Friday, April 11, 2008

We return to our regularly scheduled programming

Today was the last day of the parenthesis that was my maternity leave. It has been almost eleven months since I suddenly and unexpectedly stopped working. From what I've heard the office is still there along with the majority of my colleagues, who have obligingly left some of my favorite bugs in our software untouched and uncorrected for my return.

There's still work to do, and they apparently still want me to do it.

Le Petit spent Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday with the nanny and seems to be adjusting. He cries when I leave or when something reminds him that I'm gone, but he spends most of the day crawling and playing and keeping la nounou on her toes. When I come to pick him up she gives me the lowdown on all the mischief he's gotten into. Today when I arrived she'd rearranged the living room furniture to create a barricade in front of the crates of CDs. There's a smile in her voice when she talks about him, and it makes me happy.

So today I enjoyed what was my first and last day off for a very long time. I met my husband for sushi at lunch, then wandered off to Paris. On my own. I found that the Métro still has the same smell of crowds and damp concrete, and Paris is still beautiful on an early spring day. There were groups of high school students lounging on benches in the sun and office workers lingering in doorways with coffee and cigarettes. But how many others felt as light as I did, with nowhere in particular to go, no office, no school, no obligations?

What does a woman do who suddenly finds herself thus? She goes shopping, of course. It wasn't glamorous shopping -- I bought a breast pump, a cooler for transporting milk, ice packs. I did buy some cute shoes... for le Petit. With frogs on the toes.

Now no matter where I go there is always an invisible line linking me to le Petit. I don't worry about him, but he's somewhere in my thoughts, along with the light but persistent weight of my responsibility. So although I hopped on and off the Métro free as a bird (okay, a little less so since my Navigo Intégrale pass was not yet reactivated), I was still very much Mommy.

As I strolled up Boulevard des Capucines from the Madeleine, an idea for one last stop formed in my head. I wanted to go to Galeries Lafayette to buy something special for me. Makeup I thought initially, a useful splurge since I should try to look presentable for the office. But as I wandered the maze of cosmetic counters unable to find what I was looking for and suspecting that any real parisienne worth her salt could instinctively find her way, I changed my plan. I headed to the jewelry counters. I decided to look for a necklace, something to fascinate tiny fingers and sturdy enough to withstand tugging. I was looking for something that I could wear and think about le Petit.

I found it. On Monday, as I take the train that will take me as far away from le Petit as I have ever been in his life, I hope it may make it all a tiny bit easier.

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