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What Paris Did for Me

I can't explain it, but from the time I took my first French class at Gwynedd Mercy Academy, an all girls' Catholic high school, in suburban Philadelphia, I was hooked! It just made sense to my brain. I was already good at spelling, diagramming sentences (!) and even helped my friends figure out where the subject went on the diagram! Languages feel like a puzzle to me, and I loved putting the pieces together.

Fast forward a year later, to a move to southern Indiana, Evansville, to be precise when I was a sophomore in high school. I met my favorite teacher of all time, Madame Jeannine Bourguin Holman. She was the real deal from Paris. She married an American GI who "rescued" her after the "Occupation" meaning Germans in Paris. She taught 100 kindergarteners at a time there?! She is the one who had a tooth pulled without anesthetic during WWII! I ended up taking French 2 from her expanding on my love of all things French--and even skipping French 3 because I was already on top of it going straight to French 4.

As a junior in high school, I entered a qualifying "contest" in the state of Indiana, hosted by Indiana University. They select 30 students from the entire state to participate in their Summer Honors Program in France. DREAM OF MY SHORT LITTLE LIFE! I went up to Bloomington, Indiana with fellow classmates to sit for the lengthy written test. Step 1. Step 2 came a few weeks later when my results on the written test qualified me to go back to Indiana University and sit down for an in person interview, all in French. I passed that too! Weeks went by, and I got an envelope in the mail announcing that I was selected to attend the program for the summer! Best achievement of my life up to that point!

I started dreaming in French. I bought new suitcases for the trip. I packed and prepared for every detail. I went back to Indiana University again (3 hours away) for a pre-meeting with my parents about what to expect living with a French family and speaking French 100% of the time and going to school and buying my own snacks since the French don't snack. I was thrilled beyond belief before I even left the United States. The trip was spent mostly in the northwestern part of France, Brittany. We visited Normandy beaches, Mont St. Michel, Versailles and then were dazzled by a few days in Paris at the end. The trip didn't disappoint, and to this day, that was the best summer of my life despite living in the dormitory at the end with only a curtain for a door, itchy bed bugs, no AC, hand washing my clothes and taking showers twice a week MAX.

It was thirty years before I would ever return to France. ? Don't ask me. A lot was happening in my life. But, when I did, my sister and I ran the Marathon of Paris, and then and there--my life changed. I remembered myself as a 16 year old feeling like the world was my oyster. I remembered experiencing so many new things, foods, customs, culture and "eating it up." I remember feeling so very hopeful for what my future would hold. All those feelings against the backdrop of my miserable marriage. It didn't make sense. You see where this is going...

When I got back to Wilmette, where I was living at the time, I became very depressed. In fact, if I had not had Lilia and Natalie at home waiting for me I would not have left Paris. Truth. It is a common sentiment to feel depressed and let down after the accomplishment of running a marathon, so I definitely had that going on. But, it was so much more. I kept remembering how I was at 16. I remember my feelings and hopes and dreams and could not for the life of me reconcile those with the life I ended up with.

I decided that I had to pursue the divorce that I thought of many times. I decided to take back my life. It was not easy. It was mostly very hard. It was the right thing to do. I have Paris--and the way it made my feel to thank.

I am leaving in a few hours for my fifth trip to the City of Light. I am the luckiest girl in the world--just like I felt when I was 16. Anything can happen. That's what Paris is known for! This time, two of our three grands are going and their parents of course. My babies in Paris? I never imagined that. Their parents are coming too! This time, I am a grandmother going to Paris. My grandmother name is Meme (pronounced MayMay) which is French for Grammy. This was Mrs. Holman's grandmother name, and I decided a long time ago, it would be mine too. See how Paris keeps calling me?

All this story--these diversions down memory lane--to share with you that HOW you want to feel--is a choice. I chose hopeful and young again and full of possibility. I have never looked back.

How do YOU want to feel? Choose that. You will very glad you did.

I am cheering you on even from afar. I will be posting and sharing and enjoying the City of Light that has done sooooo much for my life.

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Jean Mills
Jean Mills
Jun 02, 2022

Have a perfectly wonderful time! What a beautiful time to be going to Paris. May something magical happen!


God speed, Karen, to you and all the family. What a gift to go to Paris! You will return with more inspiration for us readers. We miss you at WW, for sure, and even miss you while you are away!


Love this! Have a fabulous time!!!

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