After almost one month in France, the tasks of re-entry on our return seem routine: David turns up the heat, programs the phones back to the answering machine default, coordinates mail retrieval, reconnects the laptop to the networked printer. This trip he also tracks down delivery of the missing suitcase, follows up on details that developed after his wallet was stolen, and coordinates our (as well as his) calendar commitments.
Meanwhile, I check in with people, balance the checkbook, monitor needs at the supermarket and pharmacy. I drop my dress off at the cleaners while he protects my suede boots with the new waterproofing product. My photos are downloaded, full memory card cleared and battery recharged, ready to go. We are working together.
We both lost a little weight this trip, even with foie gras, confit de canard, pommes sarladaises, and as much chocolate and fromage (au lait cru, bien sûr) as desired. Respect for our actual capacities and the joy of walking helped. Shoes with extra support combined with a new back brace enhanced mobility. We trusted each other to push on, to stretch, and still respect our limits.
It was an unusual trip in some ways. The sadness of November’s terrorist attacks in Paris echoed in the Brussells tragedies that erupted soon after our arrival. The Eiffel Tower and Hotel de Ville were draped in black, yellow and red in solidarity.
I became a bit skittish when we entered the more touristy areas of the city, the Louvre, the Champs Elysees, near Notre Dame. Crowded buses and subways felt a bit less welcoming; younger passengers offered David a seat on a bus or metro much less frequently than had been our experience, even just a month before. My usual desire to explore faded into the comfort of getting to know our own quiet quartier better.
I felt serenity and joy when we spent an afternoon in our old neighborhood, the broad Haussmanian boulevards and the elegance and beauty of Parc Monceau reassured me of the serene and safe Paris I knew. When has a ham and cheese sandwich on a baguette eaten on a wooden bench tasted better? In the park, tweens from Hamburg asked if we would give them “something” in exchange for a plastic pen. They were clearly practicing a memorized line of French and were clueless when I asked them where they were from and if they were on vacation. David communicated with them a bit more easily, not because his French is so much better than mine, but because he knew when to use English as a common tongue. Our interactions with them brought us smiles.
Love is sharing. Sharing work, pleasures, hassles, discoveries, re-entry. Sharing memories, the future, the moments as they unfold, bringing sometimes surprise, sometimes challenge, sometimes comfort, and often deep joy. Sharing trust. The Swedish proverb states, “Shared joy is double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow.” Love is real.