Rue Vauquelin, Paris…a little piece of paradise…I never walk past here. I don’t want to ruin the memory.

A love letter from Paris. I know he remembers her…I wouldn’t leave my love home alone with her because she was all raspberries and cherries and only twenty-three. She was from the Louvre, a student there, ‘the school of love’, she says. I’m nodding; he’s panting. It’s agreed; she can stay. We’ve employed her as the au pair. She is to teach the children French. We are all learning French. The four children, my love and me. The year is 2006.

The park in between. We would meet there with the four children every afternoon and swap them. The gap in our classes is a perfect window for a picnic in the park. My time is 9-1, and my loves are 2-6. We had homework…my love was always better at rote than me. I would copy his homework every night whilst he started that second bottle of wine. “Did you know I did that?” I learnt by osmosis, he by hard work. I spoke first, but he knew better. My grammar was so poor, and his confidence so low. It was a race; everything was a race. I think he won; I stopped running. “Did you notice?” I had to race with four children on my back. They were heavy, and each year, they became more so, filling me with love until I could wish for no more. Now I become light; they are running. I watch them with envy and admiration. It is their time now.

Jardin du Luxembourg…the park in between…the children and their boat

They are running so fast, much faster than we did. I want to run again. “Will you race me, my love?” But we need to change the rules because the world and I have changed. I have the fondest memories of our shared experiences with the children that year in Paris. I dined in a fancy restaurant for the first time with my love and the four children. I remember what the children ate. I remember helping them with the shells. I remember the smells, butter and garlic, white wine emulsion, and mooules. But I have no idea what I ate. Why can’t I remember? I know I was happy. It all seems to be slipping away. And now I look at the photos; they keep the memories alive.

Our children were aged 3,5,7 and 9; the older kids rode 42km…insanely impressed.

Each year we return to Paris, we create new memories and new moments that will become the old ones. And Paris is always the same but different; that is what I love about her. She is both new and old simultaneously, a little bit like us.

I remember bike riding in high heels, of course, always in high heels. I remember the kayaking. I remember our Vespa. I remember the metro. I remember the pain au chocolat. The day I ate three of them in an attempt to be cured. It didn’t work; I could have eaten more. Always with the four children. Now they are living their own lives. I don’t want to burden them with the expectation to be around, but I miss them. I miss you too. Can you send me a love letter from Paris?

I remember we had only one date night that year, and I ruined it. “Remember?” It was the first cold snap, and I wanted to drop a blanket by to a local man, but I didn’t get to him in a rush to please everyone. I had fed the children, bathed them and had them in bed when the au pair arrived, but I hadn’t dropped off the blanket. I was so distracted. The colder the night became, the more I worried about this man. We had to abandon the date to go and deliver him a blanket—my love, so kind. We missed our dinner booking, and we couldn’t get in anywhere. It ended up being a horrible night, but he indulged in me being happy. I remember his patience and my apology. Checks and balances…

Our forties seem to be lasting forever. Such hard work, ensuring the children are ok. Reflecting on my goals, they are so specific about the children. “I’m sorry if you missed out”. I want the children to contribute to society and to be happy. Two things, be happy and contribute to the community; I want them so badly. I have repeated that on so many occasions, a well-worn phrase.

We are in exciting times, the new and the old. “Have I enticed you, my love? Will you race me?” I promise to speak French forever since you cannot. Maybe I will learn Italian, too; we know it lives inside me. “Can you handle the heat?” I want to feel jealous again like I did in Paris. I would never have left you alone with her…

A love letter from Paris.

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