Paris!

The plane was boarding when I approached the gate at Ngurah Rai Airport in Denpasar. Snarly traffic stretched the drive from the usual one hour to an additional forty-five minutes. It was perfect. Engaged in Made’s gossipy prattle, I was spared the boring, clock-staring wait in the airport.

Jostling my way down the congested aisle to 28A, I saw that the seats beside mine were occupied by two women who appeared to be in their mid forties. Bridget and Lizbeth were just the right combination of reserved friendliness. A few pleasantries then they busied themselves and left me alone. Perfect.

Nine point five hours slid by with two Hindu vegetarian meals, wine, tea, four movies and a cat nap which landed us in Qatar for an eight point five hour layover. I hate long layovers. As the shuffling line of passengers departed the plane, I bid my new friends farewell, safe journey, happy life, and set out to find an internet kiosk where I could alert the world that, “Here I am in Qatar!” via Facebook. That done, I scoped out a lounge area where the barrel-shaped chairs upholstered in red faux suede were draped with sleeping bodies. As I passed, one form came to life, shook itself, and hurried off. I claimed the vacated space. It felt like a king-size bed compared to the cramp of the airplane seat and I dozed on and off through the relative quiet from one to five a.m.

But even at 5:00 it was still two hours to boarding. I walked through the glitz of fragrance laden retail surprised only by a shop selling high end hijabs. Until now I’d only seen basic black. The store was a feast for the eyes. Fabrics in bright colors, jeweled trims, embroidery and lace made it clear that the garments on display were not for the budget conscious. They fairly screamed wealth, excess, and Western values in this predominantly Muslim country.

I found my gate, not yet open, and an empty chair along the corridor. After a few minutes I kicked myself for not coming sooner. It was people-watching paradise. Arab men in white robes with billowing scarves arranged nomad fashion on their heads strode with pride and purpose, deep in conversation. Black shrouded mysteries whose eyes peered through small, rectangular slits, floated by. Petit Asian women with tight leather skirts, over-the-knee-sliver-studded boots, and swooping necklines giggled as they wobbled on stiletto heels. A granny wearing vintage Converse hightops, skin hugging violet leggings, and a bouffant, sheer blouse that ended at her waist exposing to full view the effects of time and gravity on her ancient buttocks, passed, stopped, turned, and retraced her steps. I felt terribly ordinary.

It was almost a disappointment when the boarding call tore me from the fascinating view.

For the second leg of the journey, a mere eight hours and thirty minutes, I would be on the largest passenger plane in the industry to date. With seats for 800 people on two levels and a wing span that could stretch across a small country, I settled into my seat with appropriate amounts of awe and trepidation. How does this work again? Air passing over the wings creates lift…? The laws of aerodynamics…ummm? I turned away from the window and there, sliding into the seats beside me were Bridget and Lizbeth.

“Seriously?” I said. They nodded, laughed, and just like that we bonded more intimately than best friends. “Did you choose these seats online?”

“No, we should have, but they were assigned to us at the ticket counter.”

“I selected mine online…what are the odds?!”

The rest of the journey passed in the comfortable presence of familiarity. Departing the plane at Charles DeGaulle in Paris I told my new bff’s that I expected them to meet me in five days for the flights back to Bali, that I really couldn’t bear to sit beside anyone else. They assured me that they’d be there. Liars!

As I traversed the long jetway, cleared immigration and then customs, my mind raggedly shifted gears. I mentally pulled up the map of the Paris subway system that I’d studied in great detail online: airport shuttle to terminal two, red line to Paris center, one transfer at Halle, then two stops…

“Mom!”

“Joy! You’re here!” We threw our arms around each other, squeezing and swaying in the mother/daughter hug that is so familiar and so deeply missed.

“We got in an hour ago and waited for you….Kellen’s with the luggage right over there…”

………

So it began.

……..

From the subway we trundled our bags to 36 Rue de Turbigo, an apartment in the center of Paris. Towering blue doors and wrought iron balconies dripping red geraniums, screamed charm.

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Francesca met us with keys and instructions for the state-of-the-art appliances that occupied the glossy, red kitchen. With hardwood floors, an ornate Louis XIV fireplace surround, and soaring ceilings, the two bedroom apartment held a boggling mix of sleek modernity and historic charm.

Up to that moment, Kellen had been leading the charge, way-finding in the underground tunnels and navigating the twisted streets. But when the door closed behind Francesca, Joy assumed the role she was born to: Commander in Chief. Joy plans. Joy makes lists. Joy multi-tasks and organizes. Joy delegates. But mostly, Joy leads and others willingly follow. Such was the case the moment suitcases were stowed.

“Time to buy groceries! Who’s coming?”

Kellen and I snapped to attention stopping just shy of a heel-clicking salute. Fired by a tireless energy that thrives on over commitment, Joy had invited all ten of her wedding guests to a Thanksgiving dinner in our apartment that she planned to cook that night: herbed chicken, sweet potatoes, roasted vegetables, baguettes and a cheese plate served up with bounteous bottles of wine.

“There’s a market a few blocks away, and a cheese shop, I saw them on Google Earth,” she says as we follow like obedient ducklings. And she’s right.

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An hour later, laden with produce, poultry, smelly cheeses and bread, we met Jessa, Dan, Jenny, and Kennen on the street. It was a fresh round of hugging and happiness. Then Joy lassoed her herd and ushered us into the wine shop.

“Everybody choose a bottle,” she said.

Kennen glanced at me, “I know what you want,” He pointed to a Maison Louis Jadot Pinot.

“I can’t believe you remembered…it’s my favorite!” Dimples creviced his cheeks as he gave me a knowing grin.

I don’t know how she did it, but when everyone arrived at seven p.m. a veritable feast lay steaming on the table.

P1080271 Jenny and Kennen added dessert to the mix, two tarts, one raspberry, one chocolate, so beautifully contrived that to cut into them took some measure of courage.

P1080266 P1080268Conversation hummed, animated, excited, expectant, until each one hit the jet-lag wall.  Another round of hugs and the group shrugged into their coats and left for their hotel two blocks away.

“Brunch back here in the morning…eleven o’clock…then home to dress for pictures!” Joy chirped to each one as they left. In spite of the wine, the overstimulation, the belly full of rich, unaccustomed food, I remember nothing from the moment my body found the bed.

Joy, ever the morning sprite, was mixing eggs for omelets when I peered into the kitchen the next morning, rubbing the grainy remnants of sleep from my eyes. P1080285The meaty salt smell of bacon accompanied the sizzle and pop as it rippled into crisp brown strips. The fairies, or gnomes, had come in the night and cleaned the kitchen. Joy said it was Kellen. My love for the man doubled in that moment.

The wedding party arrived, boisterous and rested, heaped their plates with buttery croissants, pancakes, omelet, bacon, yogurt, and strawberries, and ate until their eyes rolled back in their heads.

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It was a good thing that the wedding festivities were planned for today. By tomorrow I might not be able to zip my dress. My diet of fresh fruit, fresh vegetables and a little rice in Bali keeps me trim. Joy doesn’t consider that food. She made certain that we had our daily quota of bread, cheese, meat and unlimited quantities of wine. Nobody complained.

Stuffed to a fine stupor Joy issued the next set of instructions. Be dressed for photos and back at the apartment to catch taxis to the Pont Alexander Bridge at one o’clock.

There was no time to lose. My most important job was clearly ahead. I’d been entrusted with the task of lacing Joy into the corset part of her bridal ensemble and buttoning the bustle. In a flurry of frothy white she donned the gown and I commenced lacing and pulling until the perfect hourglass shape was achieved. I felt tears welling as I gazed at her. She was busy applying makeup so she didn’t notice, but memories washed over me in a churning stream of nostalgia and my throat constricted with remembering. It passed so quickly, childhood. Birth to graduation to marriage, a blur. Now, in the presence of this beautiful, accomplished woman, I felt the weight and the privilege of motherhood. All of my fumbling best intentions that fell so far short hadn’t ruined her.

“Can you bring my shoes, Mom?” Her request shook me out of the past and I hurried to do her bidding. The final result was ravishing and I caught her essence as she turned from the window and flashed one of her heart-stopping smiles.

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The afternoon took us from the bridge, to Notre Dame, to obscure Parisian alleyways. Thousands of photos were taken, but these are some of mine:

We were lucky with the weather. Paris can be nasty in November, snow, sleet, rain. We had a mild day in the high 50’s. Perfect. But there was more to come…so much more…

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11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lottie Nevin
    Dec 12, 2014 @ 09:14:54

    How chic! A Parisian wedding….I can’t wait to hear more about it! Please write more soon. Joy’s dress is absolutely stunning, the photos are great. Don’t keep us waiting too long!

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  2. Kimi
    Dec 12, 2014 @ 10:50:46

    How wonderful! Everyone looks so great and happy! What a romantic setting…congratulations to the family on this happy occasion. 🙂 Her dress was
    gorgeous!

    Like

    Reply

  3. Susan Wiste
    Dec 12, 2014 @ 12:33:49

    I truly missed your blog when you were gone, but this post makes up for that. Thank you.

    Like

    Reply

  4. shanemac
    Dec 12, 2014 @ 17:33:48

    I had to consciously remember to put aside my irrational jealously so I could enjoy your picturesque story. You made memories to last a lifetime and then shared them with us.
    What I wouldn’t give to have a cheese shop in Bali. In Australia our local cheese shop posted a small sign in their window saying, “Oh, what a friend we have in cheeses!” It always made me smile.

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  5. Gigi Gloria Heitkemper Cullins
    Dec 12, 2014 @ 18:33:40

    What an amazing and beautiful wedding! We are beyond thrilled for Joy and Kellen. We remember so well meeting him when they first started dating…we were living in NYC then. Loved reading your account…and waiting for more! I know you are a proud and happy Mom. You have three amazing girls!!! Lucky woman, you!!! XOXO

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  6. sageblessings
    Dec 12, 2014 @ 19:56:54

    Yum to the family, the event, the food and PARIS. The size of the jet and length of layover not so much. What an absolutely magical five days. I am so thrilled for you……and, of course, your daughters. You’ve modeled for them an adventurous spirit.

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  7. healingpilgrim
    Dec 15, 2014 @ 00:46:39

    Tres jolie! What a beautiful account of your Parisian adventure. Looking forward to more 😉

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