The other day I was sitting at my favorite Starbucks (yes, even in France I go to Starbucks. Nobody in the world does a chai latte better, except for, I would imagine, India.) Happy to have copped a squat in my favorite spot, I engaged in one of my favorite pastimes, people watching or rather, as I like to call it, life watching. I watched as very fabulously dressed people hurried about with cigarettes, Coke Lights, or baguette sandwiches in hand moving under the bright Spring sun to one fabulous location or another. As some time passed, I found myself in utter amazement that I had somehow, in all the grand graces of the universe, found my way to this place. This romance-inducing, art-loving, haute couture of a city, spared from the destruction of war thanks to Hitler’s love of the aforementioned traits, had become my new home…much to my blissful surprise. Never in a million years would I have pictured myself living in this city (Barcelona, yes, but not Paris), much less living in this city because I am married to an awesome man who lives in this city. And all of this was especially poignant because this day marked exactly one week that I had officially moved here.
So I sat there sipping my cup of warm goodness, feeling oh-so-blessed and settling into the familiar comfort that Starbucks upholstery affords, when suddenly the song I’ll Fly Away played quietly on the speakers above me. Hearing it completely caught me off guard. You’d think that a Starbucks in France would play something a bit more, well, French, but apparently that’s not the case. Instead, the Starbucks in Bastille was happy to play the melodious old gospel tune brought to us by one Albert E. Brumley and made famous by the very cool Coen Brothers vehicle, O’Brother Where Art Thou?.
At first, the whole thing made me giggle thinking that if the French had any idea that this tune was the early predecessor to modern country, they might have banned it from their musak selection finding it as passe as Budweiser and Chevy trucks. But then, I found myself surprisingly really happy to hear that song, a song that I have loved since my early Catholic school days, a song that always made sing along to its catchy, warm lyrics, a song not only so very familiar but, also, so particularly…American. A huge wave of nostalgia…and a dash of homesickness…swept over me instantly.
A strange thing happens when you are far away from the place you call home (and for me, I have a few of those places). All those little things that were once looked upon as trite or taken for granted start creating nostalgic little chords that play in the heart in the least expected of tunes. This one came in the gospel variety.
Don’t get me wrong. I love being in Paris and am genuinely excited for what’s to come, not to mention that I do have the convenient ability to build a home nest wherever the twigs may fall. But there as I sat in Starbucks listening to I’ll Fly Away and gazing out over the quintessentially Parisian Haussmannian rooftops, I found myself at the intersection of my old life and my new one, nostalgic for all things that resemble one part of me, curious to encounter the others. I realized that although I may fly far away from all those places I call home, I always carry with me little relics of each experience building an internal alter of comfort and peace.
And here I am now, having flown away yet again… this time, all the way to Paris. It’s a bit far from my the other places I hold close to my heart, but I’m ready to build another nest and call it ma maison.
(Oh, by the way, the very cool piece of art featured at the top of this post can be found at http://www.lovethatart.com)