We’re back in Paris for a 5 week hiatus before we set off yondering again. I’ve scandalized my younger self with the realization that for me, Paris is no longer a destination unto itself. Paris is where we go to take care of the business of life. Doctor’s appointments. Filing taxes. Banking. Repairs. And so on. It’s the place where we take care of the dull scaffolding that supports this semi-nomadic life. Between chores and appointments, we’re doing very Parisian things like eating pastries and sitting and reading in various parks, but it feels like we’re marking time.
It’s been almost 5 years now that we’ve made Paris our base. I won’t say I’m blasé about this city, but I’m harder to surprise. I don’t need a map. I can’t get lost. Not only do I know where I’m at, I often know where the closest excellent boulangerie or must-eat treat is. This is not a complaint. I’m glad of it. We have a place to call home when home calls us. A place to regroup, repack, and then leave. And know that we can count on Paris to still be Paris when we return.
The exodus from Ukraine has cast a new light on leaving. I’m thinking of all the people who don’t leave home willingly, for whom it’s not an adventure but a tragedy. Those for whom their favorite comforts are gone. As my worry overdrive shifts seamlessly from the waning pandemic to the waxing war, my preferred park reading has been accounts of bleak moments in Paris history, from the Reign of Terror to the WW2 occupation. You might think that’s depressing, but I find comfort in history. These stories are terrible and knowable. They have conclusions, unlike the endless what-ifs of the present.
I don’t mean to imply we’re worried about ourselves or Paris at the moment, it’s more the feeling of needing to keep an eye on the news to anticipate the next chapter. History takes its own time. In two weeks, friends who have never been to Paris will be visiting and we will gleefully dive into showing off the splendor that is our city. A city that has so far stayed knowable for generations if not centuries. May it continue to be so.