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'Paris Without Her': Gregory Curtis’ Memoir About The Death Of His Wife And Living Without Her

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Gregory Curtis
Gregory Curtis

When longtime Texas Monthly editor Gregory Curtis first laid eyes on the woman who would become is wife, that was it. Love at first sight.

Over the course of their marriage, they traveled to Paris several times. With the final trip to the City of Light, Tracy felt like she had conquered this place, like she knew it and loved it fully. There was no need to go again. That trip was her final trip, it turns out. Tracy had already beaten lung cancer, but pancreatic cancer took her life. At that time, she and Gregory had been married for 35 years.

In his profound grief, Gregory made the decision to travel to Paris — the city they both loved and meant so much to them both — by himself. It seemed a way to look for her some more, to retrace their steps, to visit the places they had seen together. But the trips for Gregory turned into something else. Even while he searched for whispers and echoes of Tracy there, what he really found was himself.

Highlights from the Interview

On falling in love at first sight
It was love at first sight. I opened the book with the very first time that I saw her. And so there was that. That was a very strong connection from the very beginning, but she had a wonderful quality.

She was very radiant. She had a very gracious way with people, especially with children. She was a wonderful mother to her own, four children, but with any child… she gravitated toward them and the children loved her and trusted her immediately. And she had the most beautiful visual sense, everything from high art to interior decoration to clothes, even just to how her daughters should wear their hair or something.

She had an eye that was absolutely accurate and she could look at a room and just move some of the furniture around a little bit and transform it. It was as if she did magic.

On Paris
We weren't obsessive travelers, let's say that. And particularly after there were children around. To travel far and wide, just the two of you, is difficult then, but neither of us had been to Europe — not to Paris — but not to Europe at all. We had the opportunity to do that. At the same time, we had, I wouldn't say fantasies, but we had great expectations that centered around Paris. Paris always had a gleaming attraction for us.

And so when the opportunity did arise to go, we went and our expectations were exceeded. We found the beauty and the culture and the history, all of these things that we had read about and dreamed of actually were there.

On Paris without Tracy
When I went back to Paris, I purposely stayed in areas where we had not stayed ... I wasn't trying to avoid where we had stayed. I just wanted to find a different Paris, find a new Paris, find a Paris that we hadn't seen. And that was completely possible. And I did find it. And then as I was there more, I could easily go back and enjoyed going back to see things we had seen together and go to places we had gone together.

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Yvette Benavides can be reached at bookpublic@tpr.org.