Tuesday, May 23, 2017

with my granddaughter

It's rare that I have Snowdrop under my sole care for several days in a row. Sure, when she is at at the farmette, I'm her primary caregiver, but Ed is nearby and these days, he'll play with the little one extensively if I need to retreat for a few minutes.

But in Paris, when her parents take off for a several day side trip, Snowdrop and I are on our own. It feels very much as if I've taken my young adolescent for one of those growth journeys with an elderly chaperone, except that she's not an adolescent and I'm not really concerned with her growth: she does plenty of it on her own, or at home.

This is our first full day in Paris, after a night where, like last year, every one was up in the middle of it, fighting the body's internal clock, except this time Snowdrop was easier to soothe and the adults were hell bent on coaxing at least a solid chunk of hours of sleep.

On the upside, except for me, no one was up before nine. Indeed, I had to rattle their door (Snowdrop shares the bedroom with her parents) to get them going, as the young parents had a train to catch and I wanted Snowdrop to resume her regular patterns of sleep as quickly as possible.

Breakfast is a mishmash of yesterday's purchases: yogurts, fruits, day old croissants. Snowdrop is happy.


A book read with a freshly out of the shower mommy (yes,  the book is the farmhouse favorite du jour, which has the blessed feature of being relatively short to read, as opposed to her home favorite, Cherries and Cherry Pits by Vera Williams, which takes a whopping 25 minutes and that's without a pause to catch your breath!)...


And then we all set out -- the parents for the train station and Snowdrop and I -- for the park.

Remember the night I recently spent researching interesting and novel things to do with children in Paris? Oh, it came in very handy when a parent at the Jardin du Luxembourg playground asked me if I knew of good activities for children in the city. (Honestly, I must sport the look of a know it all, because I am frequently asked for directions and assistance and not only in Paris. You'd think my camera would have people understand that I am a mere tourist, but no. Perhaps I look like I'm in need of adult conversation...)

Basically, I doubt that Snowdrop and I will stray far from our beaten paths. (Though I want to thank the commenter who forwarded additional tips! I am always looking for ideas!) I am surrounded by good options and so I stick to activities that are not too far. (Perhaps I'm just too cautious: Snowdrop is just three months out of diapers and you can't be sure when she'll ask for a restroom).

So -- the gardens! (And yes, the weather is perfect. Absolutely perfect.)

We do try something new: we try the extensive playground in the north corner of the park. Here, you have to pay to get in with your child. Not a lot (2.5 Euros for the whole day for her and half of that for me), but still, it discourages a casual drop-in. (On the upside, there are toilets, which elsewhere in the gardens charge a fee, so the price buys you peace of mind in that regard.)

Snowdrop loves playgrounds. And trains. And play cars.



And child friendly parks. She really loves them.


But I see that many many of the activities here for the 2 - 6 year old set (the playgrounds in Paris are often divided along those age lines) are very different than those in the U.S. and she is both too bold and too intimidated by them.

For example, she plunges onto an elevated roped floor, not realizing that the ropes will not support her unless she grips hard. Down she goes.

(Just before the plunge...)


Too, in France, she is shy with the children. In the U.S., being a school kid gives her a huge boost on the playground: she knows the ropes. But here, kids move in ways that are different and speak a language that she does not understand. Back home, she'll say "it's my turn now!" when someone tries to dispossess her of a toy. Here, she'll get off and say to me -- it's his turn now. She doesn't want the confrontation.

(She waited a long time before every child was off this spinning thing that I used to see in American playgrounds until they were deemed too dangerous. By the way, I encouraged her to take off her shoes and socks so we could do some of the rope ladders together; she took off the shoes and socks alright, but was too timid to go on the little ladders and until she mastered those, I would not let her go on the huge, tall ones which, incomprehensibly, she eyed with some interest.)


On the language upside, she is utterly charming with her "merci" and "bonjour," and in the middle of the sleepless hours of the night, her father taught her "s'il vout plait," which just makes anyone grin when they hear it.

And she is sensitive here to her interactions with adults: we were sitting at a sidewalk cafe waiting for lunch and a grandmotherly type came up and told her in French -- you look like a photo! Such eyes, so serious! Snowdrop could tell that she was being praised and honestly, for the rest of the lunch hour she was on her best behavior. Coquette! -- the waiter teased.

On the other hand, as we waited in the long line of the Bon Marche Epicerie -- that big food hall where I picked up some pasta and fruits, just in case going out proves to be to bothersome at any point (I realized I had to be ready in case she falls sick and I can't easily leave to get food) -- Snowdrop tried the old self-amusement game of kicking anything in sight: signpost, wall, and ooops! -- a woman's well-groomed leg. The woman was understanding even as I was mortified. Snowdrop knew she had crossed the line and she huddled into her stroller for the rest of the walk.

And so now you know our morning! The big playground...


And lunch, at Le Nemrod on Cherche-Midi...

(A timed release selfie!)


... a place that proved to be too perfect for words, as they had a delicious croque monsieur for her and they offered to make it with the softer bread, which is easier for her to devour (reminder: a croque monsieur is a melted cheese and ham sandwich, layered with a very delicate mustardy sauce; she loves this concoction!).


(Fortified, she then rejects the stroller in favor of pushing it and walking alongside.)


And finally, we stop at the Bon Marche, the department store, so that I can pick up a little set of Legos, as neither my daughter nor I felt like bringing toys here for Snowdrop, even as I know she'll enjoy this new little set both here and later at home.

And then to the grocer, and on to our Paris home.

(It's good to be in a very familiar neighborhood...)


I say Paris home, because indeed it is that. When Snowdrop got tired, she said "I want to go home," and she meant here, back to the apartment. How quickly a kid adapts to a new environment!

(I should include a picture of our wee apartment. The main room serves as a living and dining area, though if you put up the table, you will lose your ability to navigate the space. Still, it's quite a nice area for Snowdrop to play in. The owners have small children and they knew to put in safe covers for sharp edges. Too, there is a portable high chair and of course the crib. The place has really grown on me.)


(The living room windows look out on a side street with a school,  which, as in the rest of France,  lets out late -- at 4:30. On the upside - homework is rarely assigned, and as for time off -- well, just ask how many holidays they observe here in May alone.)


Evening. I'm sitting back, taking in the sounds outside. It's nearly nine, but it's still light. On this day in Paris, the sun sets at 9:36. The good and the bad of northern Europe: beautifully long spring and summer days! The darker days of winter...

I hear music and voices. The window is wide open and I should not be surprised, but I am on a side street and so all this must be wafting from some distance. It's so perfect.

Let me go back to the start of the evening hours: Snowdrop wakes up from her nap (a long nap! I am not surprised!) and I expect it to be a slow wake up with the usual squirms and protests, but no! All I have to do is say: let's go out and look for that merry-go-round! She is like lightening at the door, seizing her shoes, putting them on.

Our walks down the stairs have to be a two stage affair. I just cannot carry her and the stroller at the same time (and the banister is unreachable for her and she is way beyond crawling on a stairwell: too embarrassing, I suppose). So she has to wait downstairs for me. And right at this moment, an older woman is sitting by the mailboxes where the weird looking bird rests in a cage. I ask her if it's her bird.
Non, il est un oiseau de la rue. (He is a bird of the street. It turns out she found him floundering out there and she is trying to bring some life into him. When I explain this to Snowdrop, she immediately asks -- where is his mommy? Kids ask the most difficult questions!)

I know there are many carousels in Paris, but the one I'm aiming for this evening is in the Tuilerie Garden, just across the river from us. Oh, what beautiful weather! Oh oh oh! What an evening!


The walking time fits into my idea of a perfect evening outing. Too, I know that she likes that merry-go-round. She was on it last year and cried to high heaven when it was time to disembark.


This is one of the many many differences in taking a two year old (as opposed to a one year old) to Paris. She understands now. If I tell her: three rides, no more! -- she may respond with a lust toward a fourth, but she wont fuss when it is not handed to her. And believe me, three is plenty for a gaga that gets sick at the SIGHT of merry-go-rounds!

So, three rides, on the animals/mechanical devices of her choice: horse, airplane, motorcycle.




She wants then to go to the fountain and I oblige...


... until I understand that she wants to jump in that pond. I remind her that she may be feeling hot because of the sweater, but she ignores me and keeps the sweater on.

But again,  she is a big girl, one who can take more and more of the heartbreaks in life (believe me, not being able to jump into that pool was a very big heartbreak!).

We stroll past the Louvre pyramid. She remembers it from photos (this is how she remembers much of Paris -- from the book I made for her just after last year's trip). Last year, we were here when it was raining hard. This year it's most certainly not raining, but time has brought forth its own sad changes: you can't access it anymore. Not since the brutal attack on visitors here just a short while back.


I tell her we must hurry now. I need to make it to Paul's bakery before it closes: croissants for breakfast!

And after, we go to the Little Breizh. This is why I love our neighborhood -- it has everything within spitting distance, including this fabulous creperie, where they specialize in the Breton buckwheat flour crepes. I order bacon and cheese for her (bacon in France is really like knobs of  pan fried ham) and sardine and tomato for me.

I could not be prouder of the little girl.


(Too, I want to offer some thanks to the family that came in just after us: they had a little boy, possibly slightly younger than Snowdrop, though it's hard to tell, and slightly incapable of sitting through a meal. She was fascinated by his misconduct and she made sure I took in how much older and ergo better at this she was.)


(To those who make too much noise: shhh! Of course, she is only two. One could well remind even her, perhaps all of us, of the need to stay calm at times of greater stress.)


She eats a good bit of her crepe -- enough that I can offer to split something that I know she loves -- a nutella dessert crepe.

The entire kitchen staff watches in delighted amusement as she gets more and more chocolat on her hands and face.


Gaga is prepared. Gaga has wipies. One swift wipe and she is fine again, drawing contentedly on a scrap of paper.


My daughter, like any parent, worries when she is away from Snowdrop. I text her -- if the remaining days here would be like this one, I'd be so totally satisfied!

On a less chipper note: I do read the news. I know of the horrors that take place all around us. People write about how one must move forward, resilient and strong, in defiance of those who aim to quash the happiness of others. I get it, though I also know that we move forward, because we don't have a choice. To stand still isn't cowardice -- it's pointless. You can't run from the hatred of the few. And so you ignore it and take the next step in life and the one after. And you search and hold on to the precious elements of each day.

Snowdrop is asleep now and still the laughter and pleasure of community streams in from the streets all around us. And that's a good thing. Really, that's such a good thing.