This was initially going to be a very different post. I had most of the writing completed, apologizing for my recent absence from this blog and letting you all know what I’ve been up to and what new projects are on the horizon. But those announcements will have to wait. Because yesterday, while out on a walk to clear my head and get a break from the writing desk, I got a phone call from my mother.
“Are you listening to the news?” she asked. My mind quickly rushed to what loved ones were where and what could be happening in those locations. “Notre Dame is on fire!”
My first response was, “the school?” I have several friends who went to the university and my mother’s love of their women’s basketball team is quite strong, so I would understand her worry.
“No,” she said. “The cathedral. In Paris.” My initial reaction was tepid. I listened to her explain what she had heard had happened so far and how she was feeling about it. She and my father lived in Europe when they were first married and I know she has many fond memories of Paris and Notre Dame in particular. With my father’s passing, the loss of major monuments in their life together are understandably tough for her.
The phone call ended and I continued on my walk for a short distance before it really hit me. Notre Dame was burning! I quickly opened the news on my phone and the pictures I saw punched me in the gut. A flood of my past came crashing down around me as the dam that had previously been in place, separating the then from the now, the one that had held strong throughout the whole phone conversation, collapsed. And as I continued my walk, I cried. Paris is not just a special place for my mother. It holds a great deal of meaning for me as well. I have deep connections to many spots within the city and Notre Dame itself is a particularly poignant landmark in my memories.
Paris is known as The City of Love, and that is how I will always think of it. It was my city of so many firsts and the epitome of romance for the young woman that I was, walking the streets hand-in-hand with the one who defined true love to my younger self. The summer we spent together was something the hopelessly romantic me that I was could only have previously dreamed of. It had an end, as all things eventually do, which was colored with all the drama of inexperienced passion and immature notions of love. But its reality in that moment is something that I remember fondly, albeit with less regularity with each passing year. But when a blazing fire rips that place and time out of memory and into the present, it’s hard to suppress all the emotions that come with it.
When I got home from my walk, I looked through some pictures from that European summer. There was him. And there was us. And there was Notre Dame in all it’s glory. A beautiful backdrop to the story I was living then. The beginning of the journey to the life I am living now. I hurt for the people of Paris who watched as a steadfast center of their world and present lives burned. And I ache for those of us whose memories have now been tinged with the ashes of Notre Dame.