When I think of years that Christmas was really special, the last year we were in France always comes to mind. This year that memory is more cherished than ever as the news that has placed the city in the spotlight.
Al, at the beginning of his Army career, brought home a paycheck barely big enough to stretch from one end of the month to the other. I stayed home caring for a two-year-old. While these years hold some of our most cherished memories, there was little money to spare for Christmas extravagance. Murray got a rocking horse that brought riding pleasure and became a companion to a kid with a lively imagination. The horse heard many toddler conversations and was sometimes offered a turn with the pacifier.
Al and I decided to forgo our presents and spend our Christmas money on tickets to hear The Messiah at the Paris Opera. The night was properly crisp as we took the Metro downtown with two other couples. Stepping into the streets as we exited, our eyes were bedazzled with tiny white lights strung everywhere in decoration for Christmas. I always call up that vision when I hear Paris described as the “city of lights.” I probably don’t need to say that the rendition of the oratorio was the best we’ve ever heard.
Our Christmas card for that year showed what remains my favorite snapshot that I ever took. I’m not going to tell you that Murray was actually reading the Paris guidebook in the picture, recently enhanced to its original clarity by a friend. He wasn’t quite that precocious, but he’d seen me poring over the book enough to know it had treasures inside, and he was looking for them.
That Christmas past is far behind this Christmas present, but my wish for that city and for each of you remains the same – that this year will hold peace on earth and goodwill among all people.