Lessons from Paris...

lessons for clara

Dear Clara,

Paris.  Sometimes I’m tempted not to even say more than that---after all, what can you say about such a city?  If you haven’t been, you have to go to understand.  And if you’ve been, there’s not much need to explain.  But that being said, there might just be a few things I wish I had known sooner:

  • Paris is for lovers: Really.  It’s an entirely different city when you have someone’s hand to hold as you dart in and out metro stops, walk across gardens and take in endless boulevards.  While I would never say that happiness depends on another person, the fact of the matter is that Paris changes entirely when you experience it with someone.  You don’t have to love that person forever, just the time that you’re in Paris.
  • Paris will disappoint your heart a little bit each time: Maybe it’s because of the above.  Paris can be so full of inspiration and ideas that we’re bound to be let down sometimes, maybe by a person or maybe by the city.  Be prepared for some tough moments.  When things aren’t going your way, resilience and determination are going to become good, comforting friends.
  • Wear a scarf: Even in the summer . . . It’s the quickest way to add a bit of chic, a bit of color, and a bit of warmth.  You simply can never have too many scarves in Paris.
  • Learn how to drink coffee without milk: It’s likely that when you spend time in Paris, you’ll be a student.  So it’s also likely that if you’re a student, you won’t have much money.  Coffee without milk is your answer to enjoying any café in the city you want for a song.  Just skip the cigarettes, please (though they will be tempting).
  • Appreciate the form before you challenge it: Sometimes I want to say “process” for this one, but it’s not quit about that.  Parisians will be quick to inform you that there is a “way” of doing things: of philosophy, of art, of eating your meal, of picking a wine . . . and you can be made to feel very small when you get it wrong, or when you want to do things in a different way.  Try to learn all these forms as best you can, see why they’re there, and why people attach to them.  Then break the mold---you can do that as an outsider.  But always know your starting point and why you’re deviating from it, and you’ll also gain some respect for your choice.

I read once that when the actress Gwyneth Paltrow was in Paris with her father for the first time, at age 12,  she asked why he had brought her.  And he replied that he wanted her to see Paris for the first time with a man that would love her forever, no matter what.  I found that to be such a touching sentiment.  I’ll have to speak to your father about taking you to Paris.

All my love,

Mom