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little earthquakes.



 Illustration source: Melissa M

Everyday I hop on the metro to go to work, I can honestly say that I have no idea what the day will bring me. Perhaps this is the "excitement and adventure" that is working with children, but these little guys keep me on my toes where I can never predict what they will say, or worse, do. 

At work, the one thing I really do try to avoid is going to the bathroom. It sounds ridiculous, I know. It just seems like every time I leave them to their own devices for even the hottest second, something always happens where I hear crying or some kind of commotion through the door, and can't push my pee out fast enough. Previous episodes have included an iPad being launched from a top bunk and smashing onto a hardwood floor, Franck punching Thomas in the face, or one of them (no names) standing naked in his bedroom, smearing his own feces on the curtains. (Why the curtains? Does this strike anyone else as an odd choice for placement? It was almost poetic.)

That last event was when I made a vow to eschew any personal after-school bathroom activities. Holding off on drinking water and tea in exchange for feces-free curtains is a decision I have yet to look back on. I have been lucky thus far not needing the bathroom, as my lady friend appeared to follow suit arriving on weekends....until last Tuesday. So, with that kind of set-up, you know this story is going into a very dark place. I forewarned you, this will not be an I love Paris in the springtime post.

I knew that I would be in the bathroom a drop longer than usual, therefore I separated the mini monsters to opposite sides of the table to work on their English homework (serious stuff here: coloring paper cookies for a nail-biting round of Who Stole the Cookie from the Cookie Jar?) before heading off to manage my business. With an assortment of phrases instructing them to stay put ("Soyez sage, Restez ici, Bougez pas,"), I was confident that my brief absence would be rid of incidents.

There I was, sitting in the minuscule bathroom, so small that I could touch the walls boxing me in without having to stretch my arms out. I learned toward the door expecting to hear hysteria but all was quiet on cookie mountain. Parfait. Finishing up, I sat up and let out a small yelp when I realized that I had not inserted my tampon all the way. (I hate when that happens.) At first, I did that dance to maneuver it in place, which never works, before poking it up.

There I was, my pants around my ankle, standing in grand plié, my face scrunched up in the discomfort of having my fingers up my crotch, while the other hand held onto the wall for balance. 

And that, was when I looked up to see that Franck had opened the door, catching me literally red-handed. Of course, he did. After two years, how did I not call that?

Upon absorbing this horrific scene, he let out his best "Home Alone" scream, slammed the door in my face and ran off. Merde, merde, merde!!!

That day I was wearing my vintage sailor pants and had to button all 15 buttons before addressing this, which only adding to the tension as he wailed on in the living room.

"She's naked!!" I heard him cry to Thomas, "She's in their almost à poil being bizarre! Qu'est-ce qu'elle fait?

But really, I did not know what to do, I'm not versed in - at least not yet - handling emotional trauma of a five-year-old. Was I supposed to punish him? And if so, for what? Opening the door? Not listening when I told him to stay put? And was I going to have to pay for his therapy sessions? The horror!

Then the second part of this already humiliating experience dawned on me: I would have to explain all of this to his father that night. I couldn't let this one slide in the hopes that Franck would not relay what he saw to his family. They had to hear it from me. 

At the behest of Aurélien, whom I called for advice, I spared the father all of the gruesome details and placed emphasis that Franck was very shaken up.

"That was his response when seeing you without pants on?" the father joked, "He cried? Oh là."

I was not at all amused. And it showed.

I am not one to storm out of situations, but my humiliation was mounting by the second. I wished them all a curt bonne soirée before leaving to meet Aurel for a much-needed happy hour cocktail at Chez Vous

I sometimes can't believe these are snippets of life in my 30s. I always imagined I would be settled into an actual career by now, but I also never predicted I would be married (still so weird) and living in Paris. Take the good with the not so great, eh? These almost two years working with these kids have been quite an experience, unwittingly preparing me for the day I have my own, however, I am looking forward to the end of my final year in childcare. Mon dieu.

revisiting la motte-picquet.

May 2012

I admit it's been quiet on the blog this year. The reason is that I have been hunkering down on projects, submitting essays, and considering some new opportunities. This has meant spending my days confined to my desk-slash-dining room table with my thinking beret on, fashionably wearing my blue Sports Authority sweatpants, with my short hair pulled back into a wee ponytail. Hardly a riveting blog post. Aside from being called a deaf girl who doesn't speak French by a toddler (they're still failing to understand that I'm not allowed to speak French to them!), life for this américaine in Paris has been less action-packed than it normally is.

With hints of an early spring season charming the city, and a special meeting with blogger-turned-friend Sara Louise to commemorate her last day in France before moving back to the States, it was time to get l'enfer out of the house!

Meeting at Bar au Central for an early evening glass of wine, Sara Louise regaled Kristen and me with her jaw-dropping French stories as she reflected back on her ten years in Europe. (Girlfriend needs to write a book!)

On my walk home to the metro, I passed the iconic Parc du Champs Mars, and couldn't help but recall my own journey. To bring my sense memory to life, I reached out to my former roommate Charles-Henri to see if he wanted to meet up with me before I jumped back on the 6 to go home. 

My first year as an ex-pat was not exactly typical, but really whose first year is? Because finding an apartment in Paris is pretty much a nightmare, not to mention, that my status was not attractive to French landlords, for the sake of cheap rent and to actualize this dream of living in Paris, I shared a one bedroom apartment (READ: one bed) with a guy I barely knew. As you could imagine this set-up triggered a host of "situations" where I still cringe when I look back at some of the discussions I forced upon poor Charles-Henri.

Luckily he didn't hold the 2009 me against the 2014 me, and agreed to meet with me for an impromptu dinner at the apartment on La Motte-Picquet.

It's funny how our memory gets distorted over time; the spiral staircase leading up to the apartment was slimmer than I remembered and, the smell that I had grown so familiar with had evolved into a different odor that I no longer recognized. 

I rang the doorbell that had a higher pitch and some man, who was not Charles-Henri, answered the door. Apparently, I even forgot what floor I used to live on.

"Oh my god, you look like a wife!" Charles-Henri proclaimed after opening the correct door and giving me the once-over.

"Why? Because my hair is short?" 

"No, because you're wearing a wedding ring, cocotte."

(Beat)

I helped myself to my former bathroom and through the faintly frosted window saw that the same neighbor still lived across the way. Well yeah, of course he did. This was the neighbor who had told me five years ago, that he and his daughter could see me sitting on the pot and performing other bathroom activities when they ate dinner at night. 

"What happened to the blinds we put up in here?" I screamed through the walls, yanking my tights up.

"Oh, they fell down a few months ago." 

That's it. They just fell down. No further explanation, which I recall being a typical Charles-Henri response: so direct and assured. He knew exactly what I was suggesting but he didn't care, and I suspect the neighbors also know that he doesn't care since they have never approached him about it. Only I got to enjoy the privilege of that conversation.

Sitting in "our same seats", over pinot noir, poulet rôti and steamed brocoli, we dished about the present while entertaining ourselves with tales of the past. He is the only person I am still in touch with who witnessed the insanity of my first two years here and met the oddball characters that, even then, he vehemently disapproved of. 

Extending my visit to the last drop of wine, it was time for me to say goodbye to 2009 and go back home to 2014.

"You really did it," he said as I was putting my coat on. "You came to Paris to learn French, to make a life, and to get back to writing, and voilà, tu l'as fait."

"I do forget that I was hanging by a thread for a long time," I acknowledged, "And it's nice to be reminded sometimes that life has a way of working itself out."

"We learn and grow more from our failures than our successes." he said, never ceasing to impress me with his English and his astute outlook.

"I wasn't sure what I was doing with myself in those days," I mused, "For a while I felt like a loser, but I was secure in the decision to come here. I'm glad it wasn't all for nothing." 

"It never is, cocotte."

A brief visit with my past was just the refresher I needed to continue on with my future. And what better time to look forward in Paris? I hear it's lovely in the springtime.