I'm back in Paris, after a trip to the US that was so short that I'm not convinced I ever fully got over the jetlag, waking up so many times each night that I felt fuzzy every day. My first night back here, I fell into a deep and uninterrupted sleep and woke up when Max came into our room at 6:30. It's almost like I never left, except that things seem more normal now, less foreign.
For the first two months that we were here, I got hopelessly lost covering the four blocks from the Strasbourg Saint-Denis metro stop to our apartment's red front door on Rue de l'Echiquier. I mean, I got out of that metro at least once a day--so sixty times, minimum--and every single time, I managed to get turned around on the way home. In my defense, the metro station has half a dozen different exits that spit you out onto different sides of streets that seem to have been planned by a blind sadist. All of the neighborhood landmarks--the KFC's, the Carrefours, the cafes with hammered brass tables, the Turkish sandwich shops, Muslim butchers, and countless African beauty salons--repeat so often that they don't really help you get oriented.
When you're lost, windows full of go-go wigs on styrofoam heads are the stuff of nightmares.
Still, sometimes I feel like the blind person.
So I couldn't believe it when I got off a ten hour flight (scrunched in the middle seat), successfully navigated the RER from the airport, transfered to the right metro without consulting the map, and then found the way to our apartment--for the first time ever--without getting lost. The good thing about being as directionally challenged as I am is that it gives you the right to celebrate small victories.
It may have taken me 2 months, but I did it!
In my absence, Max and Matt fared just fine, although poor Matt got saddled with a lot of solo childcare as I happened to leave for my trip right when Max was on one of his "vacances scolaires." Again in my defense, when I booked these dates, it didn't cross my mind that Max might have a 2 week vacation just a month and a half after the end of the winter holidays. I wasn't yet aware that he'd be getting 2 weeks off every 6 weeks. Given this fact, the odds were good that my trip might overlap with one of these vacations. But Freud says that there are no accidents, and he might be right in this case. (I mean I could have checked the school calendar...) While I missed both Matt and Max a lot, a week away from your 6 year old is definitely a vacation, even when you're on a work trip. And a school vacation counts as hard work for the parent left behind to entertain him.
Paris is notoriously dreary in February. Most of the families in Max's class left France for the break, in pursuit of sun or snow. Since the rain made playgrounds impossible many days, Matt and Max spent a lot of time at museums. Max took a 2 hour perfume-making class ("I'm not sure why there weren't more boys in it," he said afterwards, sounding genuinely baffled), and another 2 hour class at the Louvre called "mimer la sculpture," that I'd signed him up for weeks earlier. Max loves making art, and was excited to get to work with clay, but apparently my translation skills need some work. I thought it would be a sculpture class, but it turned out to be a class in which the kids wandered around the museum and "mimed" the sculpture--posing like statues. How French.
The boys fared just fine without me, with one exception. On a trip to a kids' science museum, Max fell over backwards in his chair and hit his head on the marble floor, which necessitated a visit to the French ER resulting in three stitches.
Note to self: never make the mistake of callously suggesting that head wounds bleed a lot, so maybe these three stitches weren't necessary. Never laugh (nervously) at the righteous indignation of the parent who had to experience the trauma of all that bloodshed and sit through the interminable ER visit. Never suggest that said visit was probably so long because they had to attend to serious injuries first.
Max, over Skype, in a wobbly little voice: "Are you laughing at my wound, Mommy?")
I grew up with a doctor in the house. All injuries were minor compared to whatever gory surgery my father had performed that day, and his attitude rubbed off. I also couldn't help thinking back to when Max was 4, and he became frantically convinced that a bug had flown into his ear, that he could still hear it "clicking around" in there. We spent three hours at St. Luke's, after which an attending shone a light in his ear and charged us $800 for the insight that a bug might have flown in and out. Or maybe he'd imagined it.
Later this week, we arre supposed to go to the doctor to have Max's stitches removed, but I've done a little research on the internet and it seems pretty easy to snip each loop and pull them out. Only scissors and a pair of tweezers needed! I'm frankly a little offended that Max, who hates going to the doctor with a passion, told me that he'd rather see a professional.
"I am a professional," I said.
"A professional what?" he asked.
Instead of answering, I told him that our friend Danielle (also a doctor's daughter) actually removed her own cast with a saw.
He didn't seem reassured, but he said, "If you think you can do it, then Mommy I'll let you try."
It's good to be home.