Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Bare Lightbulbs

My mother landed in Paris two weeks ago to get the lay of the land and see this baby bump with her own eyes. Her time here was very enjoyable and tad exhausting (emphasis on the enjoyable mom!). During the first few days of her visit all three of us were plagued with the stomach flu. Since you are mostly an American audience I will spare you the dirty details but suffice to say that it put a serious cramp in our stinky cheese eating, oyster slurping, wine sipping, walking all over Paris plans and resulted in a lot of time resting in our apartment.

The last time my mother was in Paris was in April of 2008, she arrived one day after we moved into our Montmartre home. At that time we owned two inflatable mattresses, two blankets, a couple of cups made out of cut-off plastic water bottle tops and a set of disposable silverware we kept from a take-out place. Since then we have fleshed out our apartment with some furnishings: a tulip stand record player from Germany, a cardboard stag head, an electric fireplace, a couch, a bed, a vintage rolling bar cart... but admittedly we still have a some holes....

For example it isn't easy to explain to one's mother why one doesn't own a garbage can, a rolling pin, a pot holder, a full length mirror or a single coat hanger... The excuse of 'we just moved in and aren't sure where to buy hangers in Paris' just doesn't fly like it used to. It was equally hard to justify why exactly we have a retro French faux bois Jazz wall clock in our kitchen that slowly loses time (which happened to be 93 minutes slow that day) as our only timepiece.

What sent my dear mother over the edge, however, was the bare lightbulb dangling from the bathroom ceiling. Unlike most American apartments, French apartments come with no light fixtures; just wires protruding from the walls and ceilings and if you are lucky a lightbulb. Such was the case two years ago when we moved in and sadly such is still the case in both our bathroom and entryway.

Why? It's hard to say.

Is it because we have trouble with commitment? Is it because I am married to a person who scoffs at most lamp shades and says things like "30€? Pfffft! I can make you one of those!'? Je ne sais pas.

These missing items, combined with an extended amount of time sitting on the couch feeling unwell, lead to a larger discussion of how we are going to prepare this petite apartment for our new permanent houseguest, the bébé!

My mother looked around, declared it a mission impossible and strongly suggested we move to (gasp!) the suburbs. Coming from her (long time suburb hater) I knew that to a non-Parisian the situation here does look a little daunting.

But not to worry! We have a plan: Since we only have one bedroom and I value my sleep and sex-life we are planning to put the little darling in the living room. I have the corner all picked out. It's going to be lovely. My crafty husband is going to put wheels on the crib so we can slide it over to access our only built in storage which would be otherwise blocked by the crib. Then when we need to do laundry we will just push the coffee table against the record player along the wall and fold out our giant drying rack. The kid won't need a mobile because Grégoire's bike hangs on the wall to save floor space and its spinning wheels will surely provide hours of entertainment to this little bébé. See? Piece of cake!

Parisians have adapted to living in small spaces by becoming expert jugglers and impressive contortionists. As you can see in the photo up top, this clever city dweller stores his bike outside his window. My imaginative sister in law uses her oven as a pantry. These fine people in the photo to the left don't have the space for a garden so they glued a plastic one to their windows. Until last week (when we took an admittedly much needed trip to IKEA to purchase a full length mirror) I inspected my outfits by standing on my toilet seat and bending over to look at myself in the cabinet mirror glued to the wall above our sink. Problem(s) solved.

All of this to say, where there is a will there is a way and Parisians have been cramming themselves into Paris for years! With imagination and determination we too will find a way to integrate a baby and all of its accouterments into our tiny Parisian home. I have no doubt.


Madame Bouron said...

Maaaaah! David Lebovitz knows what I am talking about. He wrote this tweet last night...

"Now I know why the dry cleaners are so expensive in Paris; they've all figured out that we're using them as extra storage space."

Love this guy.

P.Shaw said...

I think that way of living is THE way of living! Cheers and here's to your continued health.

Kell and I will be in Paris for my 40th in Sept., hopefully we can find sometime to see you all.


Alistair said...

Great post, sis. Can't wait to see you on our shores in a few weeks!

Cyrielle said...


This post is a pleasure to read! It remind me of my dad coming over last fall and asking why and why we don't have this and that... Also I'm not worry about the space for the baby cause you guys gonna find way to make it work as usual! Hope to see you when you visit.