We have been back for a little over a month, but it feels more like a distant lifetime. So much has happened in the last five weeks that it seems like we came home to a different life, not the one we had planned on, or anticipated, but the right one. I’m not sure why our lives play out the way they do, but I hope and trust in the One who is orchestrating it all because I know His intentions are enveloped in love and they are undeniably perfect. I look back on our time in Paris and I remember how alive we felt, how free, and how we anticipated what turns our lives might take next, not really knowing what those turns might look like in the flesh. They have manifested as more tortuous and sharp than we had dreamed, but are producing within us a deeper sense of who we are and what really matters in this life. Reflecting on the story I’m about to share puts my life and these trying times into perspective. It reminds me to be thankful for each and every gift, even if it doesn’t look like a gift at all and to be generous even in a time of great need.
There was so much I loved about Paris. The City of Light ended up being more magical than I had dreamed, beyond any postcard or photograph I had ever seen. It felt, somehow, like we were not there at all but merely seeing it from above, in exactly the way we had always hoped. Everything they say is true, with the exception that the French are rude. They proved to be the most generous, loving, and kind hearted people we had the pleasure of coming into contact with. One, in particular touched my heart, deep to it’s core. Still, weeks later, I can’t get his face and his sweet, gentle voice out of my head. I don’t know his name, but he changed me and I’m eternally grateful for that.
We had been in Europe for two weeks already. It was our last full day in Paris, so we spent the morning shopping along the grey damp streets for souvenirs to bring home to our family and friends and of course, some things for ourselves too. My stomach was full from the large pot of moules meunières that was followed by a heaping pile of salty, crisp frites at a bistro on popular Rue du Baci. The street was busy, maybe more than normal, as neighbors spent small fortunes on fresh oysters and champagne for their late night New Years Eve festivities. We were running late for a macaron class with at least two Metro trains and a brisk ten minute walk to go, so Paris was flying behind us in a blur. We sprinted through the wet streets, weaving through the skinny space between the foot traffic and the dime-sized cafe tables that fill the already slim sidewalks. Racing toward the descending steps of the metro station, we slowed down enough to wait for a red pedestrian light and that is when I saw him. His limbs were crippled, with a make shift prosthesis made out of fabric, wire and some indeterminable pieces of what looked like plastic, winched tightly to what remained of his left leg. His clothes were barely able to be called as such, merely keeping him from being considered nude. He had a filthy worn paper cup placed in front of his malformed extremities, with a single coin in it.
In a city like Paris, beggars are everywhere. I was warned before leaving the states that it is not uncommon for people to beg for money only as a distraction for lurking pickpockets. It’s a manipulation game used for theft and less to feed the forlorn faces that plead for a few small coins. I did my best to walk past them on the street, each with their own tattered cup, tossing a few clanging euro coins together to draw attention or divert it, whichever the case. There were many, some with small children on their lap or a malnourished dog at their feet. With each one I passed, I reassured myself that it was perfectly moral to just walk by, rationalizing that they are not actually starving, they are merely a decoy for the sly character behind the next tree waiting for my hands to leave my pockets so they can help themselves. In fact, I was convinced I was doing my part by not perpetuating the cycle. I have an interesting way of self soothing, I suppose.
Shockingly, this man was different than all the others. I couldn’t compartmentalize my feelings for him. This was not a game, but a gruesome reality as bare as his wet, exposed limbs. There was no one waiting around the corner, no alternative motive, and no manipulation, only the glowing, brazen truth. His head drooped, avoiding eye contact with the hundreds of rain soaked shoppers bustling by, considering their plans for ringing in the New Year, almost as if he were a permanent fixture there, like a lamp post, or a dirty garbage can. I too, passed him by, walking toward the metro with bags of expensive chocolate, caramels and books in hand. Moments before, I had a conversation with my husband about how I wanted a new pair of comfortable shoes for the trip home, even though I had three perfectly functional pairs in my suitcase, somehow none of them seemed to be acceptable. Was €120 too high for a pair of traveling shoes? We could possibly make an exception, we were on vacation after all. As I faced the crosswalk with him behind me, with visions of a pair of new French booties dancing in my head, I couldn’t shake the sadness in my heart regarding the plight of this man. Reconciling the dueling images in my head of new expensive shoes and a man drenched, leg-less, and crippled, begging for a few coins to stay alive, was impossible. I lost it. Those two images were irreconcilable. How could I complain about not having a pair of new shoes when this man was struggling to merely stay alive? I took a small €5 bill from my husbands coat pocket and walked back to hand it to him. As I walked toward him, he looked down at his cup expecting to see a few small coins dropped in like all the others but I came in closer, looking at him, stretching out a bill toward his hand. Surprised, he looked up at me with sweet, tired, and humble eyes grabbing the bill with his twisted hand. He held it to his chest and with a soft, honest voice said, “Merci.” I responded with a poorly pronounced, “Bon année”, wishing him a happy new year. Never in my life have I ever meant those words more than they did at that very moment.
As I walked away, I wished I had given him everything in our wallets and more. I cried all the way to our class, unable to get his sweet voice out of my head. Even now, weeks later, I find it difficult to think of him without the companion of tears. After our class, we went back to that spot to find him, this time prepared to offer him literally all we had and to tell him that he is cared for, but he was gone. In a way, I’m relieved he was not still out there begging in the cold, but I really wish I could have done more or offered him something to hope in.
For most of our trip, we delighted in the opportunity to spoil ourselves, sparing no expense as we were filled to the brim with all sorts of delicacies. It was a glorious time that we will remember for the rest of our lives, but on our very last day, this man put it all into perspective for me. There is a time to give and to be utterly thankful for the blessings in our lives. I’ll never know why this man had to suffer through life so relentlessly and why I get to sit in a warm house with more blessings than I can count. I do know for sure however, that I’ll never forget his sweet voice, and when I find myself in Paris again, I will make my way to him, with as many euros as my hands can hold.
I’ve been blessed with wonderful friends who have come from many different parts of my life. Many of the people I am able to spend most of my time with are friends from the newest part of my life, some whom have only known me as Jons’ wife. There are those friends however, that have known me long before I became a married woman. They befriended me in the awkward stage of adolesence and stuck by me through the growing pains of becoming an adult. I enjoy reminiscing about those days when life actually seemed joyfully complicated. Always worried about what I looked like, or what I was going to be when I grew up. Searching desperately for that guy who would sweep me off my feet. There are so many photographs from that time. Pictures of friends with dorky clothes, big glasses and braces. Pictures of Prom and Winter Formal, all capturing those nostalgic moments that seem so distant. Now, photos from the recent past keep memories fresh, replaying some of the happiest times in life. Those photos have become irreplaceable memories that tell the story of our lives.
All of the photos you see in this post were taken by Joleen, the woman behind the lens at Joleen Willis Photography. As you can see, she is incredible. I’m working on a post dedicated to her talent. I hope you’ll like it. Coming Soon!
As promised, I’d like to gush a little about the party I had the honor of catering a couple of weeks ago. First of all, I need to offer my sincere gratitude to Josh and Sarah for their trust and confidence in me to actually pull this thing off. There were times where I was not so sure, but you guys supported me all the way, and I’m so thankful for that! It was an experience that has caused my passion for food to blossom even more and makes me aware that this desire of mine goes way beyond my home oven. I simply can’t wait to see where it takes me.
Now I know this is a food blog, and I know that this post does not contain any kind of recipe or pictures of food, but it does revolve around a vessel that will eventually bring you something undoubtedly delicious. It also speaks about good friends, and as we all know, friends and food are synonymous.
I just couldn’t resist telling you about a little heart shaped casserole that surprisingly came into my life.
My best friend and I were on our way to Tahoe this last Friday, and we decided to meet at her sister Leslyes’ house since it was on the way. As we were leaving, Leslye asked us to stop by the Le Creuset outlet (!) to pick up a package for her. My first reaction was, “They have those?!”, and continued to tell her that I could not guarantee her item would make it back to her if it was something that I took a liking to. Oh my naivety. So, we did as we were told, forced to go to an outlet store solely dedicated to french cookware. I flittered around the store, drooling over what I would buy if I had all the money in the world. All the while my best friend is chatting with the sales person about the package that was waiting patiently on the counter. I walked over to them, trying to distract myself from the gleam of enameled cast iron, and noticed a nicely wrapped package with a card nestled tightly under pink and red ribbon. The card read, “Mr. and Mrs. Logan.” I said, “Wow! Leslye knows someone that has the same last name as me!” Then, slowly, the excitement built as I realized, that’s for me! Technically it’s for us but the husband really only enjoys what will eventually come from that pot. So, after realizing that this package was indeed for me, I tore it open to uncover the little gem you see above. It is perfect in every way, and if it’s possible, it was made even more perfect by having Julia Childs’ boeuf bourguignon recipe hiding inside. What a wonderful gift. Thank you, thank you, thank you Leslye and Mel for such a delightful surprise. I simply can not wait to post my first recipe made from this heart shaped pot built for two.