She woke up to her husband sleeping next to her in bed. She heard the sound of the kids watching cartoons downstairs and the baby fussing in his crib. It was time to wake up. She noticed that it had snowed over night. After picking up the baby and heading downstairs she looked around to see what the two older ones had gotten into while she was asleep. Banana peels where on the floor. Not too bad, they have been known to get into a lot of trouble while their parents sleep. They love bananas and will eat the whole bunch in twenty four hours of purchase if allowed. She then had a sickening thought. It was Valentine's Day and she had forgot a card. They had agreed not to do much this year but to just exchange cards. How had she forgotten? The store was covered in pink when she bought those bananas yesterday. Yet, she had. She pulled out the pink pancake mix for the kids. It was more about them these days anyhow and they were so excited about the pink pancakes. While mixing the thought of, "Nine years ago you missed the bus to Paris" popped into her head. She sulked a little. When her husband came downstairs dressed he asked her what was the matter? She had hardly said anything all morning. She fibbed and mumbled something about the delicate homeostasis of her body and the ill affects of antibiotics. He tried to give her advice. She rolled her eyes, she hated advice these days even due to a fib. She didn't want to say I am sulking because of nine years ago. Too much emotion there. She never liked expressing emotion. He got annoyed with her eye rolling and got up from the table. She knows that she has a large wall and mean pincers. She wants to day dream about Paris with him, but she cleans up the dishes instead. He knows something is bothering her and tries to be encouraging. He is very encouraging with her, but she sulks, says something smart assed and cuts him off. This is her childish way of dealing with emotions. He gives her her space. While cleaning up the dishes she day dreams about what would have happened had they not missed that bus.
It was February 2001 and the young engaged couple was returning to the states in a couple of weeks. Their time in Germany was about over. They were sad to leave their friends and their European life but were excited to start their life together in Nevada. The thought of living someplace sunny was glorious. They had moved out of their little apartment the week before and were living in the guest quarters of her mother's home Bachesmuhle. Her mother and stepfather were off in Aruba and it was just the two of them. They were sitting at the little table in the little guest kitchen and he gave her a card. She opened it and cut out letters poured from it. She recognized the Disney font. He told her to unscramble the letters. She was so excited. Too excited to unscramble fast. She loved it when he was spontaneous and sneaky with her. He was so good at it and it kept her on her toes. Finally she figured it out, the letters spelled Paris. He told her they were leaving on a bus the next day. She said instead of leaving on the bus from their little town with the beer brewery why not drive a couple hours to a larger town and have dinner and that way they would not have to be on the bus so long. He agreed. That sounded fun.
The next morning they woke up and the day seemed to drag. She was so excited. She had travelled all over with him, but there was something about Paris. It sound so romantic. So perfect for Valentine's Day. He had thought of it himself. He told her what he wanted to do while in Paris, it sounded wonderful. When they got to Kaiserslautern they decided on Mexican food. They craved Mexican food a lot while living in Europe. It never was spicy enough and the taste was always slightly off but it fulfilled the craving. They noted that they still had a few hours until the bus was to arrive. They decided to go bowling. Her elbows were not working properly yet, for she had broken them mountain biking a few month previously and bowling was starting to bother them. She used that as her excuse for her pathetic score. He has since learned that she is simply a terrible bowler. They noted that President Bush was on the television stating that we had bombed Iraq again due to Saddam ignoring the no fly zone. They had no idea what the following September would bring. They finished the rather lopsided game and went to go wait in the car.
Once in the white 1983 Mercedes with Navy blue interior they discussed the trip to Paris and started to get drowsy. They were parked right next to where the bus was to pick them up and figured they would hear it when it's large diesel engine pulled up. This was before they had children and she could hear the slightest noise across the house while dead asleep. She was taking a chance. It wasn't her that heard the bus it was him. He awoke to the rumbling at 1 am and looked over to see her sleeping. Was that drool on the navy blue interior? No matter. He rubbed her hair and woke her up stating the bus had arrived. They got out of the car and got on the large tour bus. They pulled out onto B37 and she noted 407 km to Paris. She put her head on his shoulder and fell asleep for the five hour bus ride.
She woke up when the bus started stopping and and starting. They were in Paris and the driver was navigating the streetlights and the traffic. She looked out the window and saw that the very square wide buildings of Germany had changed to the taller thinner more ornate buildings of France. The bus went down the Champs Elysees and past the Arc de Triomphe. She nudged him to wake him up. He looked out the window and then turn to her and smiled saying Happy Valentine's Day. The bus stopped and everyone was to meet back here at 1 am for the ride back to Germany. They had one day in Paris together. By the time everyone got unloaded and got out their maps and started talking about where to go first they were off on their own. They had no desire to hang out with a big group all day. This was their trip. It was breakfast time and what better than Paris to find a chocolate filled croissant? They didn't have to wander far and they happened upon one. It was cold out but after being seated inside the little passeterie shop with Louis XIV style wicker backed chairs and had the strong Parisian coffee in hand the cold didn't matter. They pulled out their map and little tour book. She tried to look inconspicuous with the map and book. She never liked looking like a tourist.
They decided that going Notre Dame was first on the list. They saw the beautiful flying buttresses and went inside the big cathedral. It was enormous. It was slightly dark inside the great church because d it was a cloudy day and so there was little light coming in from the very large stained glass window at the back of the church. It was magnificent red and blue with the huge organ pipes just below it. They cathedral was not very crowded this early in the morning, so they were able to wander quite easily and just take in the history and it's beauty.
After Notre Dame they thought that the Louvre was in order. It was down the River Seine a little ways, maybe a mile so they walked instead of taking the metro. They listened to the sounds of the cars rushing by, noting the tour boats on the Seine, passing Fresh cafes that seemed to be on every corner, she was enjoying the listening people speaking French as they past. She didn't understand it, but to her it was pretty.
When they got to the Louvre there was already a line to get in. People queue up in the courtyard that is surrounded by the old building on three sides and she couldn't figure what color is was. Is is cream, white, eggshell, either way it has a the typical French dark roof with an amazing amount of chimneys and lots windows. In the middle of the courtyard is a large glass pyramid and that is where they entered. Once inside they went down the spiral staircase into a massive rotunda that was quite unexpectedly modern. They were screened by security and deemed safe enough to stare at all the paintings in awe. She thought it best to seek out the Mona Lisa and get it out of the way. He was fine just following her around. He had never really been to museum before he met her and he liked them all right and had learned all about 16th century Dutch painters from her in Amsterdam. He had never met someone like her. She loved that he never had an interest in such things back in Texas and yet was quite curious about all the artists. After wandering down many hallways viewing priceless painting after priceless painting and viewing the Mona Lisa they noticed the chocolate croissant had long since worn off and their stomach were starting to gurgle.
They left famous museum and thought sitting in one of the picturesque and very stereotypical French Brasserie was they way to go for lunch. It was a typical restaurant in the tourist district of Paris. Red leather booths around the walls of the place. Little two seater tables on the center. The walls were ornate with gold and mirrors. attached. It was very gaudy, noisy and busy, yet, in France seemed just fine. They ordered the soup du jour because it was France after all and they could say du jour here and it was warm carrot cream soup that they were both really fond of, they they decided on the cod. The waiter stated it was caught that morning and was quite fresh which was paired with wilted spinach. Eating in France is a production and takes a while. But while they were waiting for their menus, their drinks, their food, their dessert they talked. This was the one thing she loved most about it, his ability to just listen to her ramble and dream. They talked about their upcoming move to Las Vegas they planned on buying a condo together, finishing school, his getting out if the military, their wedding in June. There was no pressure of life on them yet. They were together in France, their one responsibility, the dog was already in the states. It was just them. They weren't even dreaming of children, nor careers yet. Just simply the two of them together in Paris. She was happy they made the trip, it was a day that she would remember always. She sometimes took her very fortunate life for granted, but not this day with her love in Paris.
After the very long lunch they wandered to the Champs Elysees they wanted to walk down it together. As they walked they went into all the very expensive shops along they way discussing that in July this street was filled with Tour de France fans cheering on Lance Armstrong. When they got to the Arc de Triomphe they took a picture of themselves in front of it. Later when it was developed they discover it is mainly their face with a bit of white stone behind his head. They put the snap shot in a frame and place it next to their bed.
It was time for the Eiffel Tower. This is what he had planned. He wanted to take her to dinner at the Eiffel Tower. He knew there was a restaurant up on one of the levels and had bought tickets for the nine o'clock dinner when she wasn't paying attention. She was laughing about the famous Jardin du Luxembourg and how they were in Paris but their first date included a garden in the country of Luxembourg. They waited in line for the elevator and smashed in like sardines to go up. They toured the first and second floors. Looking out at all the chimney covered roof tops it was dark now and Paris was indeed the city of lights. Everything twinkled. They wandered through the gift store looking at the Eiffel Tower shaped letter openers and paper weights. It was late, she asked him about dinner. He then told her he planned to take her up to the restaurant. It was surprising modern looking inside. Grays and purples with dark lighting. She was given a menu and noted the price, she told him he didn't have to do that, it was quite expensive. She didn't understand anything else that she read it was all in French. He just leaned over and kissed her forehead. They had a wonderful meal staring out the windows of the Eiffel tower looking at the sparkles. Once again dreaming of their future life together and in the same breath just being in the wonderful moment of the sappy Valentine's Day dinner in Paris.
Later after dinner they made their way back to the bus got on and fell asleep. She was quite content with her life and realized he really loved her. Not because he had surprised her with a trip to Paris and they had an unforgettable day, but they way he looked at her and listened. She would ramble on and on and he just would encourage her in her dreams when she wouldn't. He seemed to care for her more than himself. She had found her partner.
This of course did not happen. After bowling they fell asleep and when the bus came they did not hear it. They instead woke up after it had left and had driven home. She was crushed. Tears welled up in her eyes. Every Valentine's Day she sulks a little bit, even nine years later. They did move to Las Vegas, got married, bought a condo, finished college, got jobs, moved to Colorado had three kids...had a life together. The dreaming that went on in that fictitious Parisian brasserie took place. Her thoughts on the bus from that fictitious trip to Paris were true. He did love her and encouraged her with her dreams even when she didn't. Nine years later she has come to know that he does truly love her, even when she sulks about Paris, saves her romantic sap for herself not letting it out, keeps her pincers and wall on high alert. He lets her be her. There is not a picture of them in front of the Arc de Triomph next to their bed, but instead one of them in their wedding finery with their foreheads together. It is so much better, because it is real. Happy Valentines Day love, and instead of the forgotten card here are some emotions completely laid out for all to read. I love you.