For My Father
15.10.2015 - 15.12.2015
It's probably not impossible for me to have a bad day in Paris, but I can't think of one. I have had several top of the line, it-doesn't-get-better-than-this days. More than my share. Today was one and it was all rather unexpected.
I had plans to meet an American friend who lives in Paris for lunch. It was her turn to pick the place and we met at a tiny Japanese restaurant in St. Germaine. We had not realized that it would be so busy, possibly since it was Armistice Day and many people have the day off to celebrate. In the US we call this day Veterans Day and although some people have the day off, mostly we have sales.
Since the Japanese restaurant was full, we went to Le Petit Chatelet a few steps from the bookstore Shakespeare & Co. I mostly ignore the restaurants in this area because they veer toward touristic menus. Not this place. Au contraire. I had the best meal I've had since I got to Paris.
This is a small place with a wood-burning fire that is used, not for the decor and the ambiance, but to cook on. Wow. We arrived as they were opening and it was empty. It quickly filled up with every seat taken. We both had three courses, which I never do. I had an artichoke mousse for an appetizer. It was served with bread that had been toasted over the fire. My friend had a seafood melange over zucchini with flavors I couldn't figure out, but they were incredible. Her main dish was fish with capers which was indescribably moist and delicious. My entree was a lamb kabob with an array of vegetable chunks which had been cooked over the open fire. The crust on the lamb was perfect, the seasoning amazing, and the vegetables were burnt on the edges from the flames. I ate every piece of everything and then had the nerve to order dessert because they had profiteroles. We split a dessert, thank goodness, because there were two giant confections that no one could finish. This was a perfect meal.
To follow that, my friend told me there was an ecumenical service honoring Veterans about to start across the street at Notre Dame. It was sponsored by the Royal British Legion so it was all in English. Off we went.
My father was a World War II Marine and I have always respected Veterans and try to honor them. But never before have I been to anything that truly captured the spirit of remembering as this ceremony honoring the 97th Anniversary of the Armistice. A piper led the procession into the Cathedral, followed by flag bearers. There were several speakers and prayers, but one of the more powerful parts of the service were two young students who read poems each had written. One was called "Remember World War I" and the other was "Do Not Forget." As a former teacher, I was impressed by their words. I couldn't help wondering if Americans students could ever write so movingly about a war that happened so many years ago and not on our soil. Sadly, we don't do a great job teaching history in the US, in my opinion.
The British Ambassador gave a reading and the Reverend Alyson Lamb presented an address about remembering the wars in order to deal with today's troubled and violent times. Red poppies were pinned to everyone's clothes and the program ended with everyone singing the British National Anthem. The US stole this and wrote new words. We call it "My Country "Tis of Thee."
For the first time in my life, I felt part of an event that truly honored Veterans. Especially those who have lost their lives fighting for their countries.
My father loved a good meal. He was, especially in his later years, proud of his Marine service.
Today I honored him. From a perfect meal to a perfect ceremony in the historic Cathedral of Notre Dame. Semper fi, Daddy. Thinking of you.