So longed-for, so sighed-over
Thanks for keeping the place so warm and tidy while I was gone. It’s good to come home to you.
Three weeks, gone in a blur. It’s hard to know where to start.
I remember saying to people sometimes, during the year or so that I lived in Paris, that the city felt like my second home. In retrospect, it seems funny that I should say that, since I hardly even know where my first home is. I guess it should be Oklahoma, technically, since that’s where I was born and raised. But it doesn’t really seem right. Let’s be honest: when you grow up in a place known pretty much exclusively for being shaped like a frying pan in silhouette – a frying pan that, I might add, somebody chucked squarely and carelessly into the middle of Tornado Alley, where it gets held to the fire each spring – it’s not terribly hard to leave. My parents were from the East Coast, so Oklahoma never really had a shot. My parents raised me to know that I would leave, and that, in fact, I was supposed to. It never even occurred to me to stay. I was too busy making plans. I think that’s why I’m such a sucker for Born to Run. Swap out Bruce Springsteen’s motorcycle and the back streets of mid-seventies New Jersey for an airplane and mid-nineties Oklahoma, and you’ve got me. Not quite so sexy a story, of course, with no chrome wheels or wind in my hair, but you get the idea. Six days after my nineteenth birthday, I was gone. I spent the next four years in California. Then I went to Paris, and now, Seattle. I’m still not sure where home is. I have a hunch that I’ve hit on it, but I can’t be sure. My second home, though, is still the same. I’m predictable. Paris.
There’s been so much said and written about Paris that it’s daunting to hazard a statement of my own. That city just has something. I can’t think of any other place so idealized, so longed-for, so sighed-over. My Paris isn’t always such a sweet one, brimming with kisses à la Doisneau, but I like it better that way. It’s the place where I’ve been loneliest, and where I’ve been happiest. Sometimes I’ve been both at the same time. It’s where, at twenty-one, I met my first love in the belly of a lighthouse-boat-cum-club on the Seine, and where, six weeks later, when he stopped calling, I sat on a bench at the Champ de Mars and filled an entire Kleenex mini-pack with my snot and tears. It’s a place where even crying feels romantic somehow, where heartbreak makes you feel like a part of history. It’s unrequited love. It’s who and where, for a long time, I wanted to be.
Paris is an incubator, and a catalyst. It’s where I feel most awake. It’s where, at twenty-five, and in the span of a few summer weeks, I decided to leave graduate school, broke up with a boyfriend of three years, drank my first gin and tonic, scattered a Ziploc baggie of my father’s ashes into the Seine, ate scandalous amounts of Comté and pâté, and, at the suggestion of a very wise friend, decided to start this blog. That city means business. For a place that clings vehemently to its history, it has certainly helped speed along mine.
So it seemed intuitive to go back there this spring. I’ve never been particularly cuddly with the idea of change, and this year is nothing but. It’s all the good kind, of course – a wedding! a book! – but sometimes a girl needs a little incubating, so to speak – not to mention ten days with her mother, a solid supply of baguette sandwiches, some stinky cheese, whites from Cheverny, reds from the Côtes du Rhone, and a jaunt down to Lyon for some old-fashioned, fat-rippled cuisine de bonne femme, which, for future reference, is immensely fortifying. Mom and I even shared our first blood sausage, served in a quaintly dented silver dish with a bed of caramelized apples as brown and translucent as a tarte Tatin. I quite nearly set up camp right there, atop the checked tablecloth. Second home, you know.
So it was good to go back. But I have to tell you, it’s also good to be back.