Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tuileries Flashback

It happened so suddenly as we entered the Tuileries from the Left Bank. The tears, the explosion of emotions still raw after thirty years. I was shocked to feel myself catapulted back in time to 1981 when my former husband and I traveled to Paris with our three young daughters. It was an unhappy time and had nothing to do with this trip with a very good friend. And yet as I saw the row upon row of well clipped trees and the clusters of green metal chairs seemingly randomly placed among them, it all came back.
I'd been eager to walk in the Tuileries because I remembered the gardens with fondness. They were, perhaps, one of the bright spots during our visit to the City of Light. We stayed at a hotel just off Rue de Rivoli and we walked in the Tuileries often.  I cannot say why. Were the girls content strolling among the trees? Did we people watch?
"Aggie," I said, "We must sit down." My story of those days in Paris came tumbling out. The words were unstoppable. My whole body said, "Out with it."  Aggie listened.
My daughters were 12, 10 and 6. We were travelling with a husband and dad who was not happy to be with us and who read from a 900 page biography each night and said little. Each day the three girls raided their hotel room refrigerator for chocolate bars and Cokes. We went sightseeing with friends who were  spending the year in Paris on sabbatical. Our two families took a train trip to Versailles with six children in tow. We made the rounds of the Louvre, Notre Dame and the Arc de Triomphe. The girls ordered steak and frites at every restaurant every day. Perhaps they have some happy memories of our visit?
After several days, my husband, their father, flew back to Houston to take another trip with someone else and we were left with a chauffeur and a car for day trips to Chartres and Giverny.
How can rows of carefully clipped trees and clusters of green chairs instantly evoke such painful, uncensored memories?
It happened.

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