I finally got back to work on my big writing project this afternoon. The laundry and dishes were done, my work pile was organized and ready for Monday morning, and my team lost their game, so I had no excuses left for not writing. I hadn’t worked on the project for several days, and I was beginning to feel guilty, yet again, about my lack of progress. Earlier in the week, I had used Veteran’s Day as an excuse, despite the fact that I’m not a veteran and in no way deserving of a day off. Thursday, I was exhausted from a poor night’s sleep and in no mood to write. On Friday night, rather than write, I watched the devastating news from Paris and went to a high school play. Saturday was Knowledge Bowl day – a high school team sport akin to Trivial Pursuit in which my son is a competitor and I had the opportunity to be a “reader,” the guy who asks the questions and decides if the offered answers are correct. After a full morning of erudition, and more unfolding news from Paris, I was too drained – mentally and emotionally – to write.
This afternoon, when I opened my laptop at my writing desk and, finally, opened up the file for my project – labeled “Europe” – I realized I had left off in the middle of a description of my family enjoying pizza as we sat on the grass of the Champs du Mars and watched the sparkling lights illuminating the Eiffel Tower. Ah, Paris.
Two years ago, my family, after five years of planning, took an extended trip to Europe. For all eight of us, except my brother, it was our first trip to the Continent, and it is an experience we will all treasure forever. Whether or not it ever gets published, the journal of our travels is the writing project I have worked on, and procrastinated over, for the last year. It may not be a compelling read for anyone outside the family, but I am compelled to write it down. My family is the reason I write, and our journey to Switzerland, France, and England is a story that, as the family’s official writer, I need to document in words.
We spent five days in Paris, based out of a hotel on rue Cler in the 7th arrondissement. Every morning, we would enjoy petit dejeuner at the cafe across from our hotel before trekking out into the blistering hot Paris summer to experience the sights, sounds, and tastes of Paris. Each evening we returned to rue Cler to enjoy a meal and a glass of wine, or, in my case, beer.
Rue Cler is the essence of Paris; the Paris you think of when you think of Paris. Our little street included a wine shop, cheese seller, butcher, candy store, three cafes, green grocer, fish monger, and a crepe vendor; all of Paris in three cobblestone blocks. Each morning, I sipped a double espresso and contemplated taking up smoking to better fit in. I fell in love with Paris in those five days.
Paris is hurting, so I am hurting. But my love is strong, and I express my love with words. Tonight, I wrote about visiting the fromagerie – the cheese shop – with my brother, and my trepidation in tasting their wares, as my palate is accustomed to nothing more exotic than cheddar, aside from one unfortunate experience with Limburger. I wrote about how, thanks to my brother’s confidence as a cheese lover and the kindness and generosity of the shopkeeper, we tasted several varieties and I walked out with a bleu, a mimilette, and, of course, a cheddar. I bought a loaf of crusty bread and feasted later that afternoon. Perfection. Those mornings and evenings on rue Cler taught me there are other ways to live. I learned to relax deeply, and enjoy the day. I watched the world go slowly by and appreciated the little moments, like the time a new bride and groom and their entourage walked down rue Cler after a long night of festivities and passed us as we ate our breakfast.
I will keep writing about Paris. I will write so we can remember the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Sainte-Michelle, Musee d’Orsay, the Opera House, and the Louvre. But mostly, I will write so I will never forget rue Cler and the waitresses at the cafe serving us double espresso and cocoa, the shopkeeper offering me a piece of bleu cheese, the bride and groom beginning their life together, and the rest of our friends in the City of Light. Je suis Paris.