|My "Happy Hours of Paris" goodie bag includes a passport for the event.|
Monday morning blues: Heavy rainstorms. Sad farewell to "Joseph the Butler". Appointment with the gynecologist. Young woman with beautiful voice singing "Ave Maria" on the metro. General feeling of melancholy.
That's a brief synopsis of my day up until the moment when I asked the surly man at the welcome counter in the Hôtel de Ville for three passports for "Happy Hours in Paris". Either the adjective "welcome" is a misnomer or the grey day had dampened his mood because he curtly responded that he would give me one passport at 12:00 pm. Unable to understand why I had to wait 30 minutes for him to honor a seemingly simple request, the man grudgingly revealed that the passports hadn't arrived yet and that he was skeptical that he would receive them by noon.
Rather than wandering around in the rain for half an hour, I decided to visit the free exhibition "C'étaient des enfants" ("There Were Children") that honors the memory of the Jewish children who were killed in concentration camps during World War II and those that managed to survive thanks to the efforts of fellow Parisians. Featuring letters, drawings, personal belongings and photos, the exhibition urges visitors to contemplate the long lasting impact of the children's separation from their parents when they were sent to concentration camps or safe houses in the unoccupied zones of France.
One letter in particular evoked memories of my own worst childhood fear. It was written by Henri Yacoubovitch on August 3, 1942. "Je suis à Pithiviers avec André. Maman est partie hier, où je ne sais pas, alors nous restons ici tout seuls." (I'm in Pithiviers with Andre. Mother left yesterday, where I don't know, so we are staying here alone.) Of the 11,000 children deported from France, only 200 of them returned.
Jerked out of my Monday morning funk by the realization that a little bit of rain is nothing when compared with the insurmountable challenges faced by people in war torn countries, I returned to the welcome desk and was pleasantly surprised to receive two passports for "Happy Hours in Paris". Life is good.
"C'étaient des enfants" ("There Were Children") until October 27, 2012
Hôtel de Ville
29 rue de Rivoli
10 am - 7:00 pm every day with the exception of Sundays and holidays.
|"Playground. Reserved for children. Forbidden for Jews." C'étaient des enfants exhibition at the Hotel de Ville.|