Paris is an old, beautiful city, and supposedly, this is where everything began, the center of Paris:
A circle of tiles marks a small brass star in front of Notre Dame. From here, all distances in Paris are measured; it’s the kilometre zero. It was a quirky little thing to find, but pretty cool. Very appropriate for this week’s travel theme.
I have many more stories of Paris, which was the last city in a two-week traipse that started in Amsterdam and meandered south. Stay tuned for that and for the rest of the trip reports!
In the middle of this trip, my family lost its center: my grandmother.
I saw her right before I left for Europe. We sat at the kitchen table and I asked her to tell me stories again about her childhood, her youth, her husband who died before I was ever born, and her early years of immigration to the US in search of a better life for her family.
She told me that my grandfather met her when she was 11. He was instantly smitten, and couldn’t leave her alone. By 15, she was married. He was 27. I was flabbergasted. “Seriously, Lola?! Man, Lolo was a cradle snatcher!” She only laughed at my exclamations. (Later on, my aunt would tell me that Lola was four years off; records show that she married at 19.)
She raised seven children almost on her own– her husband passed away shortly after the birth of their last child. In the 70’s, she moved to California. She worked many jobs, including a ten-year stint at McDonald’s, so she could earn money for her family. And she succeeded. Today, four out of her five remaining children live comfortably in the US, and the youngest stayed in the Philippines by choice.
My grandmother was our matriarch, the glue that held us together. We would, literally and in various ways, not be here without her. But she lives on in us, her children, her 22 grandchildren, and 17 great-grandchildren. We inherited her nose (somewhat wide and flat), her eyes (small and tilted) and her legs (a bit thick and muscular). I’d like to think that we also carry her strength and determination. We’ll have to make a better effort at keeping together as a family, but then again, we were lucky to have the best example.