Hi there...if anyone is out there. It has been almost two years since I've posted here and while I'm sure most of the regular readers of this blog have moved on to read about the crazy adventures of another young, wide-eyed and quirky gal who found herself in the City of Light, I've been lucky enough to stay in touch with many of you whom I can call friends of mine, be it in real life or through social media. So whether you are just passing by, or we spoke last week, or we haven't been in touch for I while, I say hello again.
It seems like a lifetime ago, on one fateful New Year’s Day, I asked myself what I wanted for myself for the New Year. What if, I asked myself staring up at the ceiling of my shared Brooklyn apartment, what if I could move to Paris? Heeding to the advice of David Byrne in the Talking Head’s song “Cities” where he sings, “Find a city, find myself a city to live in!” and having already lived in Olympia, Washington, L.A, and New York, surely Paris was also a suitable candidate in my decade-long quest in finding a city to live in, preferably one I could truly call home.
This flicker of an idea was then ignited after happening upon a video of my late-grandmother performing with her jazz band on French television in the late 1960s, and recalling the few times I’d met her, that after living in Paris for over thirty years, she decided that it was one of the greatest cities in the world. As a native-New Yorker, hearing this declaration, intrinsically I raised a skeptical eyebrow, but still, I wanted to know more and decided to "test" the city out.
A three-month stint turned into now almost seven years and while Paris has not exactly been the 3x5 postcard that my daydreams convinced me that I would be framed in, my grandmother delivered on her promise that Paris was something to see through the eyes of a resident. Sure it rains over a hundred days out of the year, the brasserie coffee is tangy and bitter, and simple tasks constantly test my vocabulary and patience where learning how to properly explain the complexities of an exploding water pipe would make the difference between a plumber coming sometime that week to at some point that day. But I’ve made it home where the city’s imperfections, like a beauty mark, continue to both intrigue and endear me.
The tragedies of 2015, however, produce a reality that simply (and admittedly naively) never occurred to me would take place in Paris. As many of you know, I am a new mother. Seven weeks ago I gave birth to a precious little baby boy. He has been our little joy and at times our pocket drama queen who has brought such a special spark to our otherwise quiet life.
Friday night we were invited to a friend's house near Bastille to introduce our baby. The invitees were a medley of friends celebrating different milestones in their lives: our newlywed friends whom we haven't seen since their wedding over the summer; our friends planning their wedding for next summer; and another couple who is expecting their second child in mere weeks. With the baby inching towards being two months old, we didn't see a problem with taking him out to give my dear pregnant friend a break and go to her. After all, it was not that long ago that I was pregnant and towards the final weeks appreciated having people come to me.
On the brisk fall eve, we bundled our son up and slid him into the Ergo Baby carrier that my mother insisted on because she is unconvinced that the long piece of fabric that consists of the Boba Wrap will secure her first grandson (despite the many tutorials I have demonstrated.) After a quick stop at Nicholas wine shop, our mini family headed out for a first night out as three since the baby's birth. To put it simply: I was excited. It felt good to be out and to be in a place where I don't feel like I'm playing a role of a mother. I am starting to finally feel like one.
Dinner was what we expected from your typical Parisian social gathering with empty wine bottles steadily outnumbering full ones, charcuterie and cheeses sliced, vinyl records spinning and rooms sporadically clearing from mass cigarette breaks on the balcony, granting me carte blanche to select the next album with my baby nestled quietly and soundly against my chest.
Around 10 pm, we decided to call it a night and scrolled down the parental checklist to ensure the baby's comfort for the small trek home: diaper changed, pyjamas on, belly full. Check, check, check. As we put our coats on, the host received a text asking if she was okay. Then, (and pardon the reference) like an episode of Gossip Girl, at the same time everyone's phones chimed from Facebook bings, texts notifications, Gmail chimes, phones ringing. Being someone who does not receive many phone calls or even texts, being included in this digital symphony immediately set off an internal alert that something was not right. Why were we all being simultaneously contacted?
As soon as the news hit that a series of barbaric attacks were taking place not at all far from where we were, without giving it a second thought, I took my coat off; we weren't going anywhere.
It's not a cliché when they say children are like sponges. With every half hour that passed with more information streaming in and the milieu at our friends' place going from curious to concerned to crucial, my once sound baby appeared to be absorbing every single one of our emotions. He had gone through the two diapers and was quickly filling up his last one. His pyjamas and onesie were soaking wet from sweat, and his eyebrows remained furrowed as he puffed and moaned from the sudden shift of energy. By midnight, we were out of supplies. His last diaper was full, he had long drank the last drop of formula, and I could not offer my breast because I'd had two glasses of wine and needed to wait for it to pass through my system, which would have taken about two hours. So when a baby is in need, what does he do? He cries. Over the news reports, phones ringing, frantic conversations, we had a screaming baby.
Uber was not picking up passengers, nor were cabs, as Aurélien and our friends made phone calls to get someone to pick us up. This was like new mommy boot camp, putting my newly acquired skills to the test. How could I calm an unconsolable baby during a time of crisis? Thankfully, relief came around 3 am when a cab agreed to get us. Charging down the street towards a taxi in the middle of the night, with my 7-week-old screaming baby in a declared state of emergency, was an experience I could have never predicted when I decided to move to Paris on a hunch.
I thought having been here for Charlie Hebdo —where our home is not at all far from the Kosher Market—was a level of intensity that could not be surpassed, but alas here we are, again, months later with a heightened level of shock, grief, and fear.
As a general rule of thumb, I avoid sticking my nose in French politics as I still feel like a visitor here even after all these years, however, the events that took place where there was a universal uncertainty as new information was being revealed by the hour created a conformity with me with Paris, and Paris with the rest of the world.
Mirroring the same harrowing emotions I was swelled with weeks succeeding the 9/11 attacks, I was reminded that you don’t need to be a native of a country in despair to feel its sorrow and the overwhelming response of love and support that Paris received worldwide is living proof of that. I simply cannot wrap my mind around some criticism I have read over the French flag Facebook filter just days after such a gruesome attack. Now is not the time to be sanctimonious or analytical over how people chose to offer support, but I suppose my white-knuckle feelings about this are for another blog post.
Paris, a city rivals the toughness of New York in its resilience, we are keeping our heads up, we are honoring with heavy hearts the victims, and praying for their families as well as our uncertain future. I no longer feel a divide in the city I am proud to call home, as I am not only a foreigner, but I am a mother, I am an Italian-American, I am a New Yorker, I am Charlie, and like everyone who mourned with us worldwide, I am Paris.