October 7, 2015
For my birthday last year, my mom slid a small, thin rectangular shaped gift across the table. She asked, “Can you guess what that is?” It was hard. Something metal. I replied, “A tintype?” I removed the tissue paper to find that indeed it was. The image caught me completely off guard. It was my grandfather in front of the Eiffel Tower. He was wearing a suit and a camera hung from a strap around his neck. His curly hair wasn’t showing any signs of gray yet. How old was he? Maybe my exact age now?
Hot tears slid down my cheeks and fell onto my lap. I choked up for a few seconds but was finally able to ask, “Where did you find this?” My mom had discovered a few photos of him in Paris in some old boxes at his house. She gave me another black and white photo of him sitting at a café. She said this one didn’t look as good as a tintype.
Since my grandpa died in 2011, not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought about him or missed him. This man who came from humble beginnings in Childress, Texas regaled me with stories of his trips to places like England, Scotland, Switzerland and yes, France. He showed me that there was a big wide world out there for discovering and ultimately sharing with others. (He loved to talk.) Among many other things, he was one of my inspirations for living abroad. Before we left for this trip, I went to our local watch store and got a new battery for his black Casio watch that I wear from time to time. I know it may sound silly, but I feel close to him when I wear it and it was my way of bringing him to Paris with me.
This morning out of the blue Jonas suggested that we try to reenact the tintype photo that was given to me. He’s thoughtful like that. When we got near the Eiffel Tower I couldn’t remember the exact details of the photo. Was Grandpa’s right foot turned out or his left? Did he have his hands folded in front of him or behind? N’importe-quoi. We took that photo and for a moment, it felt like he was there in spirit. I can’t believe I forgot to wear the Casio!
Rhône and Rocky were in awe of La Tour Eiffel. We planned on going up but the elevator lines were a bit too long for a 1- and 5-year-old. We found a playground nearby and they were very pleased with that. Dark clouds started rolling in so we knew we didn’t have much more time outdoors. Before we got in the métro, I snapped one more photo of the tower. I have to say, it looks quite striking on a cloudy day.
Tonight my dear friend and former roommate Daniel came over to visit. He is a neuropsychologist here in Paris. No big deal. Just kidding. It is a huge deal! Daniel is from Mexico City, and not only is he super smart (fluent in French, English and Spanish and, well, he knows more about the brain than most of us ever will), he is one of the sweetest, funniest and most creative guys I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Jonas watched Rhône and Rock while Daniel and I caught up over dinner near la Bastille. I had some incredible pumpkin soup to start and then a tuna steak with ratatouille. We shared a fondant au chocolat and a piece of cheesecake with mango sauce for dessert. As Daniel and I walked to the métro, I realized that so much time can pass but we always pick up right where we left off. I’m looking forward to our next get together, hopefully this Friday!