She’ll always have Paris

This post isn’t about Paris.  It’s about my mother and time.  Most importantly it’s about the invaluable life lesson my mother has taught me about time.  Paris is just a very pretty metaphor here.

My mother is fancy.  Like-she is super fancy.  She knows a ridiculous number of designer names.  She can identify specific designer clothing articles from 100 feet away.  She knows the appropriate and innapropriate attire for every particular event. I had a friend who wore combat boots to my wedding 21 years ago.  My mother has not forgotten.  Combat boots worn to a May wedding are not appropriate.  Noted.

Another example: Once, years ago, I called her to tell me what to wear to something (I cannot even remember where I was going but it was a conundrum)

Her: “Well, surely you must have something.  You must. Do you have a nice gabardine pant?  Yes, a gabardine pant would be good…something in a winter white?”

Me: “Uh…I doubt I have that.

Her: “Are you sure?”

Me: “Yeah, I’m sure. I’m sure because it doesn’t seem like Old Navy would sell winter white gabardine.”

She knows what look best on her.  She knows what looks best on me. She knows what looks best on you.   You can ask her and she will tell you.  One of her fashion absolutes is “All that matters is the fit.  If it is a trend and it doesn’t fit you, it’s not for you.”  She has assisted complete strangers in dressing rooms much to their delight and the chagrin of the store sales associate.  When I was kid, she always looked put together.  Always. She even looked good when we went camping.  Her bandana matched her Dr. Scholls.  My mother-she invented  ‘glamping’.

So-the fanciness just didn’t quite make it to me.  I kept waiting for it to happen to me and develop over time like needing reading glasses or progressive premature grey.  It never did.  I like jeans and sensible shoes and while I follow Dior on Instagram, you aren’t likely to see me wear it.  I am pleased to announce that the fancy, it has skipped a generation.  So I am bookended by two women who know fashion and as a result I am unlikely to ever be selected for a tv makeover. They both keep me current and honest.

My mother also loves and knows fine art.  For her 50th birthday, we went to Chicago to see the Monet exhibit.  She declined the guided tour and the audio tour.  We were fine.  She knew more about Monet than any reasonable non-art historian should.  Also-she walked me to the point of pain that day.  I had to sit down on a bench next to people with oxygen tanks.  Keep in mind, I was 24 at the time.  We have also been to New York to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Another solid 9 hours on foot. I need no tour guide.  She knows and loves art.  (side note: She and my daughter (9 at the time) made me walk 6 miles back to the hotel AFTER we went to the Met. They just wanted to ‘look around’. I had muscle spasms.  I was 39 that time.)

As you can imagine, fancy fashion artsy people should go to Paris.  My mom has wanted to go to  Paris for-well, a very, very long time.  The fact that my mom has not seen Paris is just plain wrong.  She is 71.  My dad had planned on bringing her to Paris.  He called a travel agent the year he got sick and wrote down all of the details about a Christmas trip to France.  He said if the doctors said the news was good they would go to celebrate.  He said if the news was bad-they would still go.  But they didn’t go.  Couldn’t go.  A year of being terminally ill can feel horrifically long and yet painfully short all at the same time. He simply ran out of time.


My stepdad also planned on taking my mom to Paris.  Theirs was an unexpected and lucky match later in life. They got married when my mom was 59.  They traveled quite a bit and had many wonderful trips and made many good memories.  My stepdad was a meticulous person and trip planning was no different for him.  He had done the research, he had looked at banked points and the logistics and the possibilities for itineraries for a variety of cities in Europe.  He was ill for a year and a half.  They never made it to France. He simply ran out of time.

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I am going with my mom to France.  Now, it’s not like a burden to go or that she needs assistance or anything.  Let me clear, nobody is suffering here.  It’s France.  I plan on eating my weight in croissants.  But I find myself in a very unexpected role of being the one to go with her.  It’s just something we didn’t plan on and I just didn’t see it coming but it’s very important to me that we go. She must see Paris. Right now.

I had a mini pre-trip panic attack when I looked at the cities we will visit and the list of things to do and see and experience.  It’s endless and overwhelming.  I’m worried that we won’t see it all because I know we cannot see it all.  I called my mom and told her that I was worrying because I just don’t want her to be disappointed.  I can’t bear it if she is disappointed after waiting this long to go.  And her response is why I love her so…she said, “Oh, I couldn’t possibly be disappointed Jen.  Don’t worry honey. Whatever we see, we see! It’s Paris!   And maybe I’ll be lucky, and I’ll have a chance to go back again.”

And this is how she teaches me about life and time and moving forward.  Life is so beautiful but time can be cruel.  Time can be a real bitch.  Time can speed up and slow down and it races and drags in all the wrong spots sometimes. She has shown me how to move forward and just ‘see whatever you can see’.  No matter what happens to you, how the plans change, what losses you sustain, the twists and bends in the straight path you have carefully plotted out, moving forward is the only option.

No better place in the world than Paris to both appreciate the beauty of the past and the thrill of the future.  So I’m here with her standing in for my dad and my stepdad who both had the best of intentions to be here themselves.   I feel like I’m here partially for them, finishing their plans and I’m so lucky to be the one to see her see Paris for the very first time.

They would both be so thrilled, the view is just magic.

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