Monday afternoon I am leaving for Paris and look forward to this visit more than any other. More on why later. But it got me thinking about previous trips and the different ways I anticipated being there at various stages in my life.
First, in 1990, a wee lass of 20. I had the pleasure of studying in Florence for the summer and it was during that summer I visited Paris for the first time. Somehow I’ve misplaced the pictures of that particular trip, but here I am with a few buddies that summer (we were in Venice, I’m the one on the left). To say that my summer there was life-changing doesn’t cover it. I still get teary just thinking about it.
I remember “ordering” lunch in French (read: trying to pronounce the words on the menu with little to no understanding of what any of it was) and accidentally ordering a half a grapefruit for my sweet friend you see in the middle of the photo above. And bless the waiter who graciously pointed out that I was about to order “zee bwains of zee calf” as my entree. I finished out the order in English. A little French knowledge is a dangerous thing.
My next visit was the summer of 1992. I was on my way to language school in La Rochelle for the summer and got to spend a few days there before and after my courses. Groovy shirt, no?
Another life-changing trip, this time because I was striking out on my own, not with a group. I remember feeling incredibly independent but at the same time leaning into my faith like never before. An incredible summer. And I refined my menu skills. No grapefruit or brains. Nice.
Then the graduate school years. Dr. Kyle and I never imagined that a couple of broke grad school kids would ever get to travel Europe, but thanks to some really cheap tickets and lots of scrimping and saving, we were able to go with Dr. Kyle’s twin brother and his wife, Camille (yes, we have two Camille Dicksons in our family).
Nearly 20 years later I got the chance to return. This time with teachers from all over the US. We weren’t there long, but I met some incredible people with whom I became fast friends. I remember strolling along the Seine, enjoying the same beauty I had been able to see with such young eyes and a young heart. Interestingly, it was even more beautiful than I remembered.
So what am I looking forward to this time? I can’t wait to order wonderful meals. In French. And not end up with a grapefruit. I relish the thought of visiting the place that taught me that, while I am a strong and independent woman, I am but a speck on this Earth. I look forward to drinking in the beauty of the gardens where I rested my exhausted body, willing myself to get up and see more. I can’t wait to sit at a sidewalk cafe for some of the best people watching anywhere. But most of all I am looking forward to watching my students. Watching them discover, experience, taste, and grow. Watching them leap into another stage of life right before my eyes. What more could a teacher ask? And just as I get teary thinking of my first visit and all it means to me, my eyes moisten in the anticipation of this happening for another generation.