Monday, November 11, 2013

A run in Paris, a flood of memories

              PARIS – Paris in mid-November: rain, a chill in the air, clouds low and gray.
In other words, perfect for a run. A hotel doorman told my work colleague and friend, Ed, and I that we should try running in Tuileries Garden, just steps from our hotel.
We started at 6 a.m. in a light rain along the walls of the garden and turned a corner onto Les Champs Plaza. Amid the deep puddles, we spied an opening into the park.
In the gray light, we entered. Ed wondered if it would be dangerous. I said the only danger was the puddles – our feet were about to get soaked from splashing into one. We ran ahead, passing statues and tree-lined walkways. We kept zig-zagging, saw a large archway ahead, and started talking about various trip details. Suddenly, someone started yelling in our direction: Arret! Arret! Stop! Stop!

I looked to my left and a high-powered flashlight was trained on us, moving up and down. The man was running at us.
He started yelling in French. I thought he was saying something about the park being closed, and probably that we should get out of there. Still, I wasn’t 100 percent certain he was police or security (after all, it was dark and he was yelling in a language I didn’t understand), so I told Ed we shouldn’t wait for him and we quickly retraced our steps, splashing into puddles as we went. I looked back and the man had stopped behind us.
We exited the park. Drama over, I remembered that the hotel doorman also had said we could run along the Seine River. That thought made me happy. It brought back memories of reading the Madeline books to our daughter Paige when she was a little girl, and a trip that we took to Paris when Paige was four and Gavin only one. (Wyatt would be born 18 months later in Jerusalem.) In one of the books, Madeline’s Rescue, Madeline falls into the Seine River and is saved by a dog. The orphanage director Miss Clavel allows Madeline and the girls in the orphanage to keep the dog, until they find her real owner.

         All during our trip to Paris, Paige kept asking, “Will we see Madeline?”  We said we weren’t sure, but we should go to the Seine to look. And so we did, several times, Paige looking for a French girl who looked the part.

Ed and I headed toward the Seine. We crossed a bridge and followed the river on the other side. Soon we came to a narrow wooden bridge, and I looked into the distance. Ahead was a sidewalk along the river, where I remembered we had bought prints of flowers, ducks, and fish. The bridge was the same one on which I had pushed Gavin in a collapsible stroller. 

Ed and I stopped to walk. He noticed that both sides of the bridge were now covered by thousands of locks of all sizes, many with messages on them. Others had sprayed-painted in black their love for another over the locks.
I knew just where we were. We ran to the end of the bridge and descended a narrow flight of stairs to the banks of the Seine. We tip-toed along the cobblestone path, a somewhat treacherous decision because the water was high, the cobblestones slanted toward the water, and it was dark.
        “Let’s go slowly,” I said. We did, dodging puddles. Ahead, the Seine spilled over onto the sidewalk, leaving just a narrow passage. We slowed even more, lest we meet Madeline’s fate, and decided to go up to street level. We found stairs. I heard a rustle near our feet.

“A rat!” Ed said.
I looked around, but saw nothing. “It was big,” Ed said. “The size of a chipmunk, but with a longer tail – the tail of a rat.”
I believed him. We raced upward, keeping an eye out for other rats, and soon we were along the streets.
Within minutes, we had come to Louvre Museum, first built in the late 12th century and now housing nearly 35,000 objects. It attracts 8 million visitors a year – the world’s most popular museum. But standing near the museum’s glass pyramids (designed by I.M. Pei and built less than 30 years ago), we were nearly alone.
The sky had lightened slightly, the day was beginning, and I was transported back to a moment when the children were so young and tender.
Back to Cairo.


Back to Jerusalem.

  Back to Petra.

 Back to violin lessons and face painting in Ireland.

         I could have stayed in that moment for a long time.

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