There’s a thing going around Facebook during the quarantine about posting a landscape picture of a place you’ve been without yourself in the photo.
There are many things I could post that are beautiful. Maybe not all landscapes. But beautiful places I've been, beautiful things I've seen.
A story told out of order, out of time. I carry these places with me still. I remember where the shop is that scoops slices of gelato and molds them into flower petals so that you can enjoy a chocolate flower if you want. And I remember the screaming laughter and smell of popcorn on the Santa Cruz boardwalk.
When I saw everyone posting their landscape photos, I don’t know why my first thought was of the FIAP (especially since it’s not a landscape).
But I have been thinking often of the FIAP, and how I miss it. (Yep, that’s what it’s called—pronounced FEE-APP just like you’d think. Yep, the letters are in all-caps as if it were an acronym, and no, I haven’t a clue if it is an acronym or not. There are many mysteries at the FIAP.) The FIAP is not only not a landscape, but it's not particularly beautiful, either.
The FIAP Jean Monnet, 30 Rue Cabanis, Paris, France. My home for one glorious month. The FIAP is tucked away on a back street in a quiet neighborhood, the 14th arrondissement. I’m sure some would complain that the streets were sleepy and unglamorous, but I loved my time there. The Glacière métro station was a quick walk away when I wanted Parisian glamour and tourism.
The breakfasts at the FIAP weren’t my style, so every morning I would get a packet of madeleines from the vending machine. This may sound like a complaint, but it is not. I liked getting my madeleines and sitting in the glassed-in lounge in a weird modern plastic chair looking at the courtyard and writing. (A quick look online tells me this part of the FIAP has been renovated and changed—still weird and geometric and modern, but different.)
I have been thinking of the FIAP and my time abroad and my morning madeleines a lot lately. The small, simple things.
The things I miss that have gone.
Maybe I miss my morning madeleines at the FIAP because I was so much younger then, and so very expansively happy, and my life seemed so incredibly wide open. Everything felt touched with a little sparkle of wonderment. That is not to say that I hadn’t had sorrow and loss and setback; I’d had so, so much of that. But then the clouds parted, finally. I’d overcome so much and traveled so far to get there, much farther than mere geographical distance. And I’d gotten there.
Everything felt touched with a little bit of magic luster.
Even the FIAP's weird geometric chairs. Even my vending machine madeleines.
to be continued…