Of Pain and Paris

A few days ago my daughter left to travel around Europe for 6 months. She didn’t say goodbye.

I don’t know where she is going but I imagine she will be in Paris at some stage. Paris is significant in our relationship and I thought I would share why it invokes special memories for me – and perhaps for her.

By the age of 7 S had been moved away and I was not involved in her school education the way I had imagined when she was born. My holiday time with her was precious and I would count the hours until she would run and throw herself at me again – blue eyes sparkling.

So I decided early on that I would further her education through travel. We had plenty of father – daughter trips together including long road trips up and down the coast, skiing breaks, Kakadu safaris, and later Uluru, Tassie, Pacific Islands, NZ and Japan adventures with Gae.

But our biggest trip was to Paris for two unforgettable weeks in 2005 – just the two of us.

On S’s 17th birthday I wrote her a letter which is in this blogsite elsewhere. At the end of the letter I added this memory:

“Do you remember your first day in Paris with me? You were 7. We travelled far and wide all over Paris seeing the sites and visiting parks and museums. I remember your amazement when I showed you the Impressionist paintings up close and then from the other side of the room. On the way home you fell asleep in my arms on the Metro. By then it was peak hour and all the workers were pouring onto the trains. It was noisy and very cramped but nothing could wake you.

After changing lines once or twice I eventually carried you off the train in the throngs of the crowd. I fumbled carefully in my pocket to get our orange tickets to exit (I still have them), not wanting to wake you or put you down. I carried you in my arms up the metro stairs and along 3 or 4 blocks to Isabelle’s house, then into that tiny lift to finally get you in the door and place you carefully onto the couch. You were heavy. I was exhausted and my arms and back were aching. But I didn’t mind a bit. I had my daughter in my arms again. And although you were asleep the whole time, it remains one of the happiest and most powerful memories of my life.”

I mentioned above that I still have the orange Metro tickets. The two of us made a scrapbook when we returned. It’s a beautiful collection of photos, souvenirs and her arty sketches of Paris treasures and secrets. It includes our excursions to Compiegne, Versailles, Paris Disney, Luxembourg, the Black Gate in Trier and our very important fashion-shopping stopover in Hong Kong. I have the scrapbook in safekeeping for her. Maybe one day she will want to see it.

Another anecdote that reminds me of our trip to Paris comes from a Gwyneth Paltrow interview, when she discussed her Dad’s influence in her life.

“When I was ten years old, my father and I took a trip to Paris, leaving my younger brother and mother in London where she was filming a movie. My dad believed in one-on-one time with us, and sometimes that extended to a weekend away. We stayed at a great hotel and he said I could order whatever I wanted for breakfast (French fries). We went to the Pompidou museum, the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre – the usual spots. It was pretty great. On the plane back to London he asked me if I knew why we had gone, just he and I, to Paris for the weekend. I said no, but I felt so lucky for the trip. He said, “I wanted you to see Paris for the first time with a man who would always love you, no matter what.”

This isn’t the exact reason I chose to take my daughter to Paris but it has always resonated with me nonetheless.

I don’t know when I will see her again or even talk to her again. Despite my best efforts she remains alienated but I think this adventure and new injection of independence will be a healthy tonic for her. She can test me all she likes but she will learn my love will always be flowing relentlessly towards her and no circumstance can ever change that.

Who knows what the future holds? No one can be sure. I believe the attachment strings S and I share are relentlessly being drawn together in the background.

But if its not to be, then I guess…………“We’ll always have Paris”.


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