Thirty years ago this morning I awoke in Paris to the sounds of cooing pigeons and the voices of Frenchwomen at their morning household chores coming through tall bedroom courtyard windows. On the nightstand beside my bed was a pot of lilies-of-the-valley. I had arrived at midnight the night before, exhausted after two nights without sleep, a transatlantic flight, hours crouched on the floor of the railroad station in Luxembourg (waiting room with benches only for first-class passengers), a train ride made mostly on my feet (I had a ticket but not a seat reservation), and, after a confusing taxi ride in the dark, a climb with heavy bag to the third floor of 39 rue Vaugirard, where I found a note on the door telling me that Mme. Pillet was downstairs at a friend’s apartment. Down I trudged to find her. Back up again. Did I want something to eat? Wasn’t I hungry? No, I needed to fall into bed as quickly as possible before I keeled over onto the floor!
In the morning I woke refreshed. It was a sunny morning. The soft pigeon sounds, the flute-y women’s voices, the sweet chink of spoons against china cups—purling, murmuring--seemed too beautiful to be real.
Hélène made coffee for me that first morning but warned me she would not do so regularly. She did, however, as she realized I would not be a slovenly renter, extend to me kitchen privileges not accorded to all who stayed in the room, and by the end of the month, when it came time for me to leave, we were close friends.
Being there. Nothing at all like looking at pictures or watching a movie or reading a book or imagining! The ancient city filled with lilies-of-the-valley, pots and bouquets and corsages of them everywhere. The Seine sparkling in the sun.
And so on May Day I remember that morning 30 years ago. A day to celebrate friendship, a holiday from work. For me, a dream come true that lives on, cherished, in memory.