We are moving from Paris to Orlando, FL for this upcoming school year. During the next year we’ll reflect on whether or not we’ll be returning to Paris. So, we are saying a lot of good-byes. I’m a firm believer that how you leave one situation will greatly affect how you enter into the next. Meaning, if you have unresolve in your heart about something, it doesn’t just go away because you change geographical locations, or because someone else moves away.
Part of saying good-bye “well” also means saying good-bye to places, places that have held so many memories over the years. I’ve lived in France for almost 14 years now. Seriously. That’s a long time. Do you know how many times I’ve seen the Eiffel Tower? (And I still can’t spell it right! Is it “el” or “le” at the end? Thank you, spell check.) My dear friend Karen was visiting a few weeks ago and we managed to find ourselves at the Eiffel Tower. Now she’s a friend who I’ve been at the Eiffel Tower with during many seasons of our lives in France. It was great; we sat there and reminisced. I said, “wouldn’t it be neat if there was a photo album with snapshots from over the years of each trip to this place?”
The first time I went I was 14 years old. Mom, Josh and I hit the City of Lights for a couple of days. I don’t actually remember my impressions of the iconic monument but I do remember Josh getting stopped by the police in the metro and being asked for his ticket. He had dropped it on the floor with the 10s of thousands of other tickets. The police demanded a “heavy fine” that mom wasn’t willing to pay so they said they’d take my brother away to jail. Oh my little heart was frantic, so I tried with my one year of French under my belt to convince the French police to not drag my brother to prison. (They must have been laughing so hard inside.) Mom ended up paying the fine.
The next time I was in front of the Tower, I was 20 years old and studying abroad for the semester in Caen, Normandy. We had our orientation weekend in Paris and saw all the sights. I was most impressed with l’Opèra Garnier, the gorgeous, gold-gilded opera house. My friend and I rushed out the metro, beads bouncing on the fringe of my black velvet dress, late for the ballet. We glanced around for the building, then twirled around and were speechless as we encountered the opera’s splendeur. That semester I spend a lot of time at the Eiffel Tower with friends and family who came to visit me.
A short five months later I was in Paris again , with much better French, joining a summer mission to reach out to international students. I’m sure I thought I looked a bit more trendy in front of the Eiffel Tower than my 14 year-old debut, including a flannel, faux Birkenstocks and a Jan Sport backpack. (I mean, it was 1994.)
The next significant snapshot would have been in the spring of 2004. I had decided to move to France for two years and after spending the fall in Toulouse, France with 10 other young singles for a “STINT” with Cru, we hit the capital for a spring break outreach to college kids. I’m pretty sure we saw the tower sparkle after we had a meal at Café du Marché on rue Cler, and few days later were in an elevator crash that left us marvelling at how God has spared our lives.
Fast foward to Janurary 2010. My husband and I (what- I got to live in Paris with my husband!!??) moved to Paris during bitter cold winter. In the first photo we snapped with the Eiffel Tower, I was wearing my raspberry beret and Dave, his plaid cap. So young, so fresh. We brought our parents to the tower that year and a couple years later, our first child.
Today we go back to say “bonjour” and “au revoir” one more time, this time as a family of five. The Eiffel Tower has been a constant in my story in France; a back drop for so many formative moments. I’m thankful that God has given me, given us, these years in France.
A la prochaine.