It Takes A Village, People…

I know it has taken me a long time to get this blog on its feet, but I’m not very tech savvy. (My husband is probably laughing hysterically by now.) Writing is always intimidating to me. Facing a blank page and creating something out of nothing is a Herculean task – especially if I know that other people will eventually read it. But I finally got to the point where I thought, I want a journal of my time here, and I don’t want to bore my friends on Facebook with story after story. Thus, the blog idea.

The Search for a Blog Title: My friend Wendy came up with the official title: “Graceful Paris.” Genius, since my name is Grace. And I wanted to add the second part, “The Accidental Parisian” because moving to Paris has felt like a phenomenal, wonderful, happy accident…total kismet. I still wake up and think to myself “How on EARTH did I get here?!?”

So here’s how it went…

My husband, Leon, and I left Texas last year to spend the Christmas holiday in Paris and the Netherlands. We found out the day after we left for vacation that some big deal got signed with his company, and they wanted Leon (and therefore, me) living in Paris the day AFTER we got back home from vacation.  God has a fantastic sense of humor.

After hearing the news, we celebrated at the George V with two cups of hot chocolate (30 Euros each…I’m not kidding.) It was there that we struck up our plan for the move. The day after we landed in Dallas, Leon would fly back to Paris, start work and look for an apartment. Meanwhile, I would handle all of the details of our move from Texas.

I began to freak out over how much I would actually have to deal with on my own during that six weeks. Not only would I have to interview and find movers and a storage facility. I would have to pack up everything in our 4-bedroom house, find renters and a property manager, get the dogs approved for international travel and see all of my MANY doctors, and a bunch of other stuff that would take far too long to list. Anyway, before I could completely lose it,  one of my friends talked me off the ledge. Her name is Leesy. She is a sweetheart and a true best friend. I don’t know if you have a friend like her, but I pray that you do. Anyway, Leesy said that while we were still on vacation over Christmas and New Year’s, she would start packing up our house so I wouldn’t have to face it all alone when I got back.

Can you even wrap your brain around that? Offering to pack someone’s home for them…by yourself…over Christmas and New Year’s? Let me also say, that if it were anyone other than Leesy, I couldn’t have handled the stress. You see, I am a control freak at heart. (I know that will come to a huge shock to all of my former students.) But, Leesy just knows how to do things the way I would. She can actually DO that…think the way I think. Weird, but great. So, she and I talked on the phone every morning and every night, going through what Leon and I might need in Paris and what she could safely  pack away for storage. And thus, my nervous breakdown was avoided. She packed our entire kitchen, two guest rooms and all of our books and keepsakes. Way to go, Leesy!

Once we got back from vacation, we hit the ground running. All of our friends offered to help. I don’t know what I would have done without them. Mary Ann & Mark stored our car in their airplane hangar. Other friends volunteered to keep the other things we couldn’t just store in a warehouse: the wine fridge, the 500-pound ceramic grill, the giant safe filled with important papers, outdoor furniture, jewelry, art, even Leon’s pride and joy…his beloved bar. All of it is safely tucked away in homes all around Dallas, awaiting our return.  Just writing this makes me all weepy again. We love our friends, and we are grateful for them. Like I said at the top, it takes a village.

While I was busy at home, Leon was working all week in Paris, and then on the weekends, he would go with a realtor there to look at apartments, skyping me in on the really good ones so we could pick a place together. He found an apartment that was gorgeous…I mean, it looked like Coco Chanel had lived there…seriously.  We signed the contracts and learned the first lesson of real estate in Paris. Even after you’ve agreed on everything and signed the papers, the owner can bail if she thinks she can get more money working with another real estate agent and dumping you. This happened on the Monday before Leon was flying home on Wednesday to pick me up and move us in to our new apartment. So, he booked one last-minute appointment with a realtor, and skyped me for the walk through. The whole thing was over in three minutes.  I basically just asked “Does it have a quiet bedroom?” “Yes,” he said, “It has TWO.” “Does it have closets and a washing machine?” I asked. “Yes,” he said. “Let’s take it,” I said. “OK,” And that was that.

Wow…talk about a happy accident. This is the PERFECT apartment for us. It’s HUGE by Parisian standards, about 1,000 square feet. It has two bedrooms and a completely ridiculous amount of closet space…even for an organizing freak like me. It is a 4-minute walk to the Champs Élysées and a 8-minute walk to my favorite park in the city, Parc Monceau. I ADORE this apartment. Leon adores this apartment. And the dogs love it too.

We knew this move to Paris was a God thing because of this one last detail. Leon proposed to me on the Champs Élysées on Valentines Day, ten years ago. And ten years later TO THE DAY, he moved me here as his wife. We now live about a 10-minute walk from the very spot where he proposed. Now that I think of it, that first trip to Paris is a story all on its own. And it deserves its own telling.  But that’s for another time.