Paris Can’t Wait. That’s what my friend, Jennifer, named the Pinterest board she created for me. Madame Sparrow has been my friend for sixteen years since I met her at our middle school. She had lived in France for twelve years and taught French to our middle schoolers. Over the past months she’s been educating me and inspiring me. Now it’s time for the student to use what the teacher has given her.
My husband, David, and I make it to our hotel in a dazed state, mostly unable to sleep on the flight. I’m glad he’s with me for this leg of my journey, not only for time together but for the security of not traveling alone. David’s been brushing up on French phrases, and I see his pleasure at reviving his language skill from years ago, a stellar French student in college. We set out in search of strong coffee and fresh air.
I’ve had a feeling, the ‘still small voice of God’ speaking to me that has said to be patient, present, and to just absorb what’s going on. I want to enjoy being with my husband, and I want him to enjoy France. There’s always a pressure when you go to a new place to cram in too much activity. I’ll let him take the lead now, and try to curb my tendency to just take off.
We start out in the neighborhoods near our hotel. I find it hard to focus on following the map because I’m awestruck by the beautiful architecture, the ancient buildings that are dappled in early afternoon light. We make several navigational errors trying to find Luxemburg Gardens and right when we find the entrance, David has a call from a colleague. He moves to a spot under the trees to talk while I admire a statue flanked by flowers. I think to myself, Really, you can’t leave him alone. He’s a psychologist and in our thirty-nine years of marriage work calls have frequently interrupted our time. I feel my irritation rise and then I remember– Stay present, be patient.
The call doesn’t take a long time. One of the adolescents he works with had to be seen for an emergency evaluation by the colleague. He’s very conscientious, so responsible. Part of the reason I married him.
The gardens are lovely in the mid-afternoon light. So many statues with plantings in multiple hues and textures that enhance the total picture. We stroll up and down the neighborhoods with buildings that have tall shuttered windows and interesting balconies. We hear tolling of bells and realize we’ve made it to the Cathedral of Notre Dame. We enter the worship area to hear the mass in French. While I don’t understand the words, it’s lovely to hear the passionate words flow beautifully in the native tongue.
We’re both tired with aching feet from concrete and cobblestones. I’m ready to eat and to try a cafe’ near the hotel. But David wants to stop in a shop in the Latin Quarter to find a beret. Do we have to do this now, I think, my hunger alarm sounding and my patience used up. He tells me a man who runs their office cleaning service has asked him to find a navy beret, size large. David searches that store and another and finds a beret. He is happy that his quest has been satisfied and I am happy that I have remembered David’s kind and generous heart.
I have benefitted from Madame Sparrow’s introduction to Paris, and from the reminders on this journey with my husband of some of the reasons I fell in love with him forty years ago.