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Shannon Brady

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To Paris with Love: why I’ll keep carrying my journal and pen

Less than a month ago, walking through the Boston Public Garden subsequent to a delightful three-hour class stumbling through basic French at the nearby Cultural Center, the deepest concern occupying my thoughts was whether I would be able to roll my Rs distinctly enough to gain a shred of respect should I find myself in a Parisian Cafe requesting a croissant avec confiture.

Journal and pen

I took that same walk again this past weekend, but instead of inhaling the crisp scent of fall, absorbing the myriad shades of strewn leaves in my path and savoring the magic of life on a cloudless day, my heart dropped with sorrow. The lovely souls whose culture and beautiful way of life I’ve been celebrating vicariously through my language lessons were attacked. Senselessly, mercilessly, horrifically.

Who are these attackers? And how can God allow such heartless monsters to walk amongst us? To kill and maim our French brothers and sisters? I don’t know and I’ll never understand.

I carry a journal and pen with me everywhere – even when it’s not very convenient (skinny jeans sans purse poses a challenge) – to record my thoughts, observances, and the bananas I keep forgetting to pick up at the market on the way home. As I sipped on Moroccan Mint tea at a favorite coffee shop in Brookline with a soundtrack playing an equal-parts heartbreaking and comforting French Chanteuse vocalist recently, I prepared to scribble down all the confusion and anger over what happened. Before pen met paper, however, I came across several examples of love I had previously recorded. Little snippets of love in action as it had once unfolded before me – on a subway, at this very coffee shop, on a path. And that’s when I realized that in this moment I needed to read love. Not record sadness. Thumbing through my random, unfiltered notes lifted my heart, and confirmed that love is always worth noticing, even if it requires scribbling it down every time I see it:

October 19: They’re so cute…

Sitting astride at the four-top table when most couples would instead sit across from each other. She’s giggling, leaning into him, both arms wrapped around his left bicep as he pretends to read his iPhone. She plucks it away, he laughs and kisses her forehead..”

October 28: Her hands look just like his…

tissue white with lapis-hued veins and smooth skin. The joints are slightly gnarled but she interlaces her fingers with all the grace of the craftsman he was when alive. I want to hold her hands. Tell her I see my late papa whom I miss so much in her hands. I look briefly into her eyes, and as I turn away out of natural shyness I’m not quick enough. She holds my gaze and smiles deeply into my heart. Then grasps the handrail firmly to lift her tiny aging frame from the seat to debark the Green Line at the Longwood stop.

November 2: This is the third time I’ve seen them coming along the Somerville path…

Too many chance encounters to not connect now…the sweet young woman managing the German Shepard on one leash while reeling in the puny but springy white fluffy mutt on the other. She tells me she adores her pups. I tell her I want a dog but can’t commit right now. But how can you not commit to the love of a dog, she asks?





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