In about three weeks, I’m getting on a plane with my mom and daughters and heading out of town. We started planning this trip almost a year ago, about an hour after I got the phone call that I had just been chosen for the job that I applied for against all my better judgment (a job teaching French, a language I hadn’t spoken in twenty years! while raising six kids, the youngest of whom was still in preschool!). In my panic, I started researching language schools that would give Americans a crash course in French, and impulse-bought some plane tickets. If I could just get through this year, I could get to Paris and relearn French, and all would be well in the world.
Even though we haven’t left the country yet, I’ve spent part of every day this year in Paris. I joined a dozen Instagram accounts for Parisian tourists, and then a dozen more. I started a google doc back in September with an itinerary of things to do each day, and every time life got stressful, I’d retreat into my guidebooks and websites and the doc, planning everything from the streets we’d walk on to the places we’d stop for a croissant and a cup of chocolat. I’ve read books about how Parisian mothers raise their children, and how Parisian women walk through the city, and all of the ways that the city is working to stay modern and relevant when the world often sees it as little more than a gigantic museum. The planning has been as satisfying as the trip itself.
At Christmas, we got my mom a plane ticket so she could join in the fun, and since then we’ve been practicing our French together (it’s been 49 years since she spent a magical summer in Dijon as a high school student), and we’ve had so much fun talking about all the things we will see and the ice cream we will eat (our main consideration for the apartment we rented was its proximity to the famed Berthillon ice cream shop).
I loved pregnancy for the same reasons. Yes, being pregnant has its horrible aspects, but the anticipation and planning made the whole experience so much more enjoyable for me. Even though I knew, after I had my first, that the first few months would be a haze of sleeplessness and baby vomit, being expectant was a blissful mental state for me as much as it was a uncomfortable physical state. I felt the same way about leaving for college, and planning my wedding, and a little frisson of the same feeling crept up before the first day of school each year.
I know that the actual trip will be hard in some ways. We’re traveling with a ten-year-old. Some of us take a long time getting ready in the morning. Some of us don’t feel complete if we haven’t run eight miles even if we will walk ten more during the day. Some of us are teenagers. It will rain. We will all have jet lag. But the daily anticipation has made it worth it, even if the reality doesn’t live up to the myriad of expectations I have put on it.
No, I’m not saying that everyone should run right out and book tickets to Paris (although, I’m not saying you shouldn’t, either). But it might be useful to find something to anticipate and dream about, whether it’s going on a date on Friday night or settling into bed at the end of a long day (another happy dream for me most days). And even if your bed is filled with a sleeping child or crumbs from the popcorn your husband was eating while watching the game (no, you say, that’s just my husband?) then at least the dream has brought you pleasure.