Summer brings many things to mind, and one is the sense of space I had as a child. School recess went from June to September. A grin filled my face when the final bell rang. Happiness meant a reprieve from classmates who got on my nerves and unimaginative teachers, whose play-book was rule-driven. Finally, freedom from peer pressure about which suitable school (aka-hip) outfits to wear, or how to maneuver a full-throttle class load (parents insisted on me maintaining honors).
My summertime-hometown-perfection was Dad, Mom, my sister, cousins, aunts, uncles, and of course, grandparents. It was time for picnics, sleepovers, drive-in movies, hikes, road trips to New York, Washington DC, or Chicago—visiting more cousins or just sitting on the front porch swing dreaming about life outside of the home and my family.
Summertime brought, after a grueling year of classes, my sense of space plotting the next direction—and it wasn’t hanging out listening to the top soul records or begging Mom and Dad’s permission to attend the next must-be-seen-at-house party.
I hungered to leave the small Peyton Place Town I called home. I hungered for adventures away from a place where everyone knew everybody. I hungered for a place where the newness of each day brought about an exciting experience walking amongst strangers.
One place I dreamed of was PARIS, because of classroom French classes. Mrs. Walker’s black and white pictures of the sidewalk cafes, the Eiffel Tower, and Notre Dame inspired me. I felt as I wrote in my diary: I could be a stranger without fear, because Paris was fresh, cool, and abundant in the arts—my dream to lose myself in the discovery of a new me was in Paris.
Later, after graduation from high school, I lived in Los Angeles. Names like James Baldwin, Josephine Baker, Nina Simone, Miles Davis, Edith Piaf, Ernest Hemmingway, Langston Hughes, and Richard Wright were some of the artists I read about, who created in Paris what my Peyton Place Culture lacked.
I felt no other place looked like Paris, either in black and white or color. I made a vow one day to visit Paris, and I did, many times.
A sense of space for me is one of the multi-textures Paris offers to the wondering eye seeking a sense of purpose—no matter how old.