Mattress Springs and le Déménagement

We have been back in the old apartment for one whole week! God, is it good to have heat again.

Last year, only three days after Mathieu and I got married in Boston, we received word that our apartment back in France and pretty much everything we owned had burned to a crisp, a fire apparently triggered by an electrical storm.

Here’s the original blog post, from August 27th, 2013: Ashes

We were moved into an uninhabited apartment also owned by our landlady (who planned to get around to fixing it up “someday”) which was just up the street, the apartment being a second floor sprawling disaster of a thing thing with draping peeling paint, electricity that caused lightbulbs to pop unexpectedly only days after screwing them in, a little private lightwell veranda that you could sit on naked if you wanted to drinking coffee, and on which I piled the aromatics and begonias and succulent plants that I managed to nurse back to life after the blaze. The wall in the bathroom was covered with tiny X’s in pencil with names and dates, measuring the height of a couple of kids who grew up here, now long since adults.

There was a huge fireplace that saved us this winter, and each night we would pile it high with old grapevine wood and French oak, and roast meat. You could see your breath in the hall, and sometimes I could see shadows moving erratically, just whispers out of the corner of my eye. I’d blink and focus and they’d be gone, but between the frosty breath and the lightbulb explosions, it seems we might have had a bit of a ghost in this flat. (I only nervously brought this up to Mathieu the last week we were there, and he laughed in relief and told me he had thought that for a long time. I asked him why, and it was the same thing, the flickering shadows. “I never felt scared though,” he told me. “If there was a ghost, I think he liked us.”)

The scavenged mattress and old wooden bedframe we inherited belonged to Mathieu’s grandparents and the springs would poke us in the ribs.

Weirdly, I mostly loved living here, because being in love makes anything you’re doing anywhere feel like an adventure.

We’d huddle cold under Mexican blankets at night holding each other in a big twoheaded human pretzel by the firelight, listening to eachb other breathe and watching scary movies. I took my pregnancy test in that bathroom, and took a picture sideways each week in the dirty light of the bathroom mirror to see the baby, to try to pinpoint the moment when the pregnancy began to feel real.

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We cooked phô and noodles and baked and burned cookies and kissed a lot. I filled up the cracked enamel tub with bubbles and vanilla scent, and watched meteorites from the porch.

In the end, with the insurance taking forever to go through and then the mason taking forever to get started, and some ineffable French love of bureaucracy, it took SEVEN months to renovate the old apartment. They knocked out the ceiling in the room where the fire started and found a huge space, so the whole ceiling was raised, a skylight was installed and a little mezzanine level with a staircase…the floors were redone, and the walls and the wiring and basically everything.

Here is the room where the fire broke out:


And here is it now.




Isn’t that better? 🙂 Pro designing tip: there is literally nothing that makes a room feels warmer and sweeter than decorating for a baby and dreaming. Fortunately, I have a limited imagination and am mostly picturing gurgles and coos and tiny hands and sweet baby powder scent and night lights shaped like animals and NOT diaper blowouts and screaming and not having slept for three months, which (I know, I know, veteran parents!) is probably more likely to be the soundtrack. Whatever. This is the fun part, and I can make it be whatever I want. Also…tiny! Little! Socks! GAHHHH! Baby books with pictures of sleeping baby mice! Seriously, this is potent stuff. 🙂

As you can tell, the baby is getting the mezzanine room, and I put together the crib today, and filled the armoire with toys and secondhand clothes from my sister. The Leo lion quilt draped over the couch was made for me by the wife of an old family friend of my dad’s ahen I was a baby, and I love it.


Rain, baby sprouts of wild asparagus and leeks, sunshine, and puddles. Springtime is amazing in southern France, and it’s a nice time for getting ready for babies. Even the snails are feeling the spring time air! From my walk today in the hills with the little silver wolf:

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I hope all of you back in the U.S are maybe starting to see some signs of spring too! We have our 31 week sonogram this Friday, and another visit to the midwife tomorrow in my ongoing series of classes on How to Push. I’ll update after the appointment!


2 thoughts on “Mattress Springs and le Déménagement

  1. Thanks for the update. NO HEAT all that time, booooo!
    I’m happy with your new(old) living space. Some good from the bad.
    Are you going to work on your book now or after your son is grown?
    “Just sayin”.

  2. It’s fun hearing you sound so happy and excited about being back in your home and preparing for your new little guy!
    You made me remember preparing a room for my firstborn, only 53 years ago! Wallpapering with a circus motif, repainting a hand-me-down crib, and gathering up a layette of some new, and several ‘previously owned’, baby clothes and things. I love that you still have that lion quilt!
    Sending best wishes for your happiness!

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