I look at my calendar and count backwards five weeks.
January 7, 2016
Lunch at Miznon
That was a Thursday in Paris. The Hubs and I and our blended family of seven children had recently returned from our holiday vacation in Chamonix, France.
One by one, our kids flew back to the United States. Number One was moving from New York to Chicago, Number Two returning to his senior year at Clemson, Numbers Four and Five halfway through their freshman years at PSU and TCU, Number Six a junior at Valley Forge Military Academy. That left us with Number Three and Number Seven.
Number Three, my intelligent, cool, well-traveled stepdaughter had decided to stay in Paris a while longer with a friend. She let me tag along on their excursions. Five weeks ago, we ate falafels at Miznon, my favorite lunch spot in the Marais. Without fail, anyone who experiences Miznon during their trip to Paris agrees the menu is magical, especially the roasted cauliflower. I know what you’re thinking, but talk to me after you’ve tried it. My Chinese friend from French class met us there, where she and Number Three held lively conversations in Mandarin while I sat there like, these lamb meatballs are fucking outstanding.
After we stuffed our bellies like the glutinous Americans we are, I bid adieu to my Chinese friend, and promised her I’d see her soon. I was slated to return to French classes on February 1st. Number Three, her friend, and I spent the afternoon perched on top of Notre Dame Cathedral, admiring the magnificent Paris skyline. Does it ever get old? Then, despite howling winds and ominous gray skies, we flâneured on over to Shakespeare and Company. Why is it that every time I go to Shakespeare and Company, I beeline for that place on the shelf between where author’s last names begin with “Ci” and “Cu”? As evening descended upon Paris, we found ourselves at the famed Michou drag show in Pigalle (where we actually met Michou), drank flaming cocktails at Dirty Dick in SoPi, chatted up the bartender at Glass, and finally returned home at Four AM. Yep, I roll like that. Vivre le rêve.
I look at my calendar again, at that little square on my computer screen, and I think, five weeks was so forever ago. Number Three and her friend returned to the USA two days after our lunch at Miznon. She handed me the keys and her leftover Metro billets and my Velib card, and I hugged her, and I closed the door behind her, and the apartment was quiet and clean and mine again.
The Hubs left for a business trip, and Number Seven was just as happy to reclaim his game room as I was to reclaim my kitchen. On Monday, January 11th, my youngest son went to school; I met my girlfriends for coffee at the Mini Palais; and life returned to a blissful normal.
I look at my calendar and I remember these things, and I find them worth writing about. Our trip to Chamonix had been an epic adventure, littered with beautiful scenery, late night college football games, and near-death experiences on the ski slopes and off the ski slopes. That trip could easily provide pages of cringeworthy material, but now, that’s not what I want to write about.
Because when Number Seven returned home from school on Monday, January 11th, five weeks ago, he pointed to a lump on his neck. And three weeks after that, on Monday, February 1st, the day I was slated to return to French classes, I looked at my baby with admiration and respect, while he endured a seven-hour intravenous drip at Institut Curie in Paris, his first day of chemotherapy. He is fourteen, and now, he has Hodgkins Lymphoma.
This morning, I cooked French Toast while Number Seven sat on a kitchen stool and The Hubs took the clippers to his hair.
No matter how often I see it happen, I’m floored by fate’s extraordinary ability to turn our lives upside down in a matter of weeks, or days, or minutes. But I’m also amazed at our ability to adapt, and to conquer, and to grow. Because it’s what humans do.