When I was first in it, I wanted to be outside it. It wasn’t Notre Dame’s fault. It was patient with my restlessness- after all I was not the first myopic and moody teenage tourist to be herded through its Gothic splendor. We stopped beneath the Rose Window and as our chaperone droned endlessly on, the sun burst through its colored shapes and reminded me that life- specifically a French boy whom I had just met the night before- was waiting outside. He was going to give me his tour of Paris on his motorcycle until my curfew demanded a return. Ironically all these years later I can not recall even one detail about that boy but I remember the way the window allowed all the light it needed to become what it was intended to be. A few years ago my husband and I were in London for Thanksgiving and we took our two boys to Paris for the day by train.

After a long day of sightseeing we were too fatigued to navigate the crowds to get into Norte Dame, so we settled on worn velvet banquettes at a cafe across the street and sipped hot chocolate and watched the sun set against that window. We are a family, I kept thinking while I stared at the cathedral. The fact surged through me deliciously, as if I too were a cut piece of glass bathed by an intended ray. How for granted we take the standing of so many unique buildings. We expect them to always bear witness to our unfolding lives. They give and give to us while holding our histories and ask for nothing in return. If only every individual memory of this place throughout history were a drop of water, then surely the flames would be extinguished by now.