Dearest Jude, my heart is immeasurably full after our delightful early June trip to France with you and Dad. I cannot begin to tell you the joy it brings me to show you the world and we’ve been waiting for you to be big enough to be able to experience it fully. You’re eleven years old, tall and full of life, barreling headfirst into your adolescence and I see a glimpse of the man you’re becoming every day. It takes my breath away, this change before my eyes. It was important to me to show you one of the most influential places I’ve ever visited; this first taste we are giving you of Europe is everything and I cannot tell you how it thrills me to experience it with you. Your Dad and I remain passionate that we’re laying the foundation for what is hopefully a life full of adventure and exploration. And likewise, you don’t disappoint – your flexibility and willingness to try new things makes us proud. What a delight you are in all your curiosity and enthusiasm for life.
Back in December when I went with the girls on our spontaneous getaway, suddenly it was like a fire was lit — It was time. Jude has to be introduced to this beautiful country. My parents, your Grandmother and Grandaddy, did a great thing for me by planting a seed in my heart as a child to love travel. I was their later-in-life child, as you know, and so I tagged along on all their various trips, experiencing things that most of my classmates didn’t have on their radar until much later. If I’m honest, it was lonely sometimes, when you’re that kid. I grew up much like an only child, despite having older siblings. You’ve seen something incredible, and you’re excited about it — but who is a safe enough person to enthuse about it to? I learned quickly to keep my mouth shut and not make a big deal about it around other kids at school lest I be seen as a bragger or any weirder than I already was. But I was changed inside — and I felt different because of what I’d seen and experienced. Why didn’t anybody else here seem to care as much as I did about art, or style, or beauty?
But my parents understood. They saw me, really knew me — we shared something special together in those experiences. And then they put me on a plane to France when I was sixteen to stay with Kermit & Cheryl, and it was an experience that literally changed my life. My beloved aunt and uncle became surrogate parents to me while in France, fostering an understanding and love of beauty and culture in my heart that I’d only begun to comprehend. The seed that Glenda and Richard had planted so long ago began to grow into something.
That doesn’t mean that it’s always easy or amazing. I’ve had plenty of bad trips in my day. But. Experiencing something new and beautiful, seeing how other people live — it fills me up in a thousand ways. There’s a joy I feel in France unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been. A country full of color, beauty, and style, it speaks to my Enneagram 4 personality and replenishes my heart in unspeakable ways. I can only compare it to a flower blooming under all the right conditions of proper soil, water, and sunlight. That’s exactly how I feel, with my petals exposed to the light, twirling around in all the sunny colorful glory.
Jude, my darling boy, I see taking you places as a lifelong gift that I am passing down to you. We travel to learn more about others as well as ourselves and to see the things that make us all so different and yet also alike. It’s not about being better or worse than any other nation or people. It’s seeing God’s creations in all their fascinating splendor and learning that life looks very different from our corner of Oklahoma. I want you and Archer both to know that the world is bigger, smaller, uglier, prettier, busier, calmer, colder and hotter than what we know here. But also? We travel because memories and experiences outlast anything material on this earth. Our memories are what we carry with us. And one day when Dad and I are long gone, we will continue to live on with you because of these experiences, these memories, these souvenirs that we’ve planted in your heart. Remember – souvenir is a French word we’ve adapted to our English meaning. We made it into something physical and tangible, an item you buy from a shop — but the word itself? It’s a verb. To remember.
I love you, my boy. Let’s go see something else soon and make more of those precious souvenirs.
JE VEUX ME SOUVENIR:
Watching your eyes light up at the first glimpse of the Arc de Triomphe.
The way you cheerfully said “bonjour!” to everyone, and how you took it upon yourself to learn some French phrases on your own (and use them!).
The joy of walking down the Seine, and the heartbreak of seeing a damaged Notre-Dame, two months after the ravaging fire in April 2019.
Deyrolle and all its magical nooks & crannies – those animals! Those rooms!
Your first crepe Nutella.
The way you listened to different stories that Uncle K told you about Paris, and then recounted them to your Dad and I later.
Hunting out all the French chiens and wanting to snuggle every last one.
Catacombs, pickpockets, pizza Popolare.
Late night dinners on the Boulevard St-Germain and wandering the streets until 2am.