women. writers.

Creative Non-Fiction: My Four Seasons of Paris by Cynthia Wilson

I was inspired by a postcard.  As we shopped the Champs Elysees for pretty cards to send to home to those we love, I came across one that caught my eye. It read “the Four Seasons of Paris”.  It had on it four pictures of the Eiffel Tower, one in each season. It occurred to me that I had seen all these images before, this being my fourth trip to Paris in as many seasons. Over the next few days of our trip, I would reminiscence about each season and what they had meant to me.

The first trip was when I was eighteen. A high school French teacher organized a trip and my parents were generous enough to send me on it. I was a small-town southern girl embarking on her biggest journey to date. I spent weeks packing. Just the right clothes were needed to make me look like a local. It was one of those large-group, charter-bus tours. While it was amazing to see the sights – I cried when first I saw the Arch de Triomphe – it was also a bit of a circus show. All seventy-five of us were herded around by a petite British tour guide who spoke fluent French.  Fellow travelers who asked “Why is everything so old here?” somehow spoiled the mood.  But Paris took over that summer and the brilliance and sophistication of the city had me hooked by my outstretched heart strings.
Cut to my 24th year. I had my own apartment in New York City, a nice job, and a new boyfriend to whom I confided “I’d like to take a trip”. 

“For the weekend?” he asked innocently.  

“Yes,” I said.  “To Paris!”  
I don’t think he ever got over the shock, even as we strolled the jardins and avenues.  It was a quick trip and an even quicker affair.  My spring was filled with foolish fancy and my season as a young lover proved my rashness and not much else.

On to my 30th year. I was as independent as ever. Riding the earth as it spun me round and made me older with each rotation. I wanted to do something to celebrate this milestone. Paris, once again, came to mind.  Not as rash this time; with more forethought. Thirty and single and still determined…but to do what?  So that winter I treated myself to the ultimate gift. I tooled around the Museé D’Orsay, had dinner with a local friend, and strolled the avenues and jardins. By myself this time. I was cold and alone, but inspired by the city of my dreams. I concluded that, while not perfect; my life outside Paris was right as it should be.

Then came the fall of my 35th year. Back in my home state of Georgia, surrounded by family in the crisp October air, I was married to the man I had never realized existed.  But he did and he took me to Paris. There, we strolled and saw sights and fell in love all over again with a city we’d each seen with other lovers. But this season was right. We squabbled over maps, cooed over the Eiffel Tower, rode bicycles by the Louvre, and shared countless conversations over countless glasses of wine. Paris was familiar to me now as was my new husband, the only one with whom I will see this lovely city again. 

Four seasons, four trips to Paris, four incarnations of me.

I wish I had bought that postcard.

Maybe next season.
1 comment on "Creative Non-Fiction: My Four Seasons of Paris by Cynthia Wilson"
  1. Beautifully written. I've always wanted to visit Paris in the springtime, but Mr. Wilson's piece has me contemplating scheduling four separate journeys spanning the four seasons. I have a lot to think about now.