I have spent a lot of time walking down memory lane this week. Kate's second birthday spurred this walk.
My life has been full of forks in the road. Sometimes in the early hours of the morning, before anyone else in my family is awake and the vibrant day begins, I play with these forks. This mornings thought- what if I hadn't gone to Paris at that moment? (2006) What if I hadn't gone to visit Versailles that day in April, then found the nearest LDS church and watched that ONE talk in conference where Elder Scott looked through the itty bitty TV monitor, pointed right at me and said "YOU will never regret the decision to serve a mission, but you might regret the decision not to." What if that choice had never been made that day in my heart? So much about me would be different. I would be so different without those experiences I had those short but full four months in Paris and the 15 months in Tahiti. Then I think about all the other choices that I was so unsure about. It took me almost my whole college career to figure out a major. And in the end I chose European Studies because the education I received from the mind of Professor Daryl Lee was so amazing I was hoping that would continue in the major. It did. It was the perfect major for me. But I wonder now- what am I doing with it? I just had to fill out that blasted Alumni survey where I recognize the cost of the choice to become a mother. My heart aches for school. Zach thinks I'm crazy ;) I really enjoy *now* the lifestyle of a stay at home mom. Upon meeting Kate that decision to stay home with her was as solid as stone on a mountain, but I sure miss living some of the more daring of those forks in the road. The memories are so sweet. Okay some were pretty salty but even chocolate chip cookies need salt in them.
One particular memory that had me smiling this morning was the first day I arrived in Paris. I remember driving from the airport in a cab to an Etap hotel on the outskirts of Paris. It was early in the morning, as we had flown all night. I can't remember where the Etap was or actually if it really was an Etap. I remember thinking how gray everything looked but how electric the air was with my excitement to be there. I couldn't believe how I'd gotten there and had complete and full hope for a new life there. I needed a rebirth at that point. I remember walking into the foyer of the hotel and seeing the other students- all looked as worn out and completely excited and full of hope as I did. Professor Lee welcomed us, told us NOT to sleep for the whole next day so we could get on the right time zone. I remember the foyer smelled like warm bread and coffee. He gave us the addresses of our new homes and explained what an arrondissement was, the difference between the metro and the trains that took people further to the suburbs, and where school would be held. We were off. Valerie Wilde and I heaved and hauled our luggage to another cab and the adventure really began. Knowledge from our semester of french dropped to zero as we climbed into the cab and tried to explain to an African man where to go. We handed him a paper and sat back thinking we were probably going in the right direction. He dropped us off at a very random metro station...in the middle of honking traffic...on the wrong side of Paris. We paid him and heaved and hauled down a million stairs into my very first experience with a Subway/Metro station. Valerie- I laugh so hard now thinking of the amazing preparation this particular experience was with motherhood. Too much to carry, the destination seeming impossible lengths away, really hungry and tired, but somehow still so happy. SO we did miraculously learn the metro that day and made it very late to our new home. A beautiful white townhouse- if I could describe it that way- not far from the Seine on the southwest side of Paris. I was trying to think what to make for dinner last night and our host mother's ham and cheese pastry crossed my mind. That was my favorite meal of hers. It was very simple. A large pie pastry with Emmenthal cheese and french ham- worlds tastier than our plastic nasty grocery store ham- melted to perfection. Then she would cut it up with scissors and serve it to us with a salad, and kiwi or small yogurt for dessert. My bedroom had a desk that took up half the room and a bed that took up the other half. It was perfect. The comforter was bright pink. The wall paper had red designs of peasants harvesting. I think the carpet was dark blue. I slept right by a window that could open up to the street and the heater was right under the window. I prayed every night it wouldn't set my bed on fire. Valerie and I secretly stored cheese and tomatoes on our windowsills where it was plenty cold enough to be a refrigerator. We would be starving some nights, even after our dinner! American meal portions are heftier than French ones. We would sneak baguettes in our backpacks to my large desk and eat sandwiches mostly of camembert and tomatoes. One terrifying time our host mom- who had forbidden food upstairs- opened the door without knocking and caught one of our late night secret dinners. That was terrifying. I'm positive Valerie and I miss that house with the same fondness. But we do NOT miss the fields of dog poo canvasing the roads to our metro stop from their house. Seriously- ewww.
I miss sitting on the bridges over looking the Seine. Any one of them would do for me this morning. I spent the most time sitting on the one by school and the Pompidou Centre. The breeze that flows over the bridge washes away past mistakes, unnecessary brain clutter, bad memories, and more than once my desire to ever leave Paris. That was zen for me.
However- even when you find somewhere you love so deeply, there is a time to leave it. My heart knew when it was time. (My expiring travel visa helped...) So home I came and life rolled forward through to the next fork. Tahiti. Tahiti is a story for another morning. I'm sure anyone reading this can see why I called this blog the Sentimentalist. I've inherited it from my paternal Grandmother. I see it now, finally living by her and Grandpa in Atlanta, that this was a genetic trait passed on. Not just the ability to remember- but that I remember the feelings of where and when with more detail than the actual events. She has a house full of memories of those she loved and their possessions. My sentimentality never leaves me. It subconsciously seeps into my dreams so that when I wake up, I remember things otherwise lost to everyday stresses and life.
My real question for the future is a little more un-nerving than a fork in the road. I think I might need forks in the road more frequently than the average joe. I'm quite worried in faithless moments looking at my married-and-stay-at-home-track record that the rest of life is one straight path forward. Life seems more settled with Zach graduated and another baby on the way. When you are not alone anymore, roots grow faster in places you land. They need to. Our Georgia roots are taking hold and though I know in my mind that the steadiness provided by those growing roots is welcomed to a happy and healthy family, I must remind my heart that somewhere, hidden in God's mind, adventures lie ahead. He knows my heart aching for the next fork that will lead to a deeper, bigger me. And now that Zach and Kate (and baby boy en route) are a part of my heart, the adventures won't be right without them. So what on earth could they be? This next baby is my hunch. Adventures within the home are harder for me to wrap my mind around than the kind of adventure where you travel somewhere to see something new. They take a lot more reflection to learn from than seeing somewhere foreign and letting it become part of you. Adventures within the home look a whole lot like normal life. I guess that is my trick too--finding the magic in my home. And showing it to Kate.