Saturday, June 21, 2008

My Paris Map

Paris, the city of lights. My daughter, Norabelle, is there for the entirety of her junior year of college. We went to visit her in January, renting an apartment for our ten day stay. It was in a five story building on Rambuteau, a block or so from the Pompidou Center and near the edge of the Marais.

This is Norabelle's world, all the more so since she speaks the language and I don't. She knows her way around. These circumstances dispensed with the dynamic of the parent being the one who holds the knowledge and the child as the one who learns. We saw all manner of compelling, historic places and ate great foods in Paris, but the thing that I feel will be a deathbed memory for me was walking a dog.

Norabelle has a room in an apartment with a woman who has grown children and takes in a student each year. We walked the twenty minutes or so from our place to hers, as the dog, Saba, needed her evening walk and no one else was home. I knew how to get there from the map she’d drawn us a couple nights prior, but this time learned shortcuts and side streets with Norabelle leading the way. We got there, walked up the few flights of stairs, with Saba audibly scrambling about, relieved when she heard the key in the door. It was drizzling so lightly that it required no rain gear, but gave a shiny glow to the night lit streets. We walked around the block, just Norabelle and me and the dog on her leash.

Life’s ordinary moments allow for our personal emotional overlay to give them their meaning, whereas extraordinary events are generally defined by their own particular dramatic arc. I find that it's not the extraordinary things that stay with me and move me more and more through the years, but the ordinary things. The small map Norabelle drew for us to get to her apartment is now in a big envelope labeled “Paris, 2008.” Going for a nighttime walk on some of those same streets with my daughter and a little longhaired white dog created potent images that will flicker in my mind for the rest of my days.

(Originally published in MungBeing magazine #19, April, 2008)