It couldn’t have been more fitting. To me, the words capture Devon to perfection. At 7 (going on 17, as we kid her), she sings her way through most mornings. She writes rap poems. And she bounces back quickly when things get her down or go wrong (she was both distraught and angry after her bag disappeared in what seemed a flash).
It is this very core resilience that allowed her to embrace the people of Paris even though the first one she saw walked off with her Barbies and other carefully chosen playthings. At her age, I doubt I would have been so brave. But that’s Devon. At every restaurant, every store, every museum, she would beat us to the punch with a ringing “bonjour monsieur” or “bonjour madame.” And the crusty, sometimes impatient, big-city Parisians melted. Melted.
Some complimented her accent. Others got down on a knee or bent down to her level to engage her eye to eye. Still others gave her small gifts or big smiles. It was both mind-boggling and enchanting to watch this magic of childhood, Devon’s ability to change the world just a little bit, one smile at a time. And each passing encounter clearly brought her joy, too.
Before we headed home, Devon surprised us once more. We weren’t sure what to expect when we took her to the Musée National Picasso Paris on Day 6. Long before we landed, we’d decided to go light on the art museums that fill our days on most visits to Paris.
But at the Picasso, she gripped her green, $5 “in the eyes of Picasso” activity book, writing her name just inside on the front page. On an inside page, she circled that Picasso was “a little weird” (one of three choices) and wrote that his art was “abstract.” She liked both. The notion, as she put it, that the artist worked “in his mind’s eye” liberated her (and other children, I’ll bet) from the laborious and impossible task of reproducing what’s in front of them. Inside the book, she was taken by a “horse and his trainer,” drawn by Picasso without once lifting his pencil from the page. On the blank page behind the drawing, Devon drew a dancing moose at the end of a swirl of ribbons attached to a car. Of course, she never lifted her pen from the page.
She liked the words of a 10-year-old girl named Adelaide that were printed in her Picasso book: “He doesn’t show things like a photo would, he takes bits and pieces.” Leaving the rest to the imagination, a space Devon loves to live in.
On the plane ride home, Devon began journaling about her week. She continued today.
What, I wonder, will she take from her beautiful eight days in Paris? What will stay with her, not next week, but years from now?
There is a magic in childhood that parents, busy with a million-and-one demands of work and responsibility, sometimes lose sight of. As grandparents, it’s perhaps a little easier to recognize, to step back and appreciate, to chronicle. It is the magic that I’ll remember long after the details of restaurants and destinations, Metro stops and meals, have blurred.
I restarted our mail yesterday and in it came the first copies of a book I co-authored called “The Elements of Blogging: Expanding the Conversation of Journalism.” Months ago, I’d dedicated the book in part to “Devon Lanson, who provided some of the stories in this book and much of the humor in our lives.”
This was certainly true in Paris. No, not even that mean man who grabbed her bag can stop her from dreaming.