The littlest one is afraid of the dark. So when we decided we wanted to go to the top of the Arc De Triomphe, we had to figure out how to triumph over her fear. A dilemma, we had to navigate an underground tunnel to get to the arc. It sits in the center of an etoile (star) when seven major streets and arondissements come together and crossing the street above ground is not humanly possible, that is of course, unless you are suicidal. I wasn't this day. We settled on snatching her up and running through the dark tunnel as she clawed her way up her father's body like a kitten trying to escape a bath.
There's a spiral stairway that climbs inside the arc. The kids wanted to count their way up. I stopped counting just short of delirium (and around stair number 315). We rushed up the steps and the kids were loving it so much McDonald's was jealous. Well, the kids rushed and we followed because as everyone knows, you absolutely cannot go slower than your children, even if it kills you, and it almost did. You can't tell them to slow down either, not even when vertigo sets in and certainly not when your heart starts to pound in your head and your lungs are collapsing in on themselves in your chest. Thankfully, we reached the top before we started seeing spots and someone had to administer last rites. We burst into sunlight, and the view was worth it. I'm not talking about the amazing view of Paris from the top, but my view of my kids' faces as they flitted round the top of the structure, ignoring the ice cold wind that bit our noses and snapping pictures with their disposable cameras. Of course I wasn't dressed properly, I'm from Texas and how could I have imagined less than fifty degree weather in May, but I looked sort of French with my expertly tied scarf.
My older child even smiled at the top. I watched her, imagining the french government declaring her smile day as a national holiday. Today was her birthday and she would have a story to tell. The youngest ran all the way up and cried all the way down. I held onto the railing in the stairway again for dear life, finally stumbling out into daylight gain at the bottom. They'd run down the metal staircase so quickly, it felt like we were bowling for tourists. Once on the ground, it took a few minutes for my dizziness to readjust and leave. The kids had lots of questions about the flame beneath the arch. I tried to tell them about the tomb of France's unknown soldier, how it was like ours in Arlington cemetery.
It was that blank blink again.
Mom had once again given them too much information.
"They keep it lit all the time, kids."
"Mom, you're sweaty."
I smiled. They always forgave me for the stuff I knew. "I know. You too. You smell like puppies."
"You too, Mom."
I shook my head. "Negatory, kids. Moms don't smell. We don't sweat either. This is a glow, not a sweat. And--"
They finished my sentence.
"Moms don't burp or pooter either."
I smiled. I'd taught them well. "Exactly."
Tourist day over.
This was my exercise for the day. I felt energized and brave. I took them with me to Hermes to score another French scarf.
They emerged speaking french and clutching their own, kid-sized orange shopping bag, filled with perfume samples.
The puppy smell was gone, thank goodness. Or maybe not. It ad been disguised. I had to walk upwind from them all the way up Av. George V, back to our hotel.