There are weeks and then there are w-e-e-k-s. Anyone who has moved, especially overseas, knows there is a honeymoon period. You get excited about the move. You get there, and get excited about the prospects of your new life. You find new restaurants or shops you’d like to try…and then life settles in. Not a new, idyllic life but your life and the crashing realization that things are the same, even in your new environs. In some ways, that is very comforting. The security of family, your goods, your normal. But when that means that your child picks up the winter crud and you are stuck home in a place that is completely new and completely, well, foreign, the excitement quickly turns to panic.
First the background: A full weekend, Saturday morning through Sunday night. Saturday included braving the rain and visiting a near-by town’s Fête de Noël, being rewarded with warming up to vin chaud (hot wine) and meeting the Christmas penguin. Well, we assumed he was a Christmas penguin, but didn’t have the vocabulary to ask. Smiling and bobbing our heads as we shook his…er, wing, we felt we were really embracing our new, however odd, traditions. Then taking three forms of public transportation (and half an afternoon) to the IKEA, only to find that 1. they don’t have the Swedish meatballs in their cafeteria (sacrilege) and 2. it was a “mini-IKEA”, meaning kitchen and bath only. The two areas of the house we don’t need anything for. I was in such shock I even forgot to look for Diam’s…surely that would have been the salve for my open, festering disappointment.
Despite not having Sweden’s famous chocolates at our disposal, we managed to find other forms of indulgence. On Sunday, we walked from church to the downtown Christmas display, where window shops danced with visions of sugar plums, Père Noël and reindeer. We went to a wine festival, where over 1,000 (yes, one thousand!) private vintners displayed their goods and the crowds were able to learn and sample. Our first real weekend here was topped off with meeting a few Americans that Wade works with at a Canadian bar to watch American football. In France. We felt so international and full of anticipation of two years’ worth of weekends such as this.
The wee hours of Monday morning brought the delectable weekend to a screeching halt. Liam came in our room, wanting to sleep~not with us, but on the floor by us. At the end of the bed, on the 137 year old hardwood, is a thick, plush throw rug, perfect for warming cold toes before getting into bed…But Liam didn’t get that memo. He took repose but then proceeded to expunge every bit of Parisian palatables he consumed all over the rug, under the bed (still on the rug), my pile of clothes I don’t have hangers for (and hence, were woefully piled on the floor by the aforementioned rug), the duvet, box spring and my feet. And, he was burning up with fever. I will spare you the rest of the gory details, but those of you who have children know this kind of regurgitation is not a single occurrence.
Now the reality check: European paper towels are so thin you can shred them between two fingers. European washing machines are built to a fraction of the American scale washing machines. We are in an apartment with people above and below and it is an old building. Our flat only came with two bath towels. They do not sell Lysol in France.
This little coup d’état of my picturesque weekend has lasted (so far) a week, and we’re still living it. That’s 137 hours and painfully counting. With this new found time of being stuck at home, waiting on the washing machine (2.25 hours per load), the dryer (2.5 hours per load), and the dishwasher to sanitize (3.5 hours per load), I have found graces. Not Florence Nightingale graces (although that would be nice) but graces in living my norm.
After desperately trying to find something that resembles Lysol on the market shelves to no avail, I emailed a lovely French friend of mine who lives in Texas. Not only did she write back immediately, she had the name to look for, a picture of the can, and found two shops within a 3km radius that sell it. I was then able to send that info to Wade to pick up on his way home, along with the largest chocolate bar with nuts he could find. Grace in a friendship that expands long past our Air Force time together.
Graces in being able to order a European steam cleaner, cleaning detergent, hangers, more towels and a Christmas Yankee candle with the click of a button on AmazonPrime France. Truth be told, graces in not being super quick with conversion math to know just how much I was spending when I hit that “one click”…so I could get what I thought I needed and a little pampering, too. Graces in knowing our neighbors above also have children, and that they were tolerant of Liam’s über cacophonous coughing and retching. Yes, I know my time is coming to be equally as gracious.
Liam and I got to read a novel and watch a video series on the Revolutionary War. I got to sneak a few cat naps in while he was making up for being awake all night with his cough. I have practiced my French (thanks, Google translate!) with the pharmacist, who now smiles at me each time I walk into her pharmacy. And I have been able to chat with my sister at all hours of the night (for me, anyway!).
Our bedroom still smells like a vomitorium (although sans peacock feathers), despite having the window open any time it isn’t raining. My new fancy steam cleaner won’t be here for another week…maybe in my delirium I didn’t check to see if it was Prime. Or even assembled. But I digress. “Idyllic Paris life” isn’t dancing around my head anymore but a full heart and the hope of a good night’s sleep more than make up for it.