The Good Life France is delighted to announce the winning entry in our 2014 Writing Competition. “Scattered Dreams” by Karin Crilly was chosen by our judges who found it moving, inspiring, evocative and with a surprising little twist…
Nicia and I have met for lunch at Crystal Cove, a favorite spot on the California coast. The sun is shining, the air warm, as we stroll along the beach waiting for our table. Children build castles in the sand, screaming with delight as sea water washes them away.
We have been friends all our lives and shared secrets, joys and pain throughout our formative, teen, adult and now later years.
“I am thinking of taking Bill to Paris again soon,” I say as we walk.
“Oh, I’m surprised.”
“Well, I am scheduled to do a class in Chartres, soon so it isn’t out of the question.”
My husband Bill had spent his entire career in the airline industry. He traveled all over the world with his work and Paris was his favorite place to return.
“I am hoping you might join us,” I continue.
Nicia jerks slightly at the unexpected invitation, but says she will give it some thought.
We are summoned to lunch. We turn from our stroll and head back to the waiting table.
By the time we arrive, Nicia has made up her mind. “I’d love to join you and Bill.”
In Paris, Nicia and I put our heads together, we have a plan to carry out. We’re sitting in the elegant lounge at Plaza Athenee enjoying a glass of Pinot Grigio, the hotel as familiar to me now as when Bill and I spent the first night of our honeymoon here thirty years ago.
I recall how Bill, with his love of excellence and detail, had literally spent weeks planning our seventeen-day trip. Because we both loved fine dining, the restaurants had to be Michelin-starred during our drive along the gourmet trail from Paris to Côte d’Azur.
After another sip of wine, I spy some unusual potted plants on a nearby table. Nodding my head as if to say, “this is the spot,” I bring out the wooden box with Bill’s ashes.
I look around the lounge, decorated in gold and white with Louis 15th chairs. Spectacular chandeliers illuminate the room, but we are alone, the perfect opportunity to take the small bag with Bill’s ashes out of the box. Taking a deep breath I donate some of the powdery flakes to the soil in the pot.
“I’m curious what you are thinking and feeling as you sprinkle those ashes,” says Nicia.
“I recall how Bill whispered wistfully several times during that last year of his life, ‘I want just one more trip to Paris.’ Knowing he was too frail for the journey, I had to say no. It was so painful to deny that generous man anything. Now I am satisfying his last wish.”
Nicia looks at me with admiration. “I’m so glad you asked me to join you. This mission would have been difficult by yourself,” she says.
“Shall we head for scene number two?” I ask, wanting to leave this location so full of memories.
Not far away is the second place I have chosen. We walk the short distance to Pont Neuf.
How many evenings had ended walking along the Seine? I always felt like we were Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron in “An American in Paris” dancing along the quai.
When we reach Pont Neuf, I stand with Nicia and thank Bill for those memories as the slow moving waterway accepts my lover, my friend.
Our third destination is the Eiffel Tower, another of Bill’s favorite spots. We take the Metro and soon ascend at Tour Eiffel. The iconic Tower looms above as Nicia and I find an inconspicuous bench at one corner of the park where the grass is a vibrant green. Like the former two places, we are serene and reflective until the right moment becomes clear.
Families and couples stroll by and an ice cream vendor pushes his cart. The vendor, with his snacks, reminds me of the time Bill accompanied me on a school field trip. I tell Nicia the story, “I took my class on an outing with a forest ranger to demonstrate the life cycle of a silk worm. As the lecture got lengthier, the students became restless, Bill felt sorry for them so started handing out the snacks we’d brought along. As the students noticed, one by one they went to Bill for a treat, causing the ranger to end the lesson.”
“That sounds just like Bill, always thinking of making others happy,” Nicia replies.
With that, I’m ready to give the green grass a little extra nourishment and another mental hug to the man who brought joy to so many. I wipe the tears now flowing down my cheeks. Nicia and I now make our way to Ile Saint Louis for the last stop on our crusade. The emotions of the day have been heavy, so I am ready to lighten the mood here, a place so important to Bill he would never leave Paris without paying his respects. Bill loved ice-cream and would indulge in many helpings of the famous Berthillon glace.
“I see Bill isn’t the only one to enjoy Berthillon’s. There’s a line of people waiting,” Nicia remarks.
Leaving a part of Bill isn’t so easy this time, the one door open to the sidewalk is filled with customers. Finally our opportunity comes. Nicia holds the door ajar while I pour flakes onto the sidewalk side of the door. Now he too, is in line!
Together we think, sorry Bill, for not finding a more permanent spot. In life, ice cream melts too quickly, just as our life together has ended too quickly.
Scattering Bill’s ashes in Paris changes something in me. I am saying goodbye to the past, readying myself for a new life. Oh, how I love Bill and will forever miss him. But at seventy-eight, I am about to embark on the biggest adventure of my life as I move to the city of my dreams, Aix en Provence.
Karin Crilly, a native Southern Californian, now lives in Aix en Provence, France. As a retired Marriage, Family Therapist she finds discovering and integrating into the French culture fascinating. Karin tells us she is thinking about writing a book…