When I was fifteen, I hung two black and white etchings of Paris on the wall of my bedroom. I grew up on a farm in Minnesota, and those pictures were reminders that the world was bigger than the cornfield that stretched in front of our yard.
Unfortunately, rather than marrying a Frenchman, I fell in love with an Italian, and rather than moving to France, we moved to New Jersey.
Still, I hung on to that dream.
Then, in 2008, I discovered I had breast cancer—luckily a very early case. In the course of treatment I realized that life does not necessarily offer one an endless spool of days. If I wanted to live in Paris, I needed to make it happen.
My husband and I are both professors. I took a sabbatical and he took leave of absence. We sold our house and our cars, uprooted our children, and left New Jersey for a rangy old apartment in the middle of Paris.
This is the story of our year, some of it in essays, some in short bursts. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did—and even more, I hope it inspires you to leap at a dream you’ve tucked away and not quite forgotten.
With a hug,
Eloisa James / Mary Bly ~ Alessandro Vettori
Mary and Alessandro fell in love in graduate school and subsequently became professors: Mary is a professor of Shakespearean literature, and Alessandro of Italian medieval poetry. Eloisa, Mary's alter ego, has written many New York Times bestselling historical romances. But it was Mary and Alessandro who sold their house, sold their cars, and ran away to live in Paris for a year.
Alessandro came home from doing the shopping and said, "I was going to buy you flowers because of the argument we had yesterday." I looked at his empty hands. He shrugged. "There were too many to choose from." ~ from Paris in Love
Luca Vettori ~ Our son, fifteen-years-old during our year in Paris, has a wild twist of Italian curls and is weathering adolescence with aplomb.
Anna's favorite moments in life come when Luca deigns to play with her. This afternoon Luca played king, sprawled in a chair, while Anna danced about him, waving her wand. (Anna is a Harry Potter addict, while Luca prefers the Middle Ages.) From the other room, I heard "Avada Kedavra!" (the killing curse) followed by a fifteen-year-old bellow: "What do you mean, you killed my court poet?" ~ from Paris
Anna Vettori ~ An eleven-year-old who lives her life as if she were constantly on-camera, she declared in her first week in Paris that she loathed the city, and to this day will hardly admit an affection for anything French other than chocolate and small dogs.
Anna flung the door of the apartment open after school: "Mom! I was attacked today!" "What happened?" I asked. "A girl named Domitilla slapped me!" Anna said, eyes open very wide. "She said I was screaming in her ear." We chose Anna's former school in New Jersey with an eye toward just this sort of encounter: they devoted a great deal of time to teaching the students to reject violence, studying Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, and practicing conflict resolution. I inquired hopefully how Anna responded to her first real taste of playground aggression. "I slapped her right back," my daughter explained. "My hand just rose in the air all by itself." ~ from Paris in Love
Milo ~ An obese Chihuahua who used to belong to us and travelled regularly between New Jersey and Florence, until one fateful August when Air France declared he was too fat to return to the U.S. on their plane. Since then he has lived in Florence with Alessandro’s mother, whose cooking has had a ruinous effect on his waistline. He paid us a long visit in Paris.
We are back from the country (and the two-week-Milo diet), so there was a ceremonial weighing of said stout Chihuahua this morning. He's lost a whole kilo (4.4) pounds, down from a high of 26 pounds. The vet advised a 4 kilo loss, but my mother-in-law is worried that being too thin will affect his digestion. He has the stature of a small but very sturdy Sherman tank. ~ from Paris in Love
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