I Just Thought

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I just thought that today would be a good time to show you these images of Glendy (then almost 6) and Larissa (then 4) atop a carnival ride in the middle of Paris, taken in April, 2011.

Happy weekend, family.

~Natalia

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Life Right Now {#48}

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Morning at the Art Institute;
I’m grateful for museum-buddy friends.
History rich, deep, in paintings, art.
A world much bigger than school.
A childhood of museums, France memories.
And Panda Express for lunch.

~Natalia

The Elevator Story

Friday morning sitting in French class,

there was a guest speaker, an American woman who’s worked in Paris,

traveled in Paris.

And of course you know that I love Paris,

and you know that I’d go back in a heartbeat,

and you know that the memories I have of months spent in Paris

are many, heavy, sweet, complicated, nostalgic.

And this morning, sitting there in the window-less classroom,

this visitor said something about elevators;

how Paris has little air conditioning, few elevators,

and I remembered eight years old, Stevy five, Halloween night in Paris

and we’re going to our favorite restaurant, excited,

the parents let us go ahead, to await them in the apartment lobby.

And three floors up, we’re eager, enthusiastic, took that tiny glass elevator

all the way down.

Except two little ones, maybe we should have known better,

we jumped, danced, there in that ‘vater,

and that ancient mechanism shook, shuddered, stopped.

Right there in between floors,

halfway on the third,

halfway on the second.

Hovering. Stuck.

Our classroom visitor showed slides, clicked through a presentation,

and all the while I smiled, chuckled, almost,

thinking about a Halloween night almost thirteen years ago,

sitting in that elevator with my little brother,

while the mother and the father sat on the elegant stairs

that wrapped around the glass elevator shaft,

sipping wine with the neighbors,

while we all waited for the maintenance man to come,

to unlock the door above; too high, no way to climb out.

Then, we watched him walk around, down,

and he opened the second floor door, and we looked down at him from our perch,

our glass confinement,

and I went first,

then Stevy;

he lifted us out of that little French elevator,

and I don’t remember fear, don’t remember worry,

during all that time sitting in a stopped elevator with my brother.

But I do remember the excitement, the jumping, beforehand.

I remember my mother’s long black skirt, ever-present scarf

as she sat there on the other side of the pane,

sipping that red wine.

I remember the smell of the cigar, the scratch of the beard,

of the burly maintenance man lifted us down, out, safe.

I don’t, of course, remember if we actually went to the restaurant

after all, or not. I suppose it wasn’t important by then.

But I sat there in class this morning and remembered that elevator incident,

and smiled; laughed, a little.

~Natalia

A Bench in a Park

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Photo taken March, 2011, in Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris.

I sat on a bench

awhile today,

watching the children play.

A church picnic ended

and we stayed long,

sitting, watching, playing.

The two girls ran,

playing Tag with friends,

and with a little boy,

new friend,

just met.

The whole scene reminded me

of playgrounds in Paris,

where I’ve sat, watched, played, too.

~Natalia

I’d Go Back

My grandmother asked, last week, if I could ever see myself going back to Paris.

She was standing in the cabin kitchen when she asked, I was sitting on the couch. The afternoon sun, streaming past me, making the pages of the book that I was reading glow painfully white, played boldly across the counter, fridge, sink, her face. I looked up, squinting, smiling when she asked.

Yes, I said, closing my book. Yes, I would go back to Paris.

Eight years old, I roamed the streets of that renowned French city with my mother and brother. The mother, even-present scarf around her neck, signed my brother and I up for the local swim team. Stevy, barely six years old, wore a tiny speedo, and my coach inserted occasional English words into our practices.

We shopped weekly at open air markets, the Mother buying us rabbit-fur mittens and slippers when the Parisian winter became colder. I learned English grammar- third grade- at the dining table of our rented apartment, French grammar at the house of a women seven stops away on the Metro.

Twelve years old, then fifteen, I could speak French, some. I was getting too old for parks, too old for the playground antics that shaped my younger years in Paris. Now, the Mother lead us to Shakespeare and Company, where Stevy and I melted into the books, the stories. I became aware of an odd tension, a slight catch, that seemed to follow us around wherever we went. We dared not stand out as American, yet try as we might, we were not quite truly Parisian.

But in the evenings, when the hot July air settled still across the sleepy city, my parents left Stevy and I in the apartment, a tiny studio this time. They walked, visited caf├ęs, talked, while we sat on the couch, which pulled out to form my parents’ bed, and watched rented movies, listening to books on tape, played card games. We made Paris home that stifling 2006 summer.

Then, barely two years ago, nineteen years old. I was scared, a little, to see Paris. I worried that one glimpse of the city I so cherished, so idealized, with my newly-adult eyes would wipe the place clean of the wonder and awe I ascribed to it. I did see, of course. The gypsies sitting on doorsteps, sleeping in Metro stations. The hideous pigeons flitting everywhere. The darkness. The deep sadness, barrenness of a city so without Christ. But there was beauty and hope in the calls of children, scampering across playgrounds that my little sisters now explored. There was peace and comfort- ease- when Stevy and I walked along the river, pausing on a bridge for the boy to photograph Notre Dame in the setting sun. There was family and memories and this feels right when we rode the Metro, late, to the Eiffel Tower with an aunt and uncle. Laughing on the yellow gravel, while the Tower stretched high above us, Paris was perfect.

I know Paris as a child, a teen, a barely-adult. I know it in memory and heart and story and picture. But there’s so much more to Paris; places I’ve never seen, stories I’ve never heard, experiences I’ve never had. Someday, maybe. Someday, I hope. Yes, I’d go back to Paris.

~Natalia

In Paris

I live in a city, in Chicago, of course.

And it’s been so cold, I’ve been holed up in the room, on the floor,

rather a lot.

But it was warm yesterday, and warm, lovely today,

I got off this campus.

Jen and I, we went to Starbucks right across from The Art Institute.

And I sat in the window, looking across at that marvelous art museum,

and it was so wonderful to be out and about again,

in this city that I love.

But then I wondered, today,

what it would be like

to be a student, a city-liver,

in another famed place.

And I thought about Paris,

and I wondered just what it would be like,

to study there,

and to work there

and to pack a book bag on the metro

on a coffee shop study break adventure.

And Chicago is lovely,

the street today

smelled like chocolate and spring,

but just a little bit, maybe I wish I was living this

in Paris.

~Natalia

Back Then When: The Baby Met the Eiffel Tower

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March 2011

~Natalia

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