I was talking to my employer today about how her little boy was dressed, very French, blue short pants, brown boots, a white shirt and a little red checked ascot/bib.
Then I realized that I am just shy of two weeks of my return home from my Paris experiment.
I got two messages today from friends in Paris asking me when I was coming back.
But, I will be back.
Sometimes the ache that is in my heart is a hard one to describe, it is a mix of nostalgia, soft regret, and the dull lash of the discordant whip I thrash myself with on the occasion, because, I did not make it happen. I the all powerful, all knowing, all important, I.
But as I was remembering, it was also with a kind of realization that the Paris I go back to will be the Paris of reality, should I choose to return. Rather than the fantasy that I went in search of.
It will be one in which I make a much harder resolve to go legally, to go to school for real, if that’s how I am going to go, really do it.
I certainly have the connections now and the know how.
Much better than I did last time.
I will go also knowing that I take myself with me.
In my roll-on luggage, in my bike box, I come with.
My employer has had a house guest all week, a sweet woman on her own for the first time in San Francisco. I have gotten to give her all sorts of suggestions and it was nice to be the go to person when she had a question about where to meander to next.
Yesterday she took the ferry across the bay, first stopping at the Ferry Building for the Farmer’s Market. Today it was a trip to the DeYoung with a pit stop at a cafe, FlyWheel on Stanyan, that I had recommended.
I like that I get out and see things and pay attention and go places.
I like that I went to Paris.
I love that I went.
I don’t like the pride, vanity, and lack of humility that I have beaten myself up with over the last year for not having done it perfectly.
The constant seeking for perfection, in this country and that country, so that I can prove to you, who? Not really certain who this mythical “you” is, how wonderful and perfect and amazing I am, and now please love me unconditionally.
You know the only person who is capable of loving me unconditionally is myself.
So, I choose that today.
To let my process be what it is and be really ok with that.
I told my employer’s house guest about how the Parisian children don’t have school on Wednesday’s and so Wednesdays were always a day I could find work, in fact, they were the most sought after day and the day I made the most money.
It was the day I would take the train in from the 9th out to Corbevoie, which was just out past La Defense. It was a long commute and sometimes, often times, in the beginning of the job, it was dark when I left and just becoming light when I got there.
But I always got there.
The little girl I took care of in Corbevoie was named Nenna and she was six.
I tutored her in English.
Mostly, though, we just played and watched videos and sang silly songs, we went to the park a year ago today, it was our last day together.
The next week I was going to be leaving for Rome and the week following I would be leaving for the U.S. again.
Our last day together was really pretty and warmer than it had been, last year the winter was long and dreary, cold, wet, it snowed a lot, and the Spring was so long in coming, but that day, it was sunny, and we went to that park near her house and she ran around while I watched the other children run about and kept to myself on a bench off to the side of the park.
I am a bit of an anomaly here in San Francisco as a nanny.
I was even more so over in Paris.
But I was good and Nenna loved me and I her.
I also had some sweet charges that I still recall fondly in the 7th–Adele and her brother Cole–who were both precocious and smart and fun. I loved Adele, Cole was a handful and I got to be fond of him, but his sister had my heart the first time we met and it was difficult saying goodbye to her.
My last night with Adele she stayed cuddled in my lap the entire night I was there, until bed time when I tucked her and Cole into their bed–a bunk bed–and they both sat in my lap and we all read books together.
Their’s was the home that I made my forlorn phone calls home to, the parents had a carrier that allowed them free phone calls anywhere in the world, so whenever I was there at some point I made a phone call.
It made me realize, quite quickly the people who I was close to, the ones that I called more than once, the ones I reached out to.
I do long for a Spring in Paris, a summer too, although I know that’s just crazy talk, summer’s in Paris can be really unbearable, but so too are summer’s in Wisconsin, and the first time I ever did go to Paris it was August.
I won’t ever forget that trip either.
It started something.
I don’t know when I will be back, but as the days lengthen here and I look around my home I don’t know that I can imagine leaving.
It may be that I have some things to accomplish here first.
It may be that I will get to be a traveller again.
On a different pay scale, I should hope.
I don’t want to experience the Paris of a starving artist again.
Once was more than enough.
“When did you get back?” An old acquaintance I had not seen in, well, almost a year, asked me this past Sunday at an anniversary party of a mutual friend.
“Oh, I’ve been back for a bit, lived in East Oakland, then landed out in the Sunset, out on 46th between Irving and Judah.” I replied.
“You look amazing, and I am sure it was a challenge, but you know, you are so loved here, you belong here.” He smiled and hugged me and said, “welcome back.”
It was a sweet reminder that I am wanted and accepted.
And everywhere in between.
Knowing in my heart that I don’t have to commit to being anyone other than my flawed self is a relief, knowing that my community loves me is a gift.
Allowing that love in is the work of a lifetime.
Whether I am in Paris.
Or San Francisco.
Or anywhere else for that matter.
Wednesday’s child, though, I miss you, little one.
I hope your day out at the park was as lovely as mine.