Once Upon A December

Disclaimer: This essay has nothing to do with the Romanov dynasty or any subsequent fictionalizations of the Grand Duchess Anastasia, animated or otherwise. Sorry.

I went to Europe for the first time when I was fifteen. My family decided to spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve in London and Paris, respectively. It was my first time abroad, my first time anywhere really. At that point, the only place I had been via airplane was Florida. On that first transatlantic flight, my parents used years of hoarded AmEx points to upgrade our tickets to first class. My brother and I sat behind my eighth grade Latin teacher, who was British and flying home for Christmas. This was a nice coincidence that became a lot less nice once my brother filled up on the overly decadent free food and, after a bit of turbulence, proceeded to vomit on the back of my teacher’s seat. When I returned to school in January, my math teacher told me she heard my brother had an interesting flight to London.

What I remember about my first time in London: high tea in The English Tea Room at Brown’s and afternoon tea at Claridge’s; dinner at the Ritz, where the waiter asked if we wanted our water with or without gas, a question that, in a painfully American moment, made us snicker like five-year-olds; a wonderful West End production of My Fair Lady (if you’re going to see My Fair Lady, you should really see it in London, don’t you think?); a less than stellar adaptation of the 1980 film Fame (a movie chronicling the lives of the underprivileged students at New York City’s premier performing arts high school in the late 1970s is probably as un-British as a West End production can be); a trip to the National Portrait Gallery followed by lunch in the Portrait Restaurant and Bar, which boasts spectacular views of the London skyline, and is the setting for a disturbingly misogynistic scene between Julia Roberts and Clive Owen in the 2004 film Closer; and, almost missing the EuroStar to Paris.

What I’m about to write reveals a bit about why I often worry that I act or sound clichéd, but here goes: I love Paris. I think I probably fell in love with Paris before I set foot in Paris. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t gravitate to black and white toile or fleurs-de-lis or croissants or Amélie.

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Happy Birthday, Sigmund

My parents both studied Psychology as undergraduates in the 1970s. When my mother told her father she was majoring in Psychology, he asked, “What are you going to do? Sell Psychology?” That anecdote has nothing to do with my point, but makes me smile. My point is that my parents both studied Psychology as undergraduates in the 1970s when Freudian analysis was the “it” mode of psychotherapy.

Flash-forward thirty-something years later when, at age sixteen, I was perusing the bookshelves in our basement and found their combined collection of $2 paperbacks of Freud’s works. I felt like Ariel in The Little Mermaid: “Look at this trove! Treasures untold!”

The timing was somewhat fortuitous because suddenly, Freud was everywhere. I was about to study Oedipus Rex in English class. When reading Federico García Lorca’s La Casa de Bernarda Alba in AP Spanish Literature, I struggled to adequately translate my thoughts, but was ultimately able to smugly announce that la caña de Bernarda es un símbolo fálico. One day in History, my teacher told one of the popular boys to stop playing with his lacrosse stick; I loudly offered, “Well, you know what Freud would say.”

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