Ten years ago my younger sister K. won the raffle at my sons' school: a $2k travel certificate, good for anywhere on the planet. Lovely person that she is, she said to me "Let's go to Paris!" Guess what: I didn't turn her down.
I humbly admit being somewhat well-versed in Many Things Parisian, having spent numerous extended periods of time in that city way back in my more youthful days. But this was a K.'s first foray into Europe, and I stepped up to the invitation with unabashed glee. (I'll mention here that she left her husband and two sons at home.)
I'm not going to turn this post into a Paris travelogue -- Hazel's posts over at The Clever Pup are accomplishing that in fine fashion at the moment -- but I do want to tell a story that K. and I have repeated numerous times these past ten years....
Arriving at Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport on a sunny late-March morning, I insisted that we board Le Metro for our trip into the city. I guess that I thought I was still traveling on a student budget, and eschewed any notion of a taxi. Silly me! I hadn't considered the hefting and heaving of suitcases over turnstiles and into subway compartments and negotiating around the other million-or-so Parisians using public transportation. Aaahhhhh.....
We were suffering the usual jetlag/foreign-city haze, and when we finally arrived, sweaty and dazed, at our metro stop -- St. Michel -- bumped our luggage up the seemingly endless stairs, and emerged into the sunny midday Latin Quarter, with the Seine and Notre Dame at our backs, cafes on our left, a glorious fountain on our right, and Boulevard St. Michel stretching out in front of us, my only thought was to hightail-it the two-or-so blocks to Hotel St. Jacques, shed the luggage, take a shower and head out, refreshed, into the city. So I leaned forward into the bustling crowd and headed off at a brisk clip. Determined.
About ten paces down the sidewalk, I turned to say something to K., and she wasn't there. I turned around and saw her still at the stop of the metro steps, luggage at her feet, slowly turning wide-eyed (a kind of Mary-Tyler-Moore That Girl moment) to take in that glorious first Paris moment. I called out for her to catch up, and she shouted back "WILL YOU JUST STOP!"
What was I thinking?
She started a smile which I don't think let up the entire ten days of our visit.
There was one more lesson to me, later that day, where I was once again reminded to stop herding my little sister. We were shopping in Au Printemps department store on Rue de Rivoli, and I turned around and she was nowhere to be seen. I walked around the linen department, where we'd been perusing tablecloths, expecting to find her at every turn, but no luck. I then systematically looked for her on all (eight, I think) floors of the store, but still nothing. I began to panic. Did she have a city map? Did she know the name of the hotel? Could she figure out the metro on her own? (I can't believe that I really had these thoughts -- yikes!) I thought: Mom will never forgive me for losing K. in Paris. (I'll mention here that she was 39: a grown-up.)
Doom and gloom began to set in. Several hours later, we met up in a shoe store a few blocks away. She was contentedly checking our something fabulous in black leather and straps, and was unconcerned about my obvious panic. She has this way of peering at me -- a brief fixed stare -- which means, "sister, you're nuts." I realized at that moment that it was high time to let go of that big-sister/little-sister relationship, that she was no longer a year-old toddler set out in the backyard for her older (five-year-old) sister to watch.
(But I'll have you know I took my responsibilities very seriously, at the age of five!)
We are hoping to visit that glorious city again next May, and I promise -- PROMISE -- to leave my apron strings at home.