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French Memories

 

In May of 2006, right after I retired, I treated myself to a month-long stay in Europe. It was my fourth and longest trip, and I meant to make it count. My son was living in Paris and knew every nook and cranny of every arondissement! He was also the one who got me hooked on Croissants aux Amandes (almond croissants). I remember becoming nearly faint with longing, the first time we visited a real French patisserie. It felt like coming home, almost a spiritual experience. But then, I’m such a creature of my passions, and French cuisine has always been one of them. Now I had weeks of delicious French food ahead of me. I’ve heard it said that anticipation is 14% of the pleasure, but I think they’re underestimating here.

One of the best things I had learned from my earlier trips was that as long as I did a lot of walking, I could eat whatever I wanted and always arrive back home exactly one pound lighter than when I left. And walk we did. Paris has a most excellent transportation system, but when the destinations were reasonably close, and sometimes even when they were not, we walked. I found that even when we’d need to take three different lines to get where we were going, we could still put in a lot of miles simply walking from one train line to another.

Believe it or not, the signs are all in French, and many of the people you encounter will not have even one word of English, no matter how loudly and distinctly you phrase your questions. My son speaks the French of Paris, which he had studied for years, so he can read the signs and make his needs known. I am lazy, my French vocabulary is roughly equivalent to that of an 18-month-old French infant and my sense of direction is, as it were, too small to be seen by the naked eye. Suffice it to say that I rarely go out alone.

I do, however, remember the first time I ventured out on my own. My son had been to the Monoprix (a grocery chain) but had forgotten to buy something. I volunteered to run the errand. It was only about six blocks and I wanted to stop by an ATM near the store and get some Euros. He patted me on the head and pointed me in the right direction. I enjoyed my solitary stroll and my uneventful trip. I went to the ATM and turned to enter the store, and there was my son, who said he had remembered something else he’d forgotten and decided to go get it. I finally got him to admit that he’d shadowed me all the way, to make sure I was all right. We had a good laugh, on him, and went home for our evening aperitif.

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A Lady in Waiting

Yearning on a grand scale

Everything is still, the hush so deep

It has a presence all its own,

Which makes it much more poignant,

As I stand at my darkened window,

Observing you through your lighted one.

I see you silently rip at each other,

With angry and hurtful words

You will never forget or forgive.

Like using a sledgehammer

To destroy a fragile butterfly.

* * * * *

I remember when your hearts were glad.

My love and I held hands and smiled

And agreed that you were among the lucky,

The ones like us, who would go the distance,

Whose love would stand the test of time.

Now my love is gone, taken away in the

Space between one heartbeat and the next.

So I pinned my hopes on the two of you

And watched from my lonely vantage point

As your steps began to falter and your

Loving hearts turned colder and indifferent

Till there was nothing left but bitterness.

* * * * *

Now there is a new young couple

Moving into the house next door

There is something about them

Which causes my heart to hope again

As I prepare to live vicariously

Once more, through their loving hearts.

* * * * *

Oh, my darling, how I yearn to be

With you once more, and I know that

I will see you, and I do believe it,

Only let it be soon.