. What a thoughtful post. Loved reading about the family, as well as the temporary glories of being alone for a bit. :)

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  5. What a thoughtful post. Loved reading about the family, as well as the temporary glories of being alone for a bit. :)

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  6. I just spent a week in Paris by myself in September. It was my first solo trip. Before I went, people kept saying, "you're so brave to go alone!" but it wasn't about that, it was about wanting to go, whether I had people to go with or not (and it was 'not'!) and I just went. I feared being lonely in the city of love, but I wasn't! I admired the affection all around me, I felt more calm sitting by myself with a glass of wine than I ever did at home. It was just lovely! And freeing. I had full control of what I did in Paris and when I did it. I'd recommend it to anyone!

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  7. THANK YOU FOR BEING BACK! I have checked this blog pretty much every day this summer being so worried you would quit bloggin. Hurraay!

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  8. Wonderful Post
    I'll deal with any guilt issues later that I cackle laugh reading the girl cried because she's about right where I'd be in that situation except I'd be the 60+ grandma crying like a little girl. Love it, that and the 3 frozen fudge pops I had for breakfast because that I can happily do without guilt.

    Think of being alone this way...if you are a blogger, the we are always with you.

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