Paris Found, Paris Lost

Recently, my partner and I went to see the movie Revolutionary Road, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.

 

As a married couple with young children, the protagonists have settled for less in their lives than they imagined they would—settling, literally, in suburbia. The wife dreams of moving the family to Paris, finding their true paths, finding themselves. She sells her husband on the idea, and now the fun begins. In revealing their plans to family and friends, they evoke reactions quite unexpected  and wholly disappointing.

 

I recognized the palpable sense of confusion portrayed on the screen, for I sensed the same resistance when we told friends and family in the South that we’d be moving to New York City. A parent’s hesitation can be easily understood, but what of friends who turn away? Suddenly, friendships dissolved as faces turned to stone—stony walls that suddenly loomed between us. Was it envy? Was it fear? Was it that Southern sense of place, leading to the belief that we were abandoning our precious birthright?

 

In the movie, events (or are they simply excuses?) prevent the Paris relocation and trigger tragedy. In our lives, a new beginning was chanced and took root, for now we find we are strangers in a strangely wonderful land. I will always carry my Southern sensibilities, but I have also become a no nonsense New Yorker. I like that convolution, and I try to reveal a similar complexity within the characters that I create.

 

To conjure up the idea of starting over in a grand, new place is almost a universal theme; yet, so few people make that dream a reality. Where did two Southern boys find the courage to make the move that fulfilled our dream? Part of the answer is that it was a dream we shared equally. However, the mystery of it is much deeper.

 

Our mystery’s resolution is embedded in the following exchange. A group of Southern tourists, visiting New York City, overheard our accents one evening while we were out to dinner. They struck up a conversation and commented that we must miss the South. They were implying in that subtle, Southern way that we must be heartbroken—trapped, as we were, here in this city so strange. My partner’s answer, delivered with that same Southern smile and air of “you poor darling!” that often precedes delivery of the knife to the back, said gently, “When we arrived, it felt like we’d come home at last.” Imagine their faces after that comment.

 

One of my dearest friends back home said we’d be back within six months. It’s been almost six years now, and Rodney and I thank our lucky stars that we followed our hearts’ desire. (#1)

1 comment to Paris Found, Paris Lost

  • peter

    Southern accents are one of the few that can truly achieve notice in NYC. Unlike you I do miss the south, everyday. While there is, indeed, no place on earth like NYC, the same is said for Savannah, Knoxville, New Orleans, Key West and Memphis. Some of us run from our past and choose to forget finding solace in the anonymity of the ultimate melting pot.
    Some of us carry the joy, spirit, and gift of southern life with us..A spirit of good neighbors, community, friends, that can never be recreated.
    It’s only worth mentioning that where you both came from, got you to where you are. We in the south would never say “you poor darling.”
    We would say, Bless your hearts……..

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