Wednesday, May 31, 2017


(The prologue to this post is rather long. If you're not in a reflective mood, do move straight to the photos!)

So often, the end of a trip is very final. The minute you let yourself into your home, you are in your groove again and though you retain your fond memories (or un-fond, if it was a trip from hell), they come and go. It's as if your attention is always on the present and the future. Past events -- well, they're in the past. True, you may be a changed person, but you don't think about that much. You think about what you need to do to get through the next day and the day after.

Yet this trip -- the family trip to Paris -- was somehow different. Maybe it's because the apartment was so small that we were always sharing the same space -- there were no escapes! You really have to like your family (and I do really like my family) to engage in this kind of travel.

But this would not cause me to think back so much about a trip. For that -- I blame Snowdrop. Being with her, and especially being with her alone for so long really stirred me up a bit -- both before the trip (wondering about how it would all play out) and now after.

My daughter, who is the quintessential busy young mom, is a pretty tired person these days. I am always marveling how taxed young families are, until I remember that I was that way too way back when. In fact, when my older daughter was just a few months older than Snowdrop, I was pregnant with my younger one, attending law school, moving to our first ever house, and planning a three month trip to England where her dad had work to do for the summer. So I vaguely remember having ten things going in my life, all at the same time. But now, in Paris, I really wanted to help my girl and so I took on the project of keeping Snowdrop busy so that my daughter could rest.

All this to say that I spent a lot of time thinking about families and little kids and of course, about Snowdrop's reactions to things she experienced in Paris.

When you're a grandparent, it's not a do-over: you don't get to play the parent again (thank goodness!!). But you have this fantastic opportunity not only to be the helpful grandparent, but to see in real time parenting done in new ways, though always with a touch of the old, because your kids are going to pass on some of your habits, whether deliberately or inadvertently. It's a fascinating thing and I got a front row seat these last ten days.

And I'm still thinking about it. Because this is the beautiful thing about being older: you get a perspective: your own, as matched against a newer, fresher one.

Then of course, there was the Snowdrop in Paris part. How she experienced being in France, how she took to this very different world, full of the chaos of a big city and one that functions very differently than what she is used to -- this was just thrilling to witness and I've been thinking a lot about it since.

But too, I am happy to be home. When Snowdrop and I stepped out of the airport (her parents had taken a cab home, because we could not all fit in one car with all our luggage), into the cool night air and Ed came towards us, I understood how much I do lean on him and how suddenly even carrying the little girl felt very light indeed. (And though it was after 10 p.m., which would have been 5 a.m. by her Paris clock, Snowdrop chatted away happily, informing him that his beard looked very white and his hair looked white too, and oh, isn't that the moon, and yes, she rode a pony in Paris!)

This morning, I wake up to a cool breeze coming in from the outside (just in the 50sF -- so about 12C). But the sun is brilliant! Ed tells me it had rained a lot when I was away and so when I step out to survey the garden, I am not surprised to see that everything has grown voluptuous and dense.

And of course, the colors are now very much taking hold in the flower beds! June is when the perennials start to define the outdoor spaces here. So these are my views on this last day of May:

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It's all about the peonies and irises right now! (Well, maybe a few others too: I see a yellow false indigo in the forefront here...)

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The flowering pots of annuals still provide that abundance of shape, color and form...

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... but truly, the eye turns toward the iris and peony.

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No matter where you look. And each year, this show takes my breath away! This is the reward for months of outdoor work!

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Despite the cool temps, Ed and I eat a lovely and leisurely breakfast on the porch.

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And then it's the same old... Only actually not very same at all, because, well, I've got this Paris trip still on my mind. I grocery shop, thinking about the fruits I had purchased just a few days ago at the Buci market. And then I pick up Snowdrop, who, despite yesterday's late arrival, made it to school pretty much on time today. It's not as if her parents had to rouse her from deep sleep -- she seems to have fallen back instantly to her regular schedule. The teachers affirmed this, telling me she had shown no sign of tiredness or jet lag.

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She is excited to see me and instantly clamors to go adventuring!

As we walk the neighborhood and she points which way I should go, I talk a little about Paris and she listens, and I can tell it's a little unreal for her. The memories are definitely vivid, but somehow they don't fit into this landscape. Still familiar, but remote at the same time.

I give her a bowl of cherries (and other favorite fruits)...

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... and we pick up a cherry scone at the coffee shop. Coincidence that it should be cherry. But still, it brings back images of, well, cherries in Paris.

We go to the park. Snowdrop had missed her last session on the park swings in the Luxembourg Gardens. She gets her fill today. (The wind is so brisk that she is happy to keep a pony tail in place. At least for our time by the lesser lake.)

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A climb up the lifeguard chair...

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... for a munch on the cherry scone...

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... and then I take her home. Snowdrop's mom asked me if I wanted a little time to rest after the trip and though rest isn't exactly in the cards, I do have stuff to catch up with and so I agreed to be replaced for the better part of the afternoon by a babysitter.

I spend the rest of the day in the garden, weeding, staking, attending.

And of course, I have my breaks. On the porch, for example (with cuttings of fallen stems from the garden)...

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... reflecting. With a smile.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

leaving Paris

It is our last morning in Paris. Our flight leaves blissfully late -- in the afternoon, so there is no rush. I'm up a few minutes earlier than usual, but that's because I want to walk at a slow pace. Oh, it's not much of a walk, that morning stroll for the croissants, but I want to savor it. Not because I'm going to miss Paris, but because I'm going to miss Paris with my family.

It's not a simple wake up for the neighborhood. I smell the smoke. There's a fire in one of those old buildings and the streets are shut off to traffic while the firemen with their firetruck (so much smaller than ours back home!) do their work.


I watch for a minute. It's all so quiet, really. It mustn't be a threatening fire. A handful of neighborhood people watch, but most go about their business. Like these guys -- one munching on a pain au chocolat from Paul's, the others just keeping him company. That's a phrase that should forever be attached to France: people keep each other's company.


For the visitors and cafe habitues -- it's too early. Just before 8, the tables are set, but no one is sitting down just yet. (Here's a cafe with a somewhat different sidewalk decor.)


Alright. Time to head back, croissants and pains au chocolat in their little paper sack, still warm, always delicious.

One last view down the street that I've followed to the bakery... It's a pretty set of blocks.


Inside our apartment, no one is stirring yet. But Paris isn't sleeping anymore. There is that morning hum. People attending to their daily stuff. Kids, escorted to school... (I have to believe this mom or, horrors, grandma?? -- is on her way to work after the drop off. You do not dress this well for school drop off! Do you??)


And now the young family is up. Snowdrop is so excited for breakfast and I just smile and smile at her love of this routine which, of course, is such a grand routine in my book!


The parents finish packing. Snowdrop knows we're leaving. She keeps herself busy, but her talk is all about the airplane, the airport, the whole travel shebang. (But when asked at the airport -- are you excited to be going home? She blurts out -- I want to stay here!)

Finally. Suitcases out, we leave the keys on the counter and shut the door behind us. The little one does her last walk down the spiral staircase...


... and we begin our rather long walk to the Luxembourg train stop. (Ah, here I am again, photographing my goodbye to the gardens which, heretofore, will always be in my mind Snowdrop's Luxembourg Gardens. I note the chestnuts that bordered the statue have been cut down. They weren't thriving. I suppose it was a necessary step.)


From here, we'll catch the commuter train to the airport.

I so applaud the decision to take the train! It's nearly a half hour walk to the train station and we have way too much luggage, as happens when traveling with a young one, but the train is always my way in and out of Paris -- both for its cheapness and for the speed. Oh, it brings up the usual Paris nuisances: we have to navigate lots of stairs with suitcases and a stroller. But we're game! And once we're on the train, slowly, the cars empty out and we sit comfortably for the 35 minute ride to the airport. And Snowdrop is so excited to be whizzing along on the railway tracks!


The airport is for once really tame. I do not know why. I've caught this flight before and there would be tumultuous crowds. Not today. We zip through passport controls, zip through security and I think by the time we're by the gates, everyone wonders why we're here so early (a whole hour before boarding). Because you can't assume it'll always this easy, of course!

(Walking to the gate...)


And now the boarding begins. Snowdrop just loves to look out and admire the airplanes. And I admire her. Last year, she was grand for a while, but by the time we were done with the check in procedures, she dissolved into a mess of tears. Not this year. No, not this year.


The flights are the best kind: uneventful. I volunteer to sit with the little girl after the first hour, thinking she surely will sleep, as it overlaps so much with her bedtime. But after a brief nap, she remains awake, at times half watching the movie Frozen, at other times munching snacks  and chatting up gaga. Isn't that we all do when we travel with family? A little of this, a little of that and before you know it the eight or nine hour flight is behind us and we're killing time at the next aiport and then finally you're home.

I am convinced Snowdrop has the travel gene. Her dad has it, her gaga has it. Her excitement is, of course my excitement. And so Paris now has her mark all over it. My best buddy made sure of that.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Paris, with family, continued

I'll try to be low on words today. Just pictures. You're welcome! (wink)

A morning walk to Buci Street, watching Paris get moving again after a very long weekend of closed schools and quiet streets.


At Paul's the croissants and pains au chocolat just keep on coming from the ovens. Always warm, always delicious. They must sell thousands of them each day.


Things I wish I had taken the time for: popping into this new neighborhood darling: a pastry shop that sells only choux pastries (cream puff type, only small). Closed today.


Snowdrop is just waking when I return. She discovers a good view out a heretofore closed window.


And she discovers how delicious apple juice is in France. She never drinks juice at home, but here, we indulged her.


We get ready to go out.


Waiting patiently for us...


So happy to hear that the merry-go-round will be in the morning part of this day!


But first, mom pauses in a dress store...


How many times have Snowdrop and I crossed the river to ride round and round in that Tuillerie Gardens carousel?


She spies it, runs to it...


Hurry up, gaga and mommy!


We have extra tickets today. Determined to ride the girl out. I can't even begin to list what she chose. For sure airplane and motorcycle, and this chariot, with mommy.


I have the luxury of sitting it out and just waving madly each time she spun around. (A timed release selfie.)


You'd think she had enough of spinning. No. She wants to pop into the playground and do this.


Each time you visit a place, you learn something new about it. I had no idea that they used goats at the Tuillerie Gardens to cut grass!


And how this girl has grown in Paris! Her behavior, her expectations, her understanding and cooperation have just been soaring. People always notice and respond with encouraging praise.


After lunch (at Cesar's again, because there were free tables and the pizza is good), I take her to the grocery store: we're short on milk. I charge her with the task of getting us some.


Walking home now, but with a stop at St Germain des Pres. A side chapel:


... and up those circular steps to our apartment.


Cherries made into earrings!


Evening. At once lovely, because it's less hot, but too, nostalgic, because the hours are quickly ticking away. We return to Madison tomorrow.

We do not do anything that you would call spectacular and exciting. Unless you're me: in my view, a stroll through the Jardin du Luxembourg is spectacular and exciting.

This is the first time that the entire young family comes along to the park...


Snowdrop so wants to go on the swings, but for some inexplicable reason, they're closed. Oh, the disappointment! And oh, the recovery! (We go to the playground instead -- a first for her daddy so she gets to show him around her most favorite corners.)


Other kids in the park...


Hurrying now, because we have a dinner reservation...


Alright, dinner. Now, this is a curious thing because I am the one who has been reticent about taking the little one out to special restaurants. I worry too much about how it all will play out. But my apartment owner suggested a really spectacular Italian place where the owners are especially kind to families. (Ciasa Mia in the 5th)

We go.

Oh, it's work. I spend a goodly amount of time drawing pictures for Snowdrop of scenes from our days together. Upside down. I'm not especially great at art, but still, she loves these sketches!


And when her pasta dish arrives -- tortellini stuffed with fish in a broth with asparagus -- she is the perfect diner, enjoying every last morsel.

The owners, whose son is just five days younger than Snowdrop, are impressed. Sure, their kids eat good foods, but to sit through a very late evening meal for two hours and be content? This is unusual.


And we all beam and Snowdrop beams and we leave with smiles and kind words, but I want to say that this is travel with a child: you work hard to make her interested and happy, but then the child works even harder at adapting, learning, fitting in.

Yes, Snowdrop has grown hugely in Paris. And so have I.

(Tomorrow we travel. I'll try to post, but we do not return home until very late. In any case, my next post will be from Madison.)