Paris is nice, but what I really need is a new perspective

July 16, 2013 

A friend of mine posts pictures of her European vacation on Facebook, and the green-eyed monster stirs.

“Here I am in Plazza de Fantastico,” my friend posts.

Grrrrrr.

“Here I am enjoying my second gelato of the day.”

Roar!

“Does the Eiffel Tower behind me make me look fat?”

Yes. Yes, it does!

To quell ol’ Green-eye, I squint at the people in the background of my friend’s pics and wonder if she stumbled onto the set of “World War Z”. I’ve never seen so many sunburned tourists in one small frame, but still, truth be told, I’d like to be one of them.

Theoretically, I could pack my bags and head to the airport now. I’m a teacher and school doesn’t start until September.

Theoretically, I could fill the freezer with bright colored ice-pops and my own kids would never even know I’m gone.

I could slap some cash on the airport ticket counter and say to the lady behind it, “How far will this get me?”

And she won’t point to a Seattle shuttle running its motor outside, instead she’ll smile like the Mona Lisa and we’ll have what they call in France, a gene-croissant moment, or at least I think that’s what they call it. I can’t be sure because I’ve never been there!

Me, who watches the Tour de France year after year, cheering the riders on. Just once, I’d like to wave to those cyclists in person.

I’d like to give the man in the yellow jersey the thumbs-up right after he wins the title but before he gets stripped of it.

The window is small, folks, and I’m ready to climb through it.

I’m a writer, or at least that’s what I still tell my parents. Shouldn’t I walk the same streets as Stein and Hemingway? Shouldn’t I stand in the majestic Notre Dame Cathedral, as Hugo surely did, and watch the day’s last light pierce through the stain glass window? Shouldn’t I take up smoking and write my oeuvre in a two-bit dive like Colette?

“You could take up smoking here,” my helpful husband suggests. “It’d be a lot cheaper, though I wouldn’t advise it.”

Consider bubble burst, Monsieur.

But who am I kidding? I don’t have the heart to tell any kid of mine they’ll have to live with an overbite just ’cause Mom had to “wade in one of Monet’s ponds.”

Besides, I have obviously reduced Paris to some tired cliches. I need to realize that like any city, Paris is an organic, breathing entity. It’s never the same city two days in a row. It’s not just the iconic markers that make Paris what it is, it’s the culture and the people, fortified with a history of paupers and queens, revolutionists and artists that make Paris the pinnacle of human experience...

Oh, merde.

Suffice it to say, Paris will still be there when I drop the youngest off to his dorm room in the year 2023 and, God willing, if I still have my own teeth and the eyesight isn’t completely shot, I will see Paris just as I imagined it.

This life-changing vacation, I envy isn’t about Paris any way; it’s about getting a new perspective; that’s all vacations offer, a chance to get out and see life from a different angle and then hopefully come back, tired and broke, to appreciate your own.

This summer, I’m gonna have to skip the “other angle” stuff and go straight to the appreciation part, because while Paris will still be there in 2023, those young faces standing at the refrigerator asking me for more ice-pops most assuredly, will not.

Karen Irwin of Tacoma teaches writing at Clover Park Technical College. Email her at irwinkd@yahoo.com.

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