Along with the rest of the civilized world, I was horrified to learn of the terrorist attacks that took place in Paris on November 13th. They were followed by an equally–perhaps even more–disturbing attack in San Bernardino.
Both of these have shaken me. San Bernardino? Because it hit so close to home.
Paris? Because Paris has a special place in my heart.
Special indeed. I celebrated my first, tenth, and 26th wedding anniversaries in Paris.
Celebrating anniversaries in Paris…. Romantic, n’est-ce pas? But here’s what’s more important: Those anniversaries were filled with the kind of love that lasts even longer than spine-tingling heart-pounding romance.
On our first anniversary, Herb and I were in Paris on our very first trip to Europe. We made plans to dine with some old friends (including one of Herb’s Harvard roommates) who were living in Geneva and drove into Paris to see us. We didn’t tell them it was our anniversary till we visited them in Geneva several days later. (I think Herb didn’t want them to treat us to dinner.)
So on our anniversary we dined at a typical French restaurant near our hotel on the Boulevard Saint-Germain instead of a pricey and far more elegant one. When we finally confided that we’d spent our first wedding anniversary with them, Herb’s roommate said, “You should have told us! We could have blown our wad and gone to the Tour d’Argent.”
But I hadn’t minded our modest dinner on the Left Bank. Just being with Herb, along with our friends, was more than enough. The evening had been filled with laughter and love. And there was plenty of time for romance later when we were alone.
Our tenth anniversary was very different. Herb was on a sabbatical from the university in Chicago where he taught math. During our month in Paris, Herb spent most days at the University of Paris, where he communed with other mathematicians while I shepherded our two small daughters (ages 4 and 7) around the city.
We ate dinner together every night, and our anniversary dinner was no exception. We dined with our daughters at a small and inexpensive bistro on the Left Bank, very near our apartment in the 5th arrondisement. Our modest apartment was on the Rue Tournefort, one street over from the better-known Rue Mouffetard, and the area, just off the Place de la Contrescarpe, was filled with bistros like this one.
We were preoccupied with our daughters, making sure we ordered food they would cheerfully eat (no fancy French sauces for them!), and reprimanding them if their behavior became too rambunctious. So as an anniversary dinner, it wasn’t glamorous, and it certainly wasn’t romantic. But the love all of us felt for each other turned the evening into a memorable one I’ll never forget.
Our 26th anniversary was even better. By this time, our daughters were no longer children, and our older daughter, Meredith, was spending all year in Paris on a graduate fellowship at the Ecole Normale Superieure. Herb and I, along with our younger daughter, Leslie, traveled to Paris to meet Meredith and spend some time there, after which the four of us traveled together in France for another ten days.
Our anniversary fell on our third day in Paris, and Herb asked me to choose a place for dinner. I picked a small restaurant on the Ile St.-Louis, one of my favorite places in all of Paris.
We walked there from our Left Bank hotel, strolling along the Seine, crossing the bridge that leads to Notre-Dame, then crossing the bridge to the Ile. The weather was sunny and warm, and we laughed and chatted as we walked.
We arrived on the island and enjoyed perusing menus posted outside the restaurants on the Rue St.-Louis-en-Ile as we approached our destination. Then we shared a delightful dinner at the restaurant I’d chosen, where our charming waiter took photos of us laughing and eating and reveling in just being together. After dinner, we strolled to Berthillon, famed for its glaces and their unique flavors, and we devoured our ice cream on the spot. That evening was one of the most blissful I’ve ever spent.
I’ve been to Paris on five other trips (I wrote about one of them in a blog post last November, “Down and Hot in Paris and London”). I recently returned for the eighth time, and Paris was just as beautiful as I remembered.
But Paris without Herb? It’s never been quite the same.
When Herb died, he left me with years of memories filled with the extraordinary love and happiness we shared. The three anniversaries we celebrated in Paris are at the top of my list.