Sunday, January 16, 2011

Le regard de l'autre... through the eyes of my father

Speaking of the other's gaze, it's been wonderful to have my dad around for the past ten days or so.  We went all around town, and his gaze was drawn to things I've never given a second glance... Oh, look at that, Mary, what are THOSE for?  I had never even noticed the teeny-tiny chimneys on rooftops all over!  He wanted to drink everything in and kept exclaiming how beautiful the city is (he's right :)).  Even the landscapes and images he tried to capture on film were different.  Kinda makes you wonder what it might be like to be in someone else's brain for a minute... is the way I perceive the physical world the same as the way someone else does?  Probably not. 

As for how he views others, he wanted to jump right in and get involved in the action.  He's like that in the United States, too, and it just might be where I got my tendency to talk to random strangers (though I'm more inclined to do it in the U.S. than here).  In Paris, he wanted to greet people and interface with them, like he does back home.  He wanted to look into their eyes, SEE them, and I wanted to avert my gaze and blend into the background as much as possible.  Why? Because that's kinda what you do in Paris, and I had assumed the others' gaze (without worrying too much about my own), so as to avoid being on the receiving end of theirs.  You know, avoid any potentially embarrassing situations!  Try not to bother anyone!

The reality is, the general response to my father's gaze was always one of welcome, amusement, and kindness... in Geneva, a café owner offered us a second round of coffee and apricot juice; in Paris, we made friends with two servers at a crêperie, one who actually apologized for her chilly welcome (she had scarcely said bonjour) and explained that she wasn't normally like that, that mankind had been getting her down lately.  She thanked us for our smiles, my dad gave her his famous cheesecake recipe (which I then had to translate--whoa, metric measurements and words like "springform pan"), and she finished up her shift with a smile on her face and a bounce in her step.  The other server saw us in the street the next day and stopped to shake our hands and ask how our visit was going.  At the Chinese/Japanese restaurant we went to, the owner offered us an after-dinner drink.  And on the way back to Geneva, we met a lovely couple, Marco and Létitia, who invited us to come to their Italian restaurant (I LOOOOVE Italian food).

We went there for lunch the next day (sidebar: we had some difficulty finding the place initially... our taxi driver suggested we call information at 118, since the restaurant didn't seem to be at the address I had found on Google.  I did, only to discover that I had called the FIREMEN!  At first, I thought this was a very disappointing linguistic error on my part with respect to the number, but no, as I discovered thanks to the interwebs and a fiery debate over the subject (pun intended!), the number for information in France is 118, and here in Switzerland it is 1811... for the folks who live on the border, not so easy to keep all the numbers straight! The fireman on the end of the line graciously gave me the correct number for information, and it turns out I had the right address.  The restaurant was just set back a bit from the street and not easily visible), and they offered us a complimentary apéro, an extra pizza, and a free dessert.  Seriously, when others see my dad, they must think:  give him something!!! :)  I will miss having him around (not just because of the free goodies), but I'll try to keep a bit of his vision... eyes wide with wonder, trying to see and drink in every sight and sound.


  1. I had no idea you had a blog. I've been reading it (and your 2007 blog) for close to an hour now. I'm truly bummed that I have to quit so that I can get something done around the house during naptime, but I just wanted you to know that I love it. It allows me to vicariously travel around Europe and Asia and feel like I'm keeping in touch with you at the same time. Thanks for sharing!

  2. So great that he kept awe and wonder ablaze through awareness and noticing the small things and the humanity in every person. These are key principles to really coming alive.