Sunday, October 06, 2013

Chez nous, chez Louis (XIV)

It has been three and half months since we moved into our new apartment.  We've got a new routine that almost feels routine: the kids are both off to school in the morning with their father,while I drive a short twenty minutes to work (thanks to my mother-in-law's generous loan of her small car).  Mademoiselle's nanny, who has looked after her since I went back to work two years ago, picks her up from nursery school at 11:30 and Le Petit from elementary school at 4:30.  I get home around 5:30.  The kids and I read together, I help Le Petit with his homework, we often start making dinner, and I've even started trying to do some yoga with the kids.  My husband comes home between 6:30 and seven, and the kids are fed, bathed, and off to bed by nine.  I'm working a five-day week now, and I'm busier than I've ever been at work.  Our weekends are rushed, but in a good way: there's housework and grocery shopping, and I try to tackle a small home-improvement project per weekend (...and yet somehow there's still one moving box in our living room).  To get out and get moving with the kids, we ride bikes in the Grand Parc or take a hike in one of the forests nearby.  We spend more time than I care to admit in the local shopping mall, but always with a mission.  We cook. We run.  We chase after the kids.

It feels much more peaceful than our life did in Levallois.  We're not on top of each other, there's room to give everyone and everything a place in the new apartment, and that takes more stress out of my life than I'd expected.  We look out the windows and see green trees.  All this counts for a lot. 

And yet...

I'm not relaxed yet.  I think it will come eventually as it all grows comfortable with familiarity.  Some of my anxiety is the pinch-me effect: I can't quite believe that here we are, with a life I longed for for so long.  I'm kind of embarrassed that an extra 800-odd square feet and a shorter commute could have made such a difference in my life.  I'm I really that shallow?  Apparently.  And I'm not sure I deserve it.  Good thing that in Versailles I don't have to look far to see grander abodes than:  I find it strangely reassuring to have tangible proof that I'm still not in the one percent.

Le Petit is thrilled to live in Versailles, and is as proprietary about it as Louis XIV himself.  He knows the Grand Parc better than anyone, he claims.  He's working on a series of sketches and maps.  My favorite is below.  The original hangs proudly in the artist's bedroom, but I've got a limited-edition print taped to to the back of a file cabinet in my office.  

Today we went for a walk in the gardens after a Sunday lunch with in-laws.  As Le Petit and Mademoiselle chased one another up the path along the sculpted gardens to the Grand Parterre, what struck me is how natural they looked:  this is just their neighborhood, their backyard.  And to me, it's Versailles, and I'll always feel (as I catch my breath and tip up my head) some sort of delusional self-importance as I imagine I'm walking onto a stage or into a history book.  I imagine French (or even Seattlites) who live in New York feel the same way.