Monday, April 23, 2012

Paris to the playground

Our family had the good fortune to visit Paris over the kids’ recent spring break. We happily took in the sights, or at least as much as we could with cold weather and some of us with actual colds as well. We saw some new things, like the Louvre. Royce now tells her friends that she saw the “Mona Lisa live.” And we have the iphone picture to prove it; Royce’s face next to the painting. Less upbeat, we made our first kid ER visit in Paris but came out fine on the other side. We returned to old favorites as well, including cafes, bookstores and the clothing store where I bought Tori sparkly tennis shoes and long before that a fancy blue baby dress. Neither the sparkle nor the dress would be tolerated today but it was still fun to remember.
Actually, we did a lot of remembering, particularly at the Gardin de Luxembourg and its playground. The kids have been there many times over the years. It is what they most associate with Paris, or at least up there with the Eiffel Tower. This playground is the scene of Tori’s infamous first merry-go-round ride at the age of ten months. We strapped her into the bench but as Phil went around to sit next to her, the ride started. He and I tried to get the ride to stop with the operator but to no avail. He said he would stop it if baby Tori cried but she never did. This time the kids all rode the merry-go-round and played the old school game of driving a small lance through hanging rings and trying to collect the highest number of rings. No parental interventions were needed this time though we were still occasionally called upon to watch.
There is something nostalgic about childhood in Paris. Adam Gopnik captured it best in his fantastic book Paris to the Moon; the old time games, the manicured parks, just the lack of commercial/electronic distractions. Our kids spent a happy hour pushing wooden sailboats around a pond with a long stick, negotiating this pleasure from an old man wearing a beret and a purple scarf. When Gopnik’s book came out, Tori was just a baby and many of his reflections on fleeting childhood were lost on us. We were still in the initial excitement of just having a baby. Now, more than a decade into this whole thing, we got it.
Seeing the kids age against the backdrop of the eternal city was heart wrenching. We made them pose in the same playground locations where we had favorite baby photos of them, while we tried to hide our tears. We hope to return to Paris one of these days but doubt if the playground will even make the itinerary next time.