Back Home In Paris
When we bought an apartment in Paris eight years ago, we made the decision as part of our long-term retirement plan. Eventually, we hope to spend as much as half of each year here in the City of Light, and the little pad we chose in the 7th should work well for that. It’s charming and quintessentially 17th-century French. Plus, thinking more practically about life in our later years, it’s centrally located, meaning we’ll be able to walk or take the Metro anywhere we want to go. And everything we’ll need day-to-day can be found a block or two away. On our narrow street are a wine store, a cheese shop, a bakery, two cafes, a dry cleaner, a corner grocer, and a pharmacy.
We’re nowhere near ready for that retirement stage yet, but we’re awfully glad not only that we made the purchase when we did, but also that we held on to the apartment when we moved from Paris to Panama City four years ago. We could have sold. The euro was up relative to when we’d bought, as were property values in Paris, especially in our arrondissement.
But we didn’t buy our Paris pad as an investment. At least not as an investment that we expected to flip to pocket the return. This purchase was an investment in lifestyle, both long- and short-term.
We aren’t able to make it here as often as we’d like, but, arriving this week after two years away, we re-settled instantly into our old Paris routines.
“It’s nice to be back,” Lief observed when we walked through the door upon arrival and began carrying the suitcases to their respective bedrooms.
“Can I sleep in Kaitlin’s room?” Jackson asked. Kaitlin’s room is bigger and has a queen-sized bed, compared with the twin in his room.
“I’m sure she wouldn’t mind,” I responded, and Lief carried Jackson’s bag into Kaitlin’s bedroom, overlooking the street.
“I’ll go online and order groceries,” Lief said. “I should be able to arrange for delivery tomorrow. I have our basic shopping list, from two years ago, still on file with Telemarket. Then Jackson and I will walk down to the shop on the corner to get some things for today.”
“Can I watch a movie?” Jackson asked, opening the cabinet in the master bedroom where he remembered we’d stored the Disney and other videos from his younger days.
“Good idea,” I said, as I walked through the apartment, room to room, reacquainting myself. “After you’ve helped Dad at the store.”
We’d been away for two years, but, returning, immediately, we were home.
Years ago, shortly after our move from Waterford to Paris, a reader wrote to say (more or less…I’m paraphrasing from memory), “Kathleen, you seem to be searching for something, moving your family first to Waterford and now to Paris. Why don’t you settle down and make a home for those children?”
We’d been well at home in Waterford, where Lief, Kaitlin, and I first became a family…where Jackson was born…where Kaitlin learned to ride a horse in our front field and Jackson learned to walk in our forever-muddy back garden…where Kaitlin started high school and Jackson attended day care…where my family visited often and my Dad helped with the renovation of the old country house we bought having no idea what we were getting ourselves into…
We were well at home in Paris, where Kaitlin graduated high school (with an International Baccalaureate degree) and Jackson attended maternelle (French preschool)…where Kaitlin had her first real boyfriend and Jackson made friends he keeps in touch with still…where they both learned to speak French…
And now we’re well at home in Panama, where Kaitlin, having graduated college in New York, has joined us to start a business of her own alongside ours…where Jackson attends the French school because he reads and writes better French than English (and we’re ok with that)…where Kaitlin does pilates and yoga and Jackson takes Hapkido and piano lessons…where we have Family Dinner at our house every Tuesday we’re all in town (Kaitlin and Jackson cook)…where Jackson’s friends come over to our house after school to play video games and work on school projects together…where we walk our dog and tend our little garden…
Ask Jackson where home is, and he’ll say Ireland. Yet, here in Paris this week, he also thinks he’s come home. A shopkeeper in Sacre Coeur yesterday, noticing Jackson’s authentic French accent, asked, in French, where Jackson was from.
“You are French, no?” the man wondered. “But your parents, they are Americans?”
“Ah, oui,” Jackson replied.
We’re still undeniably American, of course, but Jackson isn’t French.
We didn’t dispute the point, but the exchange prompted me, though, to wonder, as I often have, what is Jackson?
By birth, he’s Irish. By passports, he’s both Irish and American. By experience, he’s Irish and French. Now he’s living in Panama. He speaks French, English, and Spanish, in that order of proficiency. He says that, when he’s older, he intends to return to Ireland and become Prime Minister.
Meantime, he and Kaitlin speak openly about the future of our little Paris pad. After Lief and I are gone, they intend to share it (we try not to be bothered by the fact that they consider this situation so straightforwardly). This Paris apartment is part of our retirement plan, but it’s also become our children’s French home, each little centuries-old room full, for them, of both memories and future dreams.