Editor’s Note: This piece was written in three separate settings, which accounts for the lapses in time and space.
My family and I are scheduled to fly to Paris in a week. It’s a trip we’ve been looking forward to for months. Imagining ourselves strolling down the narrow cobblestone streets, pausing to enjoy a croissant and cafe at one of Paris’ ubiquitous and adorable bistros; walking along the banks of the Seine, visiting the Louvre; wandering the stalls in the expansive flea markets in search of antique treasures…has been an all-consuming pastime since we decided to go.
And then the events of last Friday night unfolded. I was in a meeting when I received an email from my brother-in-law that simply read, “Tragic news coming out of Paris right now…”. He didn’t go into details, and I couldn’t respond in the middle of my meeting, so it was hours before I understood fully what had happened.
Readers who don’t know me well (and even some who do) might be surprised to learn that I secretly call myself Worst-Case Scenario Girl. Why? Because if there is even a whiff of danger afoot, my mind immediately goes to the, you guessed it, worst-case scenario. It seems my new pastime was imagining all the terrible things that could—and in my mind definitely would—go wrong in Paris.
Let me back up for a moment and explain how my brain works. We’re going camping in Yosemite? Ok, I will definitely get mauled by a bear. Headed to a crowded place with our kids in tow? Getting separated from them for 30 seconds has me channeling Liam Neeson in no time. Forgotten where I’ve parked the car? It most definitely has been stolen!
It’s not something I’m proud to admit, but my mind just always goes to the worst place. Part of me likes to believe that it’s because of my freakish need to always be prepared. Maybe somewhere in the deep recesses of my subconscious I feel like if I’ve at least imagined the worst could happen then I might be able to formulate a suitable plan that increases the likelihood of survival in the event that it actually does.
So I’m sure you can imagine, a person prone to such internal histrionics as myself would be exploding with worry over the prospect of traveling to Paris with three kids (aged 11, 7, and 3) two weeks after a major terrorist attack there. And perhaps it was the purpose of our travel (my husband’s involvement with the Cop21 Climate Summit) and our planned participation in numerous public, crowded protest demonstrations that ratcheted up the fear factor. I mean, given the situation, it wasn’t entirely outside the realm of possibility that the worst-case scenario wouldn’t happen. After all, for many people in Paris it just had.
For a brief interlude of time, we reconsidered our plans. My husband suggested the kids and I stay behind. In true WCSG fashion, I imagined him being in Paris without us. Caught up in unforeseen events and unreachable for days and the worry that thought provoked was just…too…much. If we’re going down, I told myself, at least we’ll be going down as a family. Together.
Looking back on the trip now, three months later, it was the best decision we ever made. Yes, we were seduced by all of the expected Parisian attractions (the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, walking along the banks of the Seine, etc. ), but we also had some singular experiences that we won’t soon forget. The increased presence in Paris because of the climate talks enabled us to experience some amazing things that I know will stay with us for a lifetime: Taking part in the creation of an iconic protest image (shown above), watching a glacial art installation melt—literally and symbolically—in the Place du Panthéon, seeing the wonder in our eleven-year-old’s eyes at getting to meet Jane Goodall (!), traipsing across Paris with beloved long-time friends; drinking wine atop the Eiffel Tower with Aldis Hafteinsdottir the Mayor of Hveragerdi (a city in Iceland); seeing my kids featured on the home page of the NYTimes.
Whenever I go out for a walk, even now, I still ask myself, “Have I walked far enough to get to the Louvre from our Airbnb on Rue Malar?”
Letting my fear of uncontrolled events prevent me and my family from experiencing Paris and cementing memories we’ll share forever—now really would be a worst-case scenario. One I’m so thankful I’ll never need to plan for.
Ahh. You can take the girl away from Paris, but you’ll never get the (love of) Paris out of this girl!