I could close my eyes and envision myself sitting at a Parisian cafe, writing in a worn notebook and sipping coffee. I held onto this vision for many years since I was a teenager. Sometimes in my imagination, it would be raining, sometimes it was nighttime, and sometimes it was a nice sunny, summer day. But always, it was a Parisian cafe ~ me, my notebook, and a cup of coffee; those three elements were fundamental and would never change.
Years past and my dreams seemed as if they could never materialize ~ well, at least the one about going to Europe. We got married, bought a house, had one child, then two, then a third. Schedules, plane tickets, hotel costs made the dream seem absolutely unattainable.
Two years ago, after things had fallen a part but slowly started to come together (if that makes any sense), what truly was important in life came to the absolute forefront. Bills would ultimately always be present (making them manageable was the key). And since I was fortunate enough to have access to travel deals, I found a great one to Paris and Rome during the holidays. Virgin Vacations had an awesome package for a little over a week. We arrived in Paris on Christmas Day so it would be the girls’ Christmas present from us ~ and boy, was it a treat to take the Metro in, despite the weariness and jetlag, to glance up at the majestic Eiffel Tower, with the winter sun beaming in the horizon.
It was definitely a fast and furious journey. But the kids loved every minute of it. And they appreciated it. From our restless 6 year old (her favorite was the Eiffel Tower and the mysterious, albeit somewhat disappointing ~ for me, at least ~ Mona Lisa); to my two older daughters: the 13 year old who had her taste of Sweden and Denmark in the summer during a soccer tournament, to our 15 year old (“I LOVE the food!”). Since our return, we continue to have dreams of walks through Paris streets and our favorite Italian breakfasts (that will be another post).
On this trip, I didn’t get to write my novel in the corner Parisian cafe. But I did get to enjoy a cafe with my beloved family. I was able to breath in the art and sculptures of Musee du Louvre which I had seen in movies and read about in so many novels, wondering if someday I might possibly get the opportunity see them for myself. This trip meant more to me now than it probably would have 20 years ago, when I wanted to take it. I was younger, more independent, and definitely more naive then. But on this trip, with a head filled with more stories and experiences, a heart having worn more bandages than I care to share, and a womb now barren but having birthed my three beautiful daughters, everything felt crisper. The food tasted as it might have in my dreams. The Sienne was colder than I had imagined. Notre Dame was even more glorious than I thought it could be.
Some people warned me that a week was too short. But sometimes that’s all we have. And for the time we had, we spent it wisely and did our best not to do too much. Vacations with families are tough to plan out. I know we are fortunate to have some income to have gone to Europe.
I dreamed of going to Paris ages ago as a teenager. I now have my own teenagers and I finally went! Time with loved ones is precious. Time to regroup, even for yourself, is absolutely essential. I have to remind myself that all the time. And dreaming, especially in our age of pragmatism and cynicism, is vital to every aspect of our being. Because you never know when you can make those dreams come true.