The Dream of Paris

She had this idea in her head that she wanted to go to Paris, France. No idea, where that came from. She wanted out. France would have been as good as any Western country, but it had to be France. Nothing else would do. The logic of a little girl with no clue but a dream. A dream of Paris. With a huge Eifel tower. What a mindboggling thought to think that one might actually see that for real.

So here she was, little girl, elementary school age, sometime in the early to mid-1980s. With her mother on the couch. Mom had pulled out her old French textbooks from the 1950s. You could tell at once that they came from a different era. It didn’t matter. At least she could do something, not sit around and dream of something that most likely was never going to happen. That’s the feeling that goes with the memory: I’m doing something to realize my impossible dream. God.

It is dark outside. She might have been ill and not at school that day, so Mom pulled out the books to have something to do for her. Dad is absent. But it is dark already with artificial lights and the TV going. Her brother is watching a West German children’s program.

They’re practicing French. She’s studying one sentence by heart: Sur la table il y a la craie et le journal de classe. On the table there is chalk and the class diary. She keeps repeating it: Sur la table il y a la craie et le journal de classe. She knows which word means what. She knows she’ll never have any use for this sentence, even if she were to get out. But still. Here she is, practicing the sentence. With mom. On the couch. In the comfortable East German living room.

Object: The object no longer exists. It was a 30cm souvenir-pencil from my first trip to Paris, France.  The best-known sights printed on it. We threw it away when my parents moved to a smaller home a few years back. We took that trip in May 1990, Paris for one day. My parents gave it to us on my 14th birthday in February 1990. It was a one-day round-trip organized for East Germans from a West German border town (Hof). We left Friday afternoon. Took an all-night bus, were in Paris at 10 AM. Left half a day later. Cost us most of our West German “welcome” money. We were exhausted but it made us very happy. Back home on Sunday early afternoon. We had a bad accident in February when going to Hof to buy the tickets. I’m lucky to be alive.