It may take a while for me to find my voice, but bear with me as I share the first days of our adventure, the arrival at the double green doors of the apartment building on the rue de Seine and all that follows.
Okay, it’s not just me….my husband, Tom, is also sharing this journey. He presented me with a card he made one recent Christmas with the word “Paris” printed on the front. The message inside was over time he would add a letter to it until all five letters were filled in….. Well, I could see how this might mean not making this trip until I was 80 so I began to nudge a bit but it kept getting postponed. Tom was nervous about leaving his business for such a long period of time. And he knew the trip would be expensive, which made him even more nervous! After talking about it for two years, we agreed on a date and I booked our flight.
Call it a dream, call it a yearning, it seemed to be something I needed to do. I lived in France as a young girl, in the town of Bazas, near Bordeaux. Each time I return to France, it feels familiar. As if I never left. There are things about it that never change and some that change very little. Forty years later when I returned to Bazas the covered arcade of shops encircling “la place” (town square) was the same, the cathedral still stood tall, but the photographer studio where we had a family portrait made years earlier had become a fast photo shop.
Okay, so back to the date I actually booked our flight….I was going to study French. After all, I had six months. I was going to hit the gym and lose 20 pounds…. neither happened. Such angst! After all I was going to be around all those well-dressed French women – those thin French women…I was making myself crazy. Then one day I looked up and thought to myself “wait, you’re not French, just relax.” Actually I am because of French lineage on my father’s side. I guess what I mean is I wasn’t suddenly going to turn into the quintessential French woman because of what I chose to put into my suitcase or because I was going to be living in an apartment in the 6th arrondisement! So, I decided to approach the next month taking on as much of Parisian life as I could and enjoy being steeped in all things French.
When I began to actually focus on speaking French I discovered I was unable to get my mouth to utter words that once came easily. I couldn’t maneuver my tongue or facial muscles in order to pronounce that pesky French “r”. C’est la vie!
What to pack…it was like a continuously changing exhibition as I put together different pieces and hung them on the closet doors or stacked and folded others in my wardrobe. All I had to do was transfer them to the suitcase, yet I managed to forget the lavender cotton sweater that was to be a part of several outfits, and the pair of shoes that went with half the things I packed! No matter how much planning Tom and I wind up in a frantic frenzy on the day we leave on a trip. It gets ugly! But we made it out the door and into the cab.