Day 213: Make Memories.

A long-standing tradition has been celebrating the holiday season with my mom in Europe. Before I lived in Paris, I would go with her on her trips, whether it was to drink Belgium beer in Brussels, have hot cocoa in Zurich, a Winter Pimm's in London or for the past three years, sip on vin chaud and stroll the Christmas markets here in Paris.

My mom arrived on Friday on a 48 hour lay-over and after her afternoon power nap, I met her at the hotel and we went on our annual European holiday stroll. Wanting to show her the lights in the fancy part of town, we walked through the 8th and window shopped along Avenue Montaigne where we came out at my mom's favorite view of the Eiffel Tower at Place de l'Alma. 

After crossing the bridge which brought us closer to the Seine, she stopped me and pulled something out of her purse, a FedEx box that was addressed to her. "Open It!" she demanded. Since I didn't have a swiss army knife on me (why would I?) and my nervous habit of nail-biting has returned with a vengeance, opening it while leaning up against the stone wall of the quai with bike riders whizzing by was posing a bit of a challenge. I finally shredded it open with my apartment key and saw a purple tin looking back up at me. "What is it? Christmas cookies?" I asked my mom. "No, it's Colonel." she said as if bringing our cremated cat to Paris was an obvious guess. Yes, my mother brought the ashes of our kitty who passed away last month to Paris and was secretly carrying it around with her for a better portion of the day.

The long running joke in the family was that Colonel was a retired French military man. He was a solid gray cat with white paws, a patch of white fur on his chin that we would call his goatee and he was moody, so you know, naturally he was French. 

During one of my mom's Paris trips in the 90s, she found a mini red beret to torture him with where we staged photos of him wearing it with a little French flag tucked under his paw. You don't have to guess that he looks absolutely pissed in these photos, cats don't like posing for photos. "You kids kept claiming that he was French this whole time, so we'll leave a part of him here to finally see his homeland," my mom said with complete seriousness, "None of this Field of Dreams nonsense where the vet keeps insisting we should sprinkle his ashes. Our kitty is going out in style."

We walked along the river, past Trocadero and with the spoon in my bag that I took from work last week because I ate a yogurt on the way home, scooped out two teaspoons of his ashes and sprinkled them in the Seine in between the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty. Now there is a part of him in Paris with me.

After our little ceremony with my mom screeching in my ear that I was doing "it" wrong, as if there's a technique in spreading ashes, we walked through the 7th and into my old neighborhood of the 15th. "I want to see the boys!" my mom exclaimed. Oh no, "the boys". I knew exactly who she was talking about. The "boys" are the two drunk homeless men who live on Avenue de la Motte-Picquet who we always bring food to when we're in the neighborhood. We stopped at a boulangerie on Avenue Suffren for sandwiches, water and desserts to give them because they can't live alone on their vile bottles of Vieux Papes

Upon arrival with our holiday gifts, one of them was already passed out drunk on the sidewalk but his side kick was coherent and graciously took our offerings. "Share with your friend when he wakes up!" my mom scolded him which I then had to translate. His face always lights up when vouvoie him - hey, it's only respectful. I admit that their "set-up" is a bit of an eyesore in this residential rive gauche neighborhood but as I well know, everyone has a story and if this is where life is currently taking them, who am I to judge?

My mom has already left and our time together, as always was entertaining, comforting and festive. Between the ashes, the homeless men, the vin chaud, we certainly take on the holidays a little differently but the most important thing is that we're together, no matter where in the world we are.


  1. I love your mom! She's an absolute riot!:)

    Nice of you to think of those two guys:)

    So you lived in the 15th, eh? I don't care what everyone says, I love that arrondissement, especially that area! That is where we'll be staying this Christmas:)

    When are you flying to New York, by the way? Will you have to go to the airport and wait for a free seat like you did this summer or is that unthinkable right before the Holidays?

  2. What a touching way to pay tribute to the Colonel, although don't want your mom to get thrown in jail for transporting ashes across international borders and for sprinkling them in the Seine. I was surprised to learn that there are all kinds of laws about that kind of "criminal" activity.

    It's great that your mom is able to travel to Paris as often as she does so that you can continue making memories together. And I'm sure that the "boys" appreciated her visit.

  3. @Duchess - Ha! Isn't my mom entertaining?! I loved my time in the 15th...maybe because my life was simpler or because I was new to Paris, I'm not really sure why exactly but going to the 15th always brings me comfort. I'm not sure exactly when I'm flying out, but yes I will be flying stand-by which was a NIGHTMARE last year (look for a flashback post soon) but I'm broke and it's the only way for me to get back to NY, so ça va, tu sais? When are you coming into Par-ee? the 22nd?

    @MK - AH! NO WAY!! Omg, don't report us! What's funny is that there were police near by when we were doing it and they didn't say anything. Good thing they didn't. Can you imagine? Day 213: Get Arrested in France. For Real.

  4. Yes, arriving in Paris on the 22nd in the evening (taking the 7 pm Thalys in Rotterdam):) If you're not waiting at the airport, come and meet me for a drink in the 15th!:)

  5. "His face always lights up when vouvoie him" reading this almost made me cry. Being treated respectfully is probably as much of a gift as the food. There but for the grace of God . . .

  6. @duchess - I'll keep you posted. I may be in NY by then.

    @Anony - I had a great French teacher in NY who pressed the importance of speaking respectfully, it really paid off especially when meeting grandparents and parents here. I may make mistakes but at least I stay in the realm of respect.

  7. That's so beautiful that you got to spread your cat's ashes in Paris. What a lovely way to say goodbye.