Today, Mademoiselle decided she'd wake up thirty minutes into her afternoon nap. Groan. She was still tired and fussy, but her internal baby sleep timer had been reset and I knew there was no hope of getting her back down for another two hours, at least. In the meantime, she wasn't particularly interested in being parked in her playpen, even for a minute while I tried to finish my cup of coffee. Le Petit was glued to sesamestreet.org, but I knew it was only a matter of time before he needed me for something urgent and impractical to do with an infant in my arms, like rebuilding a Lego bridge.
So I did what any rational person would do: I called in the reinforcements. And then plotted my escape.
"How about if I call Grandma and we all go out?" I proposed to le Petit. "How about... we all go to the grands magasins?" I added slyly. "What would you think of that?"
The grands magasins I had in mind were the Paris flagship stores of Printemps and Galeries Lafayette which reign just behind the Opera on opposite corners of the Boulevard Haussman. Le Petit knows them well, since my mother-in-law started taking him there in the afternoons last fall when I was pregnant and on bed rest with Mademoiselle. The model of an indulgent Parisian grandmother, she'd follow him up and down the escalators to every single floor, then take the elevator up and down a few times for good measure. She'd whisk him off for an emergency potty stop. Before coming home, they'd admire the stained-glass cupola from the middle of the cosmetics department far below.
Le Petit remembered all this, and answered enthusiastically, "Yes! We'll go to the grands magasins! In the bus!" Riding the bus through Paris was part of the attraction.
I self-indulgently was planning to refresh my make-up bag with some anti-dark-circle magic. I'm no cosmetic fiend, but I'd just run out of foundation and that's not something you want to have happen when your baby isn't sleeping through the night. In the few hours of uninterrupted sleep I've been getting at night, I've been dreaming of new earrings to show off my short haircut. And also Galeries Lafayette's disproportionate women's shoe department, which takes up the entire floor of the renovated basement.
Yes, I decided, it was time for Mademoiselle's first shopping trip.
I called my mother-in-law and she was on board. Mademoiselle grew excited when she saw me put on the Moby wrap. Then the bus lulled her into a brief nap that lasted through my consultation at the Printemps make-up counter. A sweet young woman with long blond hair assured me, in her charming Quebec accent, that despite my lack of sleep I had 'bonne mine' today. I laughed.
"Well, last night, you see, she had a good night. Only woke up twice..."
She picked out a light tinted cream and a powder, and then easily talked me into also buying lip gloss and eyeshadow. Mademoiselle continued to snooze as she handed me my bag. My mother-in-law chased after le Petit, who I was momentarily grateful to forget entirely. When I finished, we headed upstairs.
"I promised him chocolate," my mother-in-law confessed. "From La Maison du Chocolat."
"Oh, boy. And have you been sage enough to deserve that?" I asked le Petit.
"Well, he's been sage ever since I mentioned it."
His nose just at the bottom of the display case, his arms stretched wide, le Petit told Grandma that he wanted all the chocolates and Grandma, obligingly, got him one of each of the dark chocolate ganaches. We'd all share, I assured the young woman who served us, worried what she'd think of such spoiling of a three-year-old. She handed over the bag, and wished us a knowing "à bientôt."
Visiting Paris with Mademoiselle and le Petit in tow is different from wandering the city alone. First, everything is slower and more complicated -- it takes longer to climb down into the Métro, longer to wind through the crowds on sidewalk on the boulevards. I have to worry about wiping hands clean, and emergency toilet stops, and whether or not I've brought sufficient water. I don't dare take both kids out alone on my own. At the same time, the typically apathetic Parisians suddenly notice me -- or us, rather -- and smile. And le Petit stops often and sees something I would never notice, like a partial view of the Eiffel Tower between buildings or a billboard on the street, and says something cute and to my biased ears, insightful.
We were in the shoe department in the Galeries when Mademoiselle started to sing, a long, loud "AaaaaaaAAAAAAaaaaa," not happy but not exactly upset, as if to say "Hey, world, I'm here!" I ignored her and kept turning over shoes and blinking at the prices, but other people stared and chuckled to themselves.
"She's saying, 'All these shoes! And I can't even walk!'" I interpreted helpfully.
She kept babbling, and drooling, and grinning wide to display her two hand-won bottom teeth. I found earrings and explained to the saleswoman, "It's the first time I've taken her shopping. And somehow I doubt it'll be the last."