Friday night. I’m in the Air France departure lounge at JFK. I’m there, through security an hour before it is necessary. I don’t want to read so my head is back on the chair, my eyes closed. Behind me a couple is whispering in French. At first I’m translating; then suddenly I’m thinking and hearing in French. I sigh and sink into it. After a few minutes a tear falls and rolls down my cheek. My senses open and I relax for the first time in two years. I revel in the sense of it. Eventually we board and I sit happily in my coach seat, anonymous and dreaming of France. I fall asleep at peace. And when the stewardess wakes me on approach, I drink the tea, eat the yogurt, watching out the window as Paris draws near.
I’ve never understood why France means so much to me. It’s conservative and regressive-trying to hold on to the past while I see myself as a true Third Wave person. Neither my mother or father is French nor their parents but it’s the only place that feels like home. I don’t care about the politics there. I love the feel of the people, the taste of the air and the scent of fresh flowers in the market every morning. As the sun goes down at 10 pm in late June I will sit in a Paris café with a glass of St. Emillion and the dark colors of night scattering shadows over the people I’m talking to. I can sit for hours reading a book of Valery or a Maigret with no thoughts of problems or worry. Perhaps they are right that the culture ancienne is something that shouldn’t leave the earth. We have seven billion human ants on the earth all striving to be richer. Perhaps we should let a few million that encompass a culture of joy, of peace, of tolerance exist. I close my eyes – seeing and feeling the days to come. I sit back and wait for the plane to stop savoring what is to come.
Excerpt from one of my novels that made clear to me what France meant to me.