FEATURE – Dear Paris, I’ve never met you, but I love you.
I have never strolled your streets, rushing nowhere and soaking in beauty everywhere.
I have never crossed your bridge and placed my lover’s lock on its – now closed – metal railing.
I have never climbed your Eiffel Tower or seen its shimmering lights illuminate the cityscape.
I have never nibbled on a fresh baguette from one of your delicious boulangers as I window shop, the bread still warm and crooked under my arm.
My boys have never ridden your painted ponies on the carousel at Luxembourg Garden.
I have never visited the Louvre and felt overwhelmed by the centuries of art at my reach.
I have never ordered boeuf tartare with my below-elementary knowledge of French only to realize, after it’s been served, that “tartare” means uncooked, not some delicious French sauce.
And I’ve never pressed my nose up against a crepe shop at midnight to marvel at the craftsmanship and care of the crepe maker.
There is a laundry list of the things I have never done in Paris because I have never been to Paris. And yet, even still, I love Paris. I love the idea of Paris. I love what it represents.
I love the stories friends have imparted of their travels to the City of Love: six kids crammed in a rented van, enduring a full-day of driving to catch a first glance of the Eiffel Tower at night; walking the Marais District and being reminded of the importance of enjoying the beauty of the moment; basking in the sunlight on a Mother’s Day in the Place des Vosges in Louis XIII Square, the sun glistening off the upper windows of the surrounding, salmon-colored buildings.
I love the cinema shots of people sitting outside a Paris café drinking their coffee and eating their croissants. I can almost feel the flaky, warm croissant melting in my mouth.
I first started loving Paris when my mom read Bonsoir Lune in a heavy French as we cuddled up for my nighttime settle. I didn’t know it then, but she couldn’t really speak French. She took it in high school but only ever really mastered the “j’s” and “boohoos.” But it was enough for me to believe it was her second tongue. And it was enough for me to long for more; to dream of long vowels, of fresh baguettes, of Paris, France.
My Instagram account was flooded Friday night and Saturday with collective mourning about the terrorist attacks in Paris, the peace sign with the silhouette of the Eiffel Tower edited in, the close-up of an eye with a single tear falling with the French flag reflected in its gaze, #prayersforparis, #parisjetaime.
It got me thinking – can we love Paris if we’ve never been? The unequivocal answer is yes. Yes, we can love Paris. Yes, we can be heartbroken about the city of our dreams, the city of our imagination, the City of Love, being attacked by hate and violence. And yes, we can pray for Paris. We should also make plans to visit her soon.