Global Mom: Wednesdays With the Louvre

From Global Mom: A Memoir

(Continued from last post: “French School, A Scream”)

**

children louvre

At least as French, but more exquisite to me than sword fighting, was our Wednesday afternoon ritual. In fewer than ten minutes, even with traffic, we could drive from Parc Monceau to the Louvre, park, dart right in, take our lunch at one of the cafés near the glass pyramid (wherever there were the fewest tour groups), wipe our mouths, and, sketchbooks and pencils in hand, make our way to the Richelieu wing.  That is where we found our private sanctuary, the Cour Puget.

cour puget

The Cour Puget is a three-story tiered hall flooded with natural light. Its ceiling is a variation on the famous I.M. Pei glass pyramid. . .

cour puget ceiling. . .Its walls and statues nearly all bone-colored marble.  Entering, you might feel you’re walking into the reception hall of heaven. At least we did. At nine and five years old, our two youngest were normally kinetic experiments gone awry, but when we entered heaven. . .

cour puget 1. . .We all settled into a new rhythm that stirred our creative juices into a mellow foam. This is the setting that made the three of us feel we were artists. More important than becoming artists, though, we became each other’s intimates.

Once – and only once – we thought we’d wander over to the Cour Marly just across the corridor, check out what the Renaissance statutes there were up to; but it didn’t feel right, didn’t feel like our place. “Our place” was the Cour Puget, up on the top tier on a marble bench against the wall.  After a few minutes, one of us would be sprawled or curled up at the foot of the statue we were sketching.  The guards who rotated daily came to expect the three of us there at about the same hour every Wednesday afternoon. A nod, a reciprocated “Bonjour les enfants”, and we knew we were in our element.

“So, who do you think this guy is?” I asked, Dalton on one side, Luc on the left. We were staring up into the piercing eyes of Caton d’Utique.

caton dutique 2

“And check out the serpent,” Dalton said, turning to see a Mr. Universe Spartacus wrestling the beast to the ground.

images

“But why’ve they got this statue of John Kerry?” Luc asked, walking over to a bust of the French scientist, Cuvier.

cuvier

We would go home and Google the background of our favorite statues, then go back the next Wednesday to make up stories, stories we wove into a screenplay, we three floor-squatters.  Ours was an elaborate screenplay about the Louvre and its statues and all the lives embedded in stone. Dalton cast his imagined movie, role-for- role as we three sat with our sketchpads on our laps, capturing a young Joan of Arc or a dying marathon runner in the gentle brilliance of the Cour Puget.

images (1)
cour puget 4
mother child louvre

In every way those Wednesdays were a delight to me. The light, no matter what the weather outside, was always brighter during those hours than anywhere else in the world.  I was with my children, we had baguette crumbs on our sweaters, the sky was warm, we were surrounded by history and beauty and tourists, tourists we realized we were not.   We basked in great art and created mediocre art ourselves, but more importantly, we created a moment that defined the three of us as part of this place, part of each other. I saw to it that a woman in a Louvre children’s bookstore hung my boys’ two best completed works on the official corkboard. We laughed in the van that their artwork now hangs in the Louvre.
mom and kids louvre

**
(To be continued. . .)

15 thoughts on “Global Mom: Wednesdays With the Louvre

  1. How wonderful and creative. I would of loved doing something like that.. well in a way i did. When i was a nanny I lived near DC Every sunday I would go ot the smitsonian art musuem.after church. to escape .

  2. What a great way to enjoy your life at that moment! My husband and I do a similar thing here – many Friday nights we go to the Virginia Museum of Fine Art. It’s been a great way to start the weekend. It’s really high energy on Friday nights too – young and old couples, families, singles. Some weeks have dancing or live music too. What a wonderful memory you made for your family.

    Nancy

    • Yes, a tender, intimate memory. All the elements seemed to fall into place, and I imagine that 20 years from now my boys will be telling their own families about their Wednesdays sketching in the Cour Puget with their Mom.

  3. The loveliest part of this to me is the regularity of it. There is a such comfort in things we do routinely. What wonderful memories for you and your boys, that amid all the upheaval of your many moves, you found such splendid ways to anchor them where they were — and to you and each other.

    • What a wonderful tradition, to have that sanctuary in the middle of Paris. I love that light-filled space, too. I believe I will take my daughter to the Chrysler Art Museum on Wednesdays from here on out, with sketch pad. It was places like these that my two artist daughters got their start. The first time I took my girls to the National Gallery of Art we went to the museum shop beforehand and bought postcards of paintings and sculptures we liked, then went on a treasure hunt to find them in the museum. It was tricky, with four girls from six down to eight months, some hanging out of the double stroller and Lindsey being called out a time or two by a man in uniform for getting too close to those paint strokes, but so worth it. My Melissa (4) could at a glance differentiate between a Monet, Manet, Degas, and Renoir.

      • Lori! Brilliant idea! To get the postcards then head through the galleries hunting down the real thing. But I’m in a stupor: 4 girls below age six? In a museum? One parent? How? The image alone makes me tired.

        I’ve never been to the Chrysler Art Museum; how wonderful that you have that within your reach.

        And your Melissa, who could distinguish the painters? Ah, I love that. That was our Parker at a young age, too. And get this: same painters, all the Impressionists in their scintillating glory! (Plus Van Gogh. Parker could spot a Van Gogh from his stroller. Could it be because we hung Starry Night above his crib? 🙂

        These investments of time and effort to expose our families to the finest creative contributions to humankind can (and usually do) expand exponentially over their lifetimes. They grouse, maybe a bit, when young. . . but they’ll come back to fling their arms around your neck one day! And then they’ll drag their own kids to concerts and museums, too. Take my word..

        —M.

      • Hi Lori — yes — it’s me. SO sweet to find you here. I am not surprised that a) you took four girls under 6 to the museum and b) that two of those girls have become artists. How do I ‘find’ you back? – Kirsten

    • Km: You’re right. It was the anticipation, the repetition, the predictability, knowing exactly which patch of marble we would sit on and approximately when the sun would start shifting in the panels of ceiling glass. It is the sense that in spite of upheaval and uncertainty, there was a hinge in the middle of the week that we could hang our plans on. Too much routine, and some people grow brittle. Too little routine, and some people grow anxious and erratic.

      Of course, all of this last phase in Paris is seen through the retrospective lens of a mother who knows what’s coming. That accentuates the beauty for me, makes it sometimes too beautiful, in fact, and whole, and as much as I’ve loved writing it, I have wept at the wholeness.

      So glad you’re here, km.–M

  4. How wonderfully uplifting this was to read Melissa. As might be obvious I am catching up on your wonderful posts. Heavens, it’s late July and your post mid-April though I always looks so forward to seeing them. Such wonderful times you and your family shared together. It does me good to see the happier side after more recent posts.

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