April First, First Day
Is it the Day of Fools or the Day of Resurrection? Am I the fool who slips into nostalgia or can I be “born again” in this home of homes, my first home, Paris.
I packed my wallet- a window into this exploration. My up to date passport is slap up against my old ID card to the French National Archives.
I left my room, now in the 5th: my place of comfort is the 6th and Carrefour Odeon. Feeling disoriented, I headed that way but quel supris: my location behind the Pantheon is to my liking. My heart pounded, my pulse raced not unlike the first time I saw Paris.
Yet, the past confronted me walking away from the Pantheon on Rue Soufflot. What was Rue Soufflot resurrecting? My first time in Paris when I lived with a French family whose daughter was a friend of my mother’s. I don’t think they knew what to make of me. I talked to German young men on motorcycles, wore my jean skirt almost daily, and could only say “Oui,” “Non,” and “C’est beau.” Mme. Brenot, a seamtress and dress designer, decided to take me in hand and bought me a stripped blue and white blouse from a store on Rue Sufflot making alterations so the fit was parfait. I wore it for years.
Jardin du Luxembourg, Mostly Parisiennes strolled leisurely on this Easter Sunday. I overheard two older women discuss what the statues surrounding La Fountain des Medicis smbolize. Their conversation put me deeper into France where most feel qualified to comment on art, tres serieuse.
In an effort to ground myself, I made for my usual haunts. Or am I just playing it safe? Nostalgia again. First, Cafe de la Marie across from L’Eglise St. Suplice. I sat outside and tried to order a glass of red wine in French but the waiter didn’t understand, so it’s English. The rest of the day had the same language exchanges, a bit of French, a bit of English.
One more stop: Les Editeurs, what had been my local restaurant. It’s only 5 in the evening, so most are drinking coffee, beer, or wine. As I hadn’t eaten for over 12 hours, I ignored convention and ordered a coupe of champagne and sardines. The waiter impressed, arrived with a white tablecloth and, presenting with a flourish, added “A real Paris experience.” My neighbors stared as did most passers-by, intrigued by the spread: baguette with butter, peanuts, olives, toast, sardines on a board with a lemon, salt, chopped onions, and parsley.
Still, I don’t feel tied to the earth, to Paris, to me, to the past or the present, but caught between.
Agnes Varda looked back in her film, The Beaches of Agnes, then in her late 80’s went forward in Faces/Places taking a road trip through France with a young photographer. Tomorrow, I will visit Agnes, or at least her street, Rue Daguerre.