A friend once proposed a rival site to Facebook, called Face It. People would only post when they were having a bad day and wanted commiseration. No vacation photos or adorable kiddie antics allowed. Face It posts are written in that spirit. They are "complaining songs" to put it in the parlance of Winnie-the-Pooh.
"I can't really love Paris. She's too expensive a mistress." These were the words of our friend Justin, who works in France and occasionally visits the capital city. When I heard them, a big part of me agreed. Yes, you do well to keep your heart aloof. This city is too pretty, too popular, too expensive.
Living in the suburbs, we don't pay the exorbitant Paris housing prices, nor do we live on a daily basis with the city's costly enticements. Our flirtation with Paris happens on weekend and holiday trips. During these outings, it's easy to feel like we are hemorrhaging money. There's the train fare, the museum entrance, the carousel ride, the menu fixe lunch in the Latin quarter, the cafe gourmande that give us courage for the train ride home. Sometimes, there's shopping--a beret, a children's book from the museum shop. We don't stint on little purchases that make traveling more comfortable--after all, we won't be here much longer, and it's not often that we muster the energy to get ourselves into the city. These expenses are par for the course.
But Paris isn't only greedy for our money. She also likes our stuff. It seems like a rarity that we return home with all that we brought. We've lost umbrellas, sweaters, stainless steel water bottles and whole boxes of pastry. We once took a trip into the city to shop the seasonal sales. We returned plus a stylish cardigan and blazer for Donnie and minus a smartphone. The phone may have fallen out of my pocket, but more likely, it was helped out by some light-fingered denizen of the Paris underworld. Needless to say, Whatever we saved that day by buying clothing on sale was lost in the cost of replacing the phone.
For a while, the city seemed satiated. We had a few visits with no losses and I forgot her rumbling tummy. But she was just between courses.
This time, she got my knitting--an aviatrix hat in Debbie Bliss merino wool. It was a Christmas gift for Loulou, and one of my first forays into knitting from an actual pattern. It took about a week of evenings to knit, but that doesn't count the small practice hat I knit in a coarser wool. I sewed the button and wove in the ends, and the next day I foolishly--ever so foolishly--put it on Louisa's head for our outing to the Louvre. We managed to hold onto it until the trip back. And then it was gone.
Luckily, there are a few photos of the hat. They're not-so-great, but I'm thankful to have them.
Rest in peace, deep purple aviatrix hat! I like to think you might survive to warm the head of a different toddler. My misgiving heart tells a different story. It sees legions of uncaring feet grinding your fibers into the urine-spattered asphalt of the Paris Underground.
Despite the loss of the hat, the outing was a success--our first time going inside the Louvre. On previous visits, the long security line always dissuaded us from entering. We almost turned away this time as well, but two security guards waylaid us as we were casting about for a place to eat our lunch. As it t turns out, if you have small children, they rush you to the front of the line! So, if you're going to the Louvre, be sure to bring a kid or a convincing doll in a carrier.
We saw an exhibit of paintings from the last years of Raphael's life. I often feel numbed and overwhelmed by art museums, but the focused nature of this exhibit made for a wonderful experience. The Raphaels were truly great---they seem more real than real.
And as for the hat...I might say that the it was actually on the small side for Loulou, and during the short time she wore it, I fretted over its flaws and its prematurely fuzzy appearance. I might philosophize that being lost is the most merciful fate possible for an early knitting project---the knitter must neither live with her mistakes nor admit defeat and unravel.
I might also say that losing the hat made the whole day more memorable, and thanks to its loss, Raphael's luminous virgins are all the more deeply engraved in my mind.
Would this be superstition? Sour grapes? Positive reappraisal?
Regardless, it will be a while before I knit Louisa another hat. And when I do, I won't allow her to wear it---at least, not to Paris.