It’s All Coming Back to Me Now

Photo of the Eiffel Tower on the Seine. It is a cloudy day.

I was 15 when I first went to Paris. It was the summer between my sophomore and junior years, on a trip with my high school French club. My brother, French teacher and his wife were among the chaperones. Aside from being the first time that I was sexually harassed (at least twice, actually, having my butt pinched as I stood in the entranceway to the mall at the Louvre and then in a shoe store, where the salesman tried to tell me how much he’d love for me to take him back to America and would love for me to come with him to see Paris– it was a lot, but that’s not what this post is about), it was a pretty magical trip.

My mother, for her part, took a trip to the East Coast of the United States to visit friends near Schenectady, where I was born, whom she hadn’t seen in years. I was happy for me and happy for her that she was coming back to a life where she finally had both the financial and mental freedom to travel and to send me to places that we could only afford to dream about when I was little and she was struggling.

As a single mom who hadn’t taken care of the finances previously, she had to figure out how to support a little girl, a college student, a car note, and a house note, and how to do so navigating multiple jobs. It meant we didn’t have much time.

I had no way of knowing that we still did not have much time.

This would be the last summer before my mother died.

In late September/ early October, I returned to Paris. I had come back to France in college, spending a year abroad in Bordeaux and then building relationships that had me come back every six months until I married, and then not again from just after my son’s birth to last year. France was still a magical place for me. It was a place where I was home even though I was not home. It was a place my mother’s death did not haunt me or follow me. It was a place where I felt free from who I was back home in the states.

And when I returned last year, it was all of that again for me. When I returned from my trip, my daughter asked me if I would take her. I promised her that some day I would.

She replied cheerily, “Great, so how about this summer?”

“This summer seems a little soon,” I responded.

“Why?” she asked.

I paused. I didn’t really have an answer for her. My answer typically would have been that she is too young to “get the most” out of the trip. But really, is she? I am good at saving airline and hotel points. I imagined (in October) that the pandemic would be in a better place (if it were now, I may have had a different answer). At any rate, I investigated points conversions, bought our tickets and soon, we will be off.

It is the summer between my son’s sophomore and junior years.

My father died last year, unexpectedly, and ironically when I had returned to France.

I will be department chair in the fall, returning to a 12-month position.

There are many transitions.

I am grateful for these moments, this time, this trip.

I am grateful for the space to take it, and the time to devote to my little girl.

I know that time is fleeting, that it is precious.

And, I know that, in taking time with my girl, I am also healing myself, the little me who wanted so desperately all the time she could get with her mother, as if she knew somehow that time was short.

Time and energy are precious. Mine is so often, so easily, given away.

I am grateful for the gift of time to make memories, for the space of my life to step away.

And the space to come back to myself again.

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