Paris is a city that inspires creativity, drives passion and enchants all who visit. The pages of history are laced with references to Paris and the world events that it has seen; but the accounts of the millions of people who have had a connection to the city, and their own unique Paris story, are just as beguiling!
Jane S. Gabin shared her personal Paris story, steeped in family history and mystery. We turned it over to the MyFrenchLife™ community, inviting them to get creative and write alternate endings to the intriguing ‘…and he lives in the 13th!’ Paris story.
You can read three creative alternate versions: here, here and here
Now read on to discover the true story of the boy who lives in the 13th.
Jane starts her own true story:
“After my father passed away, I had to clear out my parents’ place. I found a box of old photos stashed away, marked ‘Memorabilia.’ Going through it, there are many people I recognised – but also many I did not. There were dozens of photos from WWII.
I knew my father had been in Paris for about two years, but he never spoke much about it. There was one photo showing him with a French family sitting around a dining room table.
He had jotted down their names. There was a young boy in the group. I was curious about these people and set out to find the boy. It took some work, and I had some disappointing tries. But I found him! And he lives in the 13th!”
And this time Jane finishes the real story!
The phone jolts me awake.
I quickly glanced out the window, but it’s still dark.
Have I just fallen asleep?
No, it’s 4am Who calls at this hour?
Maternal instinct now pulls me out of the warm bed and I lurch to the shelf where the phone is perched. Even when your kids are grown and living in two different cities, your heart jumps when you get a call in the middle of the night.
“What?” I bark into the phone. It is not the most polite way of answering a call, but I am trying to control my panic.
There is a pause, and then I hear vocalisations, but they are gibberish.
“Who is this?” I demand. More gibberish.
I am about to slam the receiver on this drunk when all of a sudden I hear something clearly: “Sergeant Tom. Sergeant Tom.”
It is my father’s name.
He has been dead twenty years, and my mother is gone too.
Most of their friends have passed on as well.
Who could possibly have known him as Sergeant Tom?
Just as my brain suddenly remembers the letters I had sent out a week ago, each with a copy of the mystery photo, the voice at the other end of the phone exclaims: “C’est moi! C’est moi! Le petit garçon!” He had been laughing and crying and speaking French all at the same time when he first heard my voice.
No wonder I initially thought it was a prank call.
His English is weak, but my French is nonexistent.
“I never forget!
Sergeant Tom mean freedom to me!
He was so kind!
Is he still alive?”
I sit down on the edge of my bed and speak slowly.
No, my father is deceased.
No, I had never seen this picture before.
I ask about the women in the photo – but they, too, are gone now.
Only the little boy, speaking with the adult daughter of the soldier in the photo remains.
Grace à Jane S Gabin for sharing her true story!
This community contribution project
‘Creative Parallel’s a true real-life story started by member Jane S. Gabin
and with a creative conclusion by Aurore Pont – this article
and with a creative conclusion by Gerard Lewis-Fitzgerald
or with a creative conclusion by Stephanie Williamson
And this is the true story, beginning and conclusion by Jane S. Gabin
Which is your favourite, the true ending or one of the creative alternate endings?
Do you have a personal Paris story you’d like to share?
If you would like to share your unique experience of Paris or France, or if you’d like to add your own creative, alternate ending to this ‘…and he lives in the 13th!’ Paris story, please get in touch! In the meantime, join the conversation below.
1. Feature image, via wikimedia commons
2. ‘Memories’, Life-Of-Pix via wikimedia commons
3. ‘Paris, Panzer-Parade der deutschen Wehrmacht auf dem Place de la Concorde’, Bundersarchiv Bild via wikimedia commons