and then there were three…
dispatch from 75005 paris, in which one of us is very much missing as we stroll the bedazzled city of lights . . .
there must be a rule about not being allowed to be heartsick in paris, but i’m breaking it. three of us are here, in a fifth-floor aerie beside the luxembourg garden, where the buttery scents of the creperie below slither in through the wide-open windows. but one of us is very much not here.
amid the myriad rules the french seem to have drawn up but kept close to the vest (more on that in a minute…), there is the one that insists your passport is valid for 90 days after you leave the country. well, our very own law professor, not having memorized the fine print of french law, found out at check-in saturday night that his passport, valid until august 27, falls 11 days short of that bar. so: no “valid” passport, no boarding pass, no way to get in.
for five anguishing days, he and we and a superhero named mary (my long-adored once-upon-a-time babysitter-slash-make-believe sister who’s never even met the professor in person, but who made it her mission to move this immovable mountain) tried every last trick in the emergency-passport book: standing in line at 6 a.m. at the US Passport Agency in washington, d.c., where not an appointment was granted (and without an appointment, no chance at a passport); trying to get in the door at the french embassy, where the professor wasn’t even allowed to stand near the door and ordered to move across the street; even a wild-eyed last-ditch scheme to fly to calgary, canada, where a rare passport appointment slot was to be had (but mary’s 11th-hour call to her immigration lawyer—yes, she happens to have one—revealed that the emergency passport he might get there would still not get him into the country). so, hearts sunk and throbbing with hurt, we declared it a loss and canceled the last flight united airlines was offering. (they admitted that when we bought the tickets to paris way back in january, the agent we talked to might have been wise to mention the so-called schengen rule, and thus they had been willing to rebook his flight until wednesday, insisting he should have had time to fix le probleme.)
tears have been wept here in paree. and very good thing the gendarmes seem not to have noticed. there might be a rule and, mais oui, a penalty.
the whole point of this trip, from beginning to end, was a very rare chance—after three years of covid, after law school, after college, and emphatically after a surgery that knocked the breath right out of me—to bask in the light of simply being together. without distraction. without deadline.
for weeks now, while my lung and its new metal threads stitched themselves back together again, and i learned how to take a deep breath again, i pictured one simple scene, one that carried me across many a bump in my most recent road: i imagined looking up from my chair in a bistro, at the radiant glow of my beautiful boys circling the table—mid-laugh, mid-long-winded tale, mid the most simple treasure of being together.
not too many weeks ago i was weighing five-year survival rates, and when that becomes your math, each day’s import is quadrupled, quintupled, or more. so, yes, this city amazes and charms at every twist and turn in the ancient allees and at every wide-open vista along the grand boulevards. but part of me is very much missing, and if the doctors looked at my heart this very minute, they’d declare it a sick little ticker, missing a part of its most heavenly beat.
adding insult to injury in the annals of this unforgettable trip, sweet boy No. 2 was yesterday all but accosted by a phalanx of gendarmes who rushed onto our train car as we neared our station, home from versailles, asked to see our tickets, rattled off something menacing en francais, then pulled out a laminated card and something about “penalty 60 Euro.” we sat bewildered (and alarmed that the next thing we’d see was a dangling pair of silvery cuffs). and tried to insist we’d seen not a warning, nor quite understood. mais non! the crime for which he was fined: resting the edge of his shoe on the edge of the seat across from him.
the morals of this sorrowful tale: check your dang passport, check the intricacies of crossing any international border (see: Schengen Rule), and don’t rest your sole on the edge of the train seat.
other than that, all is charmed in the city of so many bedazzling lights. (see photos below.)
and i’ll just have to wait till we’re back in the states to plop myself down with all three of my boys. no passport required.
of course you expected no dispatch so glum, certainly not from the home of the crepe and escargot, and i’m trying my darnedest to savor each hour. just telling the truth, as is always my promise.
what vacation mishaps do you have to tell? and how did you manage to make it all right? or at least glean a wisdom from out of the ashes?