Tag Archives: young family

In an old Parisian zoo

We walked to a local market with our two young children in buggies. We were visiting the Menagerie du Jardin des Plantes in Paris and needed a picnic. Knowing I wasn’t going to bring young boys into Parisian restaurants, I came prepared; plastic cups, cheese knife, napkins, healthy appetites. The Boulangerie along the way provided our breads and dessert. The market filling our picnic basket with a cake that was also cheese (but not a cheesecake) and fruit. I spied a delicatessen and left my farmer, or Dan as he is known off the farm, in the shade with the buggies to buy some cold meats.

In the tiny charcuterie, no bigger than a newsstand, locals were filing in to buy lunch. With two slices of pork terrine en croûte and some delicious cold meats, I saw the little shelf where the obligatory bottles of lunchtime red wines were held. Now I love my local butchers but he doesn’t sell wine, only in Paris I thought and it would be rude not to partake in the local customs, I placed the gorgeous bottle of red alongside my purchases. The owner seeing Dan with the two buggies in the shade, asked if we were picnicing. Then I’ll open the bottle for you he said. So matter of fact. So natural. So French.

We chased two little children around the oldest city zoo in the world, trying to catch butterflies in beautiful glasshouses and eventually settled ourselves down to our banquet fit for Marie Antoinette. It was August and we knew how to avoid the tourist trails, in years to come we thought, they would see the highlights. That day, they were young and hungry and blissfully unaware of the city around them. For their parents however, nothing was going to stop them enjoying their most favourite city, no tantrum or awkward buggy. The tastes, the pungent cheese, the baguette, the red wine, real grapes, we melted further into the day.

Later, as we walked ‘home’ along the Seine, we took full advantage of our afternoon nappers in their buggies and pulled into a cafe overlooking Notre Dame enjoying some coffee and crème brûlée.

We repeated that picnic under the Eiffel Tower and in the Jardin des Tuileries over our few days in Paris. Happily, we filled that holiday with nothing but family life, happy to be in Paris. I had learned years earlier, at nineteen, that Paris was more than a city and returned as often as my pockets would allow in the years to follow.  This morning, after these atrocities, I find it hard to describe what Paris is. I reach into my inkwell, seeking solace and know that Paris, to me, is just vitality, good living and truth. Values that I hoped on that sunny day in an old Parisian zoo, in the crust of their baguette, my sons would come to learn too.

Moi, je suis Paris et je suis tellement triste.

Enjoy them now

There’s always an older woman around when you need that crucial piece of advise. I’m sure I’m not being ageist or sexist when I say it, I assure you. Maybe it’s coincidence but I think not for there she is, the older lady with nuggets of wisdom to dispense at just the right moment. They are mothers, grandmothers who no doubt wait by phones for sons to call or wave grown up children off of a Sunday evening urging you to enjoy every second of your time with your young children. It is well meaning for that I have no doubt and comes from a place of empathy but happens within earshot of most young mothers normally at the end of their tether, far too frequently.  Allow me to illustrate.

Now, rest assured, the following incidents are purely fictional and thereby serving to illustrate my point. I mean at no point yesterday afternoon did I personally find myself at a local library with three young sons you understand. No, no son of mine was emptying the read-it-yourself shelves and upsetting the alphabetical order of things while his brother begged his mother to read another of the Mr Men series. Nor was I drawed upon, ahem, she drawed upon to find Wally at the same time. No, I’m sensible like that. No, this was an altogether different mother. All characters remember are fictional, all but the lady who appeared just when the poor mother at the library was about to throw a tantrum herself and pack three said boys into the people carrier, lo and behold, there from behind the cookbooks appeared the older lady like an appartition ‘Aw’, she said ‘enjoy them now, these years go by in a flash, You’ll miss them.’ The mother almost huddled in the corner trying to realphbetize a row of Horrid Henry‘s while simultaneously trying to hold a trying toddler, smiled and nodded, really appreciating that little nugget of wisdom. I’m sure it was the first time, even that day, she had heard it.

That same sorry mother an hour later in the supermarket encountered another angelic vision who might have popped out at her from the cereal aisle to whisper ‘oh, their problems only get bigger.’ as she cajoled her eldest along who had gotten his finger stuck in the trolley. Is that so? I better get home I thought, I mean she thought, before the third vision appeared telling her that she had her hands full and that indeed boys are a handful and then inevitably there would appear the ‘wouldn’t-it-be-worse-if-he-were-thrown-down-sick’ fairy who somehow finds the perfect time to deliver the most useful line with perfect timing. Is there nothing to be said for awkward silence anymore?

Then today, that same mother found herself watching her three boys tumbling down an outside slide in fits of giggles, watching them standing up in turn to blow her a kiss at the window where she watched on, knowing instinctively, that she will miss the days when they were young, full of fun, carefree and naughty. And funnily, no-one had to tell her that.