The bus is unusually crowded this morning. But it’s raining heavily, it’s Monday, it’s still dark, so no wonder. The girls can’t get their umbrellas closed as the bus doors open. I apologize to the driver as we clamor on, beep our tickets and go find seats, my youngest trailing her frustration behind her. The 63 bus is rarely crowded at 8am and we like that we can almost always get seats facing together, to talk the 30 minute ride across the 7th to the 16th, that and look out the window. We’re in luck and there are three seats together this morning, beside a gentleman. We crowd in. I give the girls an umbrella demonstration and ignore the fact that we’re the only ones on the bus talking. The umbrellas were a gift from their Nana and her trip to Italy and they are still stiff and must be closed with some force. This relaxes everyone and my youngest reminds me to bring her ballet bag later because we go straight to the dance school in the afternoons. I thank her for reminding me and I can tell she is happier now. She can forget her embarrassment over the umbrella. The gentleman gets off at a stop and we all sit back and watch the views of St. Germain, the turn onto the Quai, the long stretch back to the golden dome of des Invalides to the left and the golden statues of the pont Alexandre 3rd to the right, then the bus crosses over the river on the pont d’Alma and we ride up toward the Trocadero with the view back onto the Eiffel tower in the dawn light. I drop them at school. By then, the streets are full of people and as I walk along I can’t help but marvel how wonderful and brave our children are!
Tuesdays I take French lessons at the OECD. Entering the building is its own experience. As one of the largest international organizations, there are smart-looking people everywhere coming and going through the large entry. I love going to my French classes and usually try to arrive early so I can sit in the ‘pink’ cafe and watch the economists arriving for coffees and meetings. For an hour and a half, a Brit, two Aussies, a woman from Poland, and this American try to speak French. The teacher is tip-top and funny; we have a good time and we’re making progress… I think. Anyway, the organization is brilliant and offers clubs and activities for the partners/spouses of said ‘economists/analysts’ so I’m in social hog heaven with those choices.
Wednesdays I try to run with a friend along the Quai. The quai is the area along the Seine, and it is surprisingly spacious down there by the river. Boats? Sure. But there are large plazas, cafes, even a ‘garden’ built out on the water. There are shipping containers that have been turned into small party rentals with dining areas. Under one bridge, is a fancy restaurant and under another there is usually rock music playing from the speakers. Running the quai is a good find though I discovered a glitch one day when I accidently jogged onto the loading docks of a large company and didn’t realize it until I had reached the ‘end’ and there was no way out unless you had a boat. Instead of doubling back, which now seemed suspect and leery, I looked around and not seeing anyone, climbed a fence. I felt like a French spy even if it did take two attempts to hoist myself over. Upper body strength not so hot. Anyways, no alarm bells went off but the next time, I knew to ascend the stairs before the loading property.
Thursday, three of us are sitting in Cafe Pouchkine in the morning. We’d met a few weeks before, and because they are so smart and cool, I’d done my best to wedge my way into their already established gatherings. They haven’t kicked me out yet, so I’m thankful when Thursday rolls around. Paris is a lot of things. We aim to figure some of those things out. Do it justice! That afternoon we go to see a Garry Winogrand exhibit, the American photographer. (yeah, Paris is a lot of American stuff too!) We leave the Russian cafe into a snowfall which we find funny, and try to photograph (unsuccessfully) then grab a metro to emerge a few minutes later into the Tuileries, the snow having disappeared. But the exhibition is fantastic. Afterwards, I step out onto the pavement into the gray cold day, the sound of traffic on rue du Rivoli mixes with the smell of the diesel trucks and I walk toward the Seine to cross the bridge toward home.
Unlike my previous life when things were pretty predictable, and I could kinda guess who I might run into, what I would find in the stores, what the day would bring, in Paris, you never know what you’re going to find. We’ve seen some crazy things, and we haven’t even ventured that far. It’s vivid, and it’s strange. And it can be exhausting – the stimulation, the sensory overload. By Friday, we’re all ready to kick up our heels and celebrate working long hours, vying for space, catching the right train, carrying the load, making it all happen, making it all work, keeping the faith. For the first time last Friday, both girls had friends over. My youngest was showing her friend pictures of her old school and house, and I heard her say, “This is an emotional moment…” it was a funny thing to hear your ten year old say, and she kept repeating it as she rolled through the photographs on the computer… it was her first time sharing all that other life to someone in her new life, and I saw how lovely that was for her, and for my eldest. The two of them with their friends there, talking, laughing…the dog jumping all over them… I asked if they were ready to have some dessert. Peels of yeses as I walk into the kitchen to scoop out the Picard cream and cake.