Sunday, August 19, 2012

Nothing but Everything

Last Friday I met an old friend from high school in my neighbourhood’s new organic market.  She was with her eight year old daughter and buying a tub of kale salad for lunch.  Her husband hovered nearby and when introduced, we both pretended that we remembered meeting before.  My friend looked exactly the same.  Same sweet, smiling face and comfortable as ever in her jeans and tank top.  I teetered over her in my nude high heels, sweating in my summer scarf, and digging around in my Longchamp tote for a business card.  I apologized for buying roast beef sandwiches.  Nope, still not a vegetarian.    

Standing next to her and her beautiful daughter, meat in hand, I felt nothing short of vapid and insignificant. 

What I had been doing for the last ten years?  What I had been doing while she got married, had a daughter at the recommended age, and bought a house near her parents? 

My six trips to Paris flashed through my mind but I ignored them and talked about my husband, my job, and living downtown.  I "borrowed" my best friend’s daughters, talked about how well they were doing, trying to add another dimension to what I can see being perceived as my 35 year old nothingness. 

These conversations are becoming all too common.  Yesterday, from a distance I saw another old friend, waddle-walking from pregnancy, and I ducked into a Starbucks to avoid another nothing conversation.  I am running out of my enthusiasm for pregnancies.  I am running out of different ways to say that we, Chris and I, are not having children.  I am running out of ways to make our dream of living in Paris sound legitimate and not just something we are doing to be different.  Paris is not reactionary, it’s not a statement against the norm, and it’s not because we are bored.  It’s simply because we can’t figure out a way to live without Paris.

We can’t figure out a way to live without Paris.  Even writing that, I understand how ridiculous it must sound when compared to almost anything else.  It sounds stupidly romantic and quite hopeless.  We should get over ourselves, get over Paris, and just live our lovely lives here.  If only it were that easy… 

What do I say then when I come face-to-face with new babies, complaints of no sleep and 25-year mortgages? 

Nothing.  I say nothing because I don’t want to be the bitch who is going to Paris for the seventh time in three short weeks.  So instead I say….  I am married, I have a good job, I am a terrible cook and a lapsed runner.  You know, nothing.

But really my life, my life with Chris, in between trips to Paris and our stolen weeks in Paris is everything.  It's that we speak the same language, Paris, and that no matter how frustrating or impossible it seems, we keep believing in our ridiculous dream.

Everything is our small, shared sacrifices at home that lead to Paris.  It’s the butterflies in my stomach when the plane descends into Orly and I get my first glimpse of the Paris skyline.  It’s walking 12 hours a day in Paris and never failing to see something new or heart wrenchingly beautiful.  It’s eating chicken breasts for 10 months a year so we can feast only on bread, cheese and chocolate in Paris.  It's the fall boot collection at Galeries Lafayettes. It’s throwing away my yoga pants in favour of black dresses, scarfs and ballet flats.  It’s reading every book I can on Paris to make it seem less faraway.  It's being full from saucisson sandwiches.  It's silent walks through churches.  It’s shopping the GAP clearance rack so I can pay full price in Paris.  It’s driving an extra 3 miles to the only grocery store in Victoria that sells Badoit.  It’s spending too much time and money trying to find a Pierre Hermé macaron substitute (nothing even comes close).  It’s being angry that terrible baguette costs $3.50 here yet in Paris, an Eric Kayser baguette, still warm from the oven, costs about $1.50.  It’s looking forward to buying groceries at Monoprix.  It’s plotting my French disguises so I am hopefully mistaken for a Parisian.  It’s sunsets over Trocadero, café crèmes in Luxembourg gardens, and roast chickens and flowers from rue Cler.  It's our first kiss, again and again, at Place de la Concorde.

Paris, it's our everything. 



Cassie Piasecki said...

Your last paragraph made me cry. Wonderful, Erin...just wonderful.

Anonymous said...

Erin, I understand. When I talk about the European lifestyle, people react almost defensively of Canada. "How can you not love it here?? It's such a great country! You were just on holiday! It would never be that great for everyday life..." I hear this reproach many many times. They just don't get it. When I say about how I received more attention from Parisian and Italian men in one month than I have in Victoria in 12 years, people scoff. "You just need to get out there more!" they say. Which is BS, because I'm always "out there". When Chris opens his Paris salon, I made him promise to give me a job!! We can lunch on gorgeous jambon et fromage crepes when I'm done work. Deal?? :o) Lynn

Margrc said...

Erin, don't you dare lose your commitment to your dream. There are far too many people out there blindly following what they are told is the ideal life, what grown-ups do, and in the end are marginally happy or even miserable. If being in Paris is your bliss, you must point every resource you have to achieving your bliss. You won't forgive yourself if you don't, it will come back to haunt you.

Cassandra Petrachenko said...

"...what I can see being perceived as my 35 year old nothingness."

I hear ya!

Lorinda @ Everyday Endeavours said...

Had this exact "35 year old nothingness" moment just last night. I don't have Paris but I have my art. How to explain that to people whose lives revolve around only their children and spending time together, with their children. So my answer to 'what have you done this summer?' was 'not much'. Awkward but easier than trying to explain my lifestyle choices....when they don't really care anyway if it doesn't involve, you guessed it, children.

Aussie in France said...

May I be naive, as this is the first time I have read your blog, and ask why aren't you living in Paris yet? I can perfectly understand that you want to - it's been my home for 37 years, although in two years' time, my husband is retiring and we're moving to Blois. But never would I dream of moving back to Australia where I was born and grew up!

Heather Anne said...

I too love Paris - I have been four times, and have family in Boissy. I feel at home in France. And, like you, my husband and I are childless and the urge to flee the never-ending pregnancy announcements grows with each one. I would love to live part time in Paris and part time in Costa Rica, but I suppose I will have to win the lottery for that life.

Anonymous said...

Love your unbridled love of Paris! Reminds me of myself. I wonder if that means you're here right now? Exciting!

Not everyone is head-over-heels for Paris but for those of us who are the city is really and endless cache of surprises and beauty. I can see that you definitely "get it". Here's hoping you have a fantastic visit this time around!

Sylvia said...

I hate living in Paris, after 10 years I still can't get work (I have citizenship, but none of the traditional schools), I spend entire days doing paper work and it is GREY every single week. AND YET... Paris is home and I love her, warts and all and I would not trade my life for anything in the world.
All I can say is, stop trying to explain why you don't have kids (they are NOT for everyone) and go out there and live your dream.
ps. All those moms and their sleepless nights? they're feeling plenty of nothingness themselves...

Paris Cheapskate said...

You are not silly or strange for dreaming wildly of Paris... and you are not wrong for not having children. Every person makes choices in their lives, and if you believe in the worth of your choices, and make those dreams happen, there is nothing that makes it wrong, just because other people aren't doing the same thing.

And believe me when I say... EVERYONE is jealous that you get to come here! And they will be even more jealous when you live here!

Keep going - keep dreaming - and keep loving Paris.

Diane said...

I hope you can attain your dream.

I thought that we would never have a child, but at age 40 something changed. We now have an 11 year son adopted from Vietnam, the love of my life.

He has been to Paris a dozen times, one time for a four month stay.

Life can throw you curveballs!