Things were unsettled for a little while (and it was unsettling to me to be so unsettled), but then it finally happened: I found our home in Paris.
I wanted so badly to get it right. We were no longer childless 20-somethings backpacking through Europe and willing to stay in a cheap hotel room above the noisy bars of the Latin Quarter. Even if I intended to spend my days roaming the streets of Paris, I had the comfort of my children and my mom, who is sometimes childish herself, to consider. And who am I kidding, I’m getting to be a crotchety curmudgeon in my old age. My wanderlust is nowhere near satiated, but it’s almost as vital to have a warm, safe, inviting place to come home to after your daily exploits. Paris simply would not be as enjoyable without a comfortable home base, so I had to get it right. After multiple email correspondences, rounds of phone tag, sleepless nights, negotiations, calculations, missed communications, miscommunications, another apartment falling through, and ultimately a leap of faith, we moved into another apartment exactly one week after our arrival to Paris. I have to admit I was crazy nervous when we entered our new apartment for the first time. What if it was worse than the apartment we just left? If it was halfway decent, why would it be available on such short notice? What if a trip to Paris in the wintertime with kids was a terrible, awful idea? What if I was wasting time and money for no good reason? What if my reality was never ever going to live up to my dreams and expectations and I was doomed to a life of misery? These were the thoughts running through my mind as we were unlocking the front door. Barely breathing, I stepped inside and looked around. At first I wasn’t sure what to think because the apartment didn’t look exactly like it did in the pictures. Those tricky French people and their cunning photography skills! But as we settled in and looked around some more, we realized that it was okay that it didn’t exactly match the website photos because it was beautiful and charming and perfect in its own way. It was meant to be our home for the next five weeks. It, too, was worn and shabby and furnished with old furniture, as well as lots of stuff from Ikea. But it was obvious that care and thought had gone into its decor because it was warm and inviting. It felt and looked like an apartment that was loved by its owner. By the end of the day I had fallen in love with it too. It’s EXACTLY what I wanted in a Parisian apartment. As an added bonus, we were thrilled to discover that the owner must have children right around our children’s ages because the shelves and closets were fully stocked with toys, games, books, art supplies, and crafts, even more than what our kids have at home! The kids were wild with glee, as were we. As we unpacked and explored our new surroundings, the day was peppered with exclamations like, “This apartment has soap AND paper towels, amazing!”; “We have a microwave now, yay!”; “There’s more than one pepper grinder with pepper in it!”; “Look at how many seasonings are in the cupboard!”; “OMIGOD I just found a bunch of chopsticks, Asian people were here!”; “The floors don’t squeak like they’re about to collapse!”; “The toilet is in the same room with the rest of the bathroom! And there are extra rolls of toilet paper!”; “WHOO HOO, there’s still hot water after 5 P.M.!!!”; “There are 18,000 books about Paris here that I want to read!”; “It’s so easy to get to any room without having to go outside!”; “Look how bright and sunny it is, our kids don’t have to play in the dark anymore!” And on and on.
Tom and I like to say that everything happens for a reason, probably because we’re always searching for meaning in life (at least I am). Sometimes you have to suck it up and just go with the flow and sometimes you have to put your foot down and figure out how to get what you want. It’s good to know when to do which, and I’m still learning that. For a few days we had considered just sticking it out at the old apartment and dealing with its sundry aggravations for the rest of our vacation because we were here to explore the city of Paris, right? What did it matter where we lived? So wrong. So so wrong. Getting out of there has made all the difference in our collective happiness. We agreed that we were meant to stay at the old apartment during our first week because that experience (more like an ordeal) exponentially enhanced our appreciation of this new apartment. Maybe we wouldn’t have fallen in love with it if not for the other apartment. Maybe we would have never have gotten to live in this apartment if all my planning months before had yielded different results. Maybe you have to experience deep unhappiness in order to be able to find true happiness.
Plus, we were lucky to get a feel for the 7th Arrondissement, to be steps away from Rue Cler’s cool shops and restaurants, and to be able to see the Eiffel Tower every day during our first week. But now we’re in a darling Parisian flat in the artsy, historical neighborhood of Montmartre, in the 18th Arrondissement, and it’s exactly where I want to be. I love that this is where I get to come home to.