It’s official; I’ll be ringing in my 35th birthday overseas. I decided I wanted to make my mark this year as the previous monumental birthday, 30, came and went sans champagne toasts to bid adieu to my roaring twenties as I was a blossoming 8 months pregnant. Instead, I was in full swing of pending motherhood and wouldn’t have had it any other way. Now that the dust of life has settled a bit, now that I can take a thought and trace it to fruition, I figured it was high time to pack my bags, grab my passport and see what Paris will ignite in me this time around.

 

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Eighteen and on top of the world (otherwise known as the Eiffel Tour).

 

When I was eighteen my parents gifted me with a month-long graduation trip to France as she had stolen my heart while I fervently studied the romance language. For 5 years I conjugated verbs, expanded my vocabulary and practiced perfect pronunciation before finally having the opportunity to put my linguistic skills to use. I spent my first few weeks abroad with a French family; this experience offered an authentic immersion in not only the language, but also the culture and la joie de vivre (the joy of living). The family lived in Cergy-Pontoise, a suburb of Paris, in a grand house four stories in height lined with blooming crimson geranium window boxes. Upon my arrival I was greeted by a 6 year-old boy, Théophile, rapidly firing his excited French phrases my way and a 16 year-old boy, François, who would become my trusty guide and confidante. My host mother and father quintessential French parents in allowing me the freedom to absorb anything and everything that fancied my soul. After a few days in Paris we began the holiday trek south to Valloire, a village nestled in the Rhône-Alpes region in South-Eastern France. Growing up amidst the Rocky Mountains, it felt a little bit more like home, just on a much grandeur scale.  I spent my days hiking in the Alps, playing tennis, ambling about the little village exploring all there was to offer and furthering my ability to converse en français.

 

After my host family stay, I met up with a gaggle of American teens and began a more organized tour of France. We congregated in Paris then headed north to the Normandy region first taking in Omaha Beach, a code name and beach where the Allied forces invaded German-occupied France during World War II. We continued our northern tour stopping in Rouen, known as the place of Joan d’Arc’s execution, as well as made the voyage to the island attraction, Le Mont Saint-Michel. As the legend goes the monastery was built under the divine instruction of Archangel Michael after a little mystical intervention in convincing St. Aubert to begin the construction. We eventually rounded back to Paris, but not before taking in Château de Versailles; I believe my love of chandeliers began while ambling the mirrored corridors reflecting endlessly the golden light within.

 

France held so many discoveries for this small town Montana girl. I was enchanted with the majestic chateaus; the rich history etched in the walls whispered wonders of an era long gone. I found a slice of my feminine self in the graceful caress of a floral printed scarf loosely enveloping my neck like a diaphanous second skin that only now I find myself growing into and owning. My taste buds sang while noshing on sublime yet deceptively simple cuisine; often prepared from fresh ingredients purchased daily, curated for optimum flavor. I discovered that full-bodied wine and pungent cheeses are quite delicious when paired appropriately and that mealtime should be a process allowed to unfold rather than a race to the finish. I left with a taste for la Vie Française {the French life} and continue to strive for the quotidian life philosophy of the every-day paired with the tucked-away finery infused in a laissez-faire air. Ah sweet memories, gilded through time as my mind polished them in endless reminiscing. I returned to Paris while in graduate school and rediscovered my love of the City of Lights, however, I have not booked a returning flight until now.

 

When I look at the image above I feel a wave of nostalgia rush over me. I remember how ready I was to leave my hometown and begin a new life chapter. There are so many things I’d love to whisper into the ear of this younger self, little nuggets of wisdom I’ve collected in about the same amount of time that 18 years of age marked then.

 

I’d remind her how much she is loved, that no matter how far we wander in life, we’re still connected to those we met along with way, to those we’ve loved out loud. I’d emphasize the importance in keeping the Faith and Grace while moving from married to divorced, patiently expecting to single motherdom, and from a settled career path to an aspiring writer. I’d share my belief that forcing change isn’t necessary, simply allowing life to unfold through time, the heart the ultimate guide. I’d share that academia, logic, spirituality, and intuition are not mutually exclusive but dovetailed facets to a multidimensional fulfilled life. I’d reminder her that material objects and accomplishments do not equate self-worth, nor does striving to be right or look perfect as if playing a part in this game of life rather than being who she already is when she allows herself to be.

 

I feel she’d look intently my way and remind me of my love to climb and reach peaks originally thought insurmountable, of the importance to stop and enjoy the view, and that it’s not the peaks and valleys that matter but continuing the journey while being open to all that flows my way. She’d remind me to relax and not fretfully worry for life lies ahead with each new day a blank page waiting to be filled. I feel that we would be kindred friends with many wine soaked nights and mornings of sunrise promises while whispering silent secrets through knowing glances.

 

While savoring these precious moments, I feel the two versions of myself merging into one. The same eagerness to spread my wings igniting flight now, while my heart soars in knowing I’m a woman between stories and today remains a blank page begging for my script to adorn, so let’s begin with “Paris, Oooh La La!”

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