In the summer of 2009, we packed our bags for Paris to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary… with our five year old in tow.
Sophie was always a miniature adult, so there was never really any question that we would take her – she was an easy kid.
Many of my best memories of our time in Paris are the impromptu moments that unfolded without any scripting or planning. The restaurants and world-class museums were fabulous, of course – but it is the simple, fleeting vignettes running through my mind like a choppy old time movie that warm my heart when I recall that trip:
Perched on a wall eating sandwiches from a street cart, feeding sparrows and dozing in the Jardin des Tuileries, the terrified shrieking sound Sophie made when she dropped her Madeline doll while crossing a busy street…
I had gone to great lengths to book us at the Hôtel du Printemps, where I had stayed a dozen years earlier while backpacking in Europe on my own. I wanted to return not because it was extravagant or because it had beaucoup stars or a killer location, but rather because it sits unassumingly near place de la Nation out in the 12th arrondissement – hardly fashionable, but very charming.
The sense of being in a true Parisian neighborhood where tourists are the exception rather than the rule is definitely my preference, and I was enthusiastic and found it oddly comforting to be going back to a place I’d stayed in so many years before – and where I recalled the owners being very kind.
On one of our first days, still exhausted from traveling and walking around the city for hours trying to cram infinite experiences into finite hours, we elected to pick up some wine in a corner grocery store, pick up a pizza at a nearby cafe and stay in for the evening at our hotel.
With our wine and pizza in hand (do not underestimate Parisian pizza, trust me!), we borrowed a corkscrew and glasses from the little hotel bar and went out to the comically tiny courtyard. An array of abandoned gardening supplies littered the patio area, and a cranky businessman was watching TV in his room on the second floor just above our heads.
There was no candlelight and no alluring French cafe jazz in the background, and we ate our pizza straight from the box while drinking our convenience store wine (granted, in Paris “convenience store wine” is still a scrumptious Bordeaux). Sophie got hold of the camera and entertained herself while we chatted by taking literally hundreds of pictures of herself, her Madeline doll and every crevasse of the hotel.
She even captured a few of us, and I love them because they aren’t perfectly posed, they’re slightly blurry and we are laughing at her and each other.
Two bottles in, we were fabulously drunk on both the wine and the moment. It was all perfect.
Here’s the thing: I need reminding that simpler is better, less is more, and the unscripted can be brilliant.
Plenty of friends do the One Little Word thing – a single, powerful word that serves as an anchor and a muse for the year. I love the concept, and I’ve watched it work well for many people I know. Let’s face it, though – I rarely get by on one little word, much less just a few words. I’m more of a phrase or paragraph kind of gal.
Last year, I read Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown (highly recommend!) – it has had a huge impact on how I’m trying to live my life. Greg often cites the phrase weniger, aber besser – less, but better.
So this year, it felt like fate when the folks at Mieroglyphs reached out via one of my Instagram posts right before New Year’s Day – the time of year when I do a lot of thinking, processing, scheming and planning.
I hardly missed a beat in ordering a Mieroglyph for myself (and yes, I recognize the irony of ordering a thing while focusing on fewer things).
Mieroglyphs are like tiny little hidden tattoos, or a reminder string tied around your finger but not visible to the world. I used McKeown’s phrase, but translated it to French… of course.
Because indeed: I am working on fewer, but better… friends, things, commitments. Moins, mais mieux.
Cheers to a good year!