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The live action version of Beauty and the Beast does character backstory well. One subplot concerns what happened to Belle’s mother and why she had to move to this “poor provincial town.” In this version, the Beast has a magical map that can take people to the place they truly want to go. He allows Belle to use this item to take the two of them to a windmill attic on the outskirts of Paris where Belle was born.
Belle remembers this place with fondness because this is where her family was together and happy.
This is the Paris of my childhood
These were the borders of my life
In this crumbling dusty attic
Where an artist loved his wife
Easy to remember, harder to move on
Knowing the Paris of my childhood is gone.
In this simple song, I felt Belle’s yearning for wholeness in her life, especially as she discovers the true reason why her father fled Paris and had to leave his dear wife behind. When I think of the home I grew up in before my parents’ divorce, I tend to elevate that place. I remember days in my childhood when drama between my parents and how I’m going to pay my bills weren’t at the forefront of my mind. Like Belle, I also left my home abruptly without the chance to say goodbye when my parents separated. I suppose we both needed closure.
When Belle returns to the crumbling attic, devoid of life only filled with shadows of what once was, she realizes that this home she had in her head, the place she wanted to go back to for years, is no longer her home. She makes this clear when she tells the Beast, “Let’s go home.” For the longest time, she didn’t think of her farmhouse in the tiny village as home, but now she’s moved on. She’s found a new home, a new place of belonging, a new place of safety and comfort, in the Beast’s palace.
For the longest time I thought of my old place in a small rural town as home, but when I went back for a visit I realized it wasn’t my home anymore. What made it feel like home was the people I love and the memories I had there, memories of taking walks on my property, taking piano lessons, eating at the Hong Kong buffet, and catching minnows in my pond. My old home will always be a part of me and I will miss that part of my life, but I shouldn’t let that stop me from finding a new home. I will always have those memories and remember them fondly, but now I’ve moved on. I’ve found a new home. I’ve made new memories. And I’ve learned home doesn’t necessarily mean the four walls around me.
Home is where I feel safe. Home is where I have memories. Home is where I feel comfortable. Home is where the people I love are. Even when I’m on trips, I often call my friends’ houses home, because I feel all of those things there.
Letting go of an old house or apartment can be difficult because of the memories attached to the place. But in the end, I must let go. I must make new homes where life takes me. I can’t hold onto the “Paris of my childhood” or I may miss the castle with new friends, experiences, and memories.