Letter from Paris: Price of New Life Does Not Include Shipping
A new series in which our longtime contributor Franklin Habit fills us in on what it’s like to find one’s feet and get gauge in a country where instead of using the perfectly sensible words “knitting needle” they insist upon the unpronounceable abomination that is “aiguille à tricoter.”
—Kay and Ann
I am sitting in my workroom looking at a ball of stash yarn, astonished. The yarn, I swear, looks equally astonished. As though neither of us is quite sure how we got here.
Not because we’re in the workroom, but because the workroom is in Paris.
We live here now. We live in Paris, my yarn and I.
A person and his yarn stash do not move from the United States to France on a whim, especially during a global pandemic. It’s a lengthy, complicated process. It takes grit. I am not especially gritty.
Yet in early August there I sat in Chicago, scared gritless, speaking via Zoom with a nice man in Seattle about packing and transporting all my worldly goods across the Atlantic Ocean.
No. Not all my worldly goods. My remaining worldly goods.
I am an acquisitive little bunny, you see; and while Chicago has brutal winters it also offers ample storage space.
In Paris, my new living room would be the size of my old spice rack.
By the time the nice man in Seattle tuned in, I had pared down to the bare essentials. Like, if I washed up on Gilligan’s Island instead of the Rue de Rivoli, this is the stuff I would need.
“Let’s start with the basics,” said the nice man. “Furniture.”
“None,” I said.
“You’re not taking any furniture?” he asked, rather skeptically. “None at all?”
“Not really,” I said. “I mean, a couple large pieces of … equipment? I guess that’s what you’d call it. But no furniture.”
“That’s fine,” said the man. “We’ll talk about the stereo and television and those things in a little bit.”
“No stereo or television,” I said.
“Oh,” he said. “So, the equipment …”
“It’s not that kind of equipment,” I said.
“OK,” he said. “So … no furniture. None. No beds or couches or tables or chairs?”
“Nope,” I said.
“Alrighty,” he said. “Then how about you take me around and show me room by room what will be moving?”
Off we went.
I started by showing him four ten-foot-high shelves of books in the bedroom. He was a professional. He could handle it.
“All these,” I said.
“Wow,” he said. “That sure is a lot of books.”
“But most of them are about knitting,” I explained.
“Oh,” he said politely. “Well, that makes sense, then.”
“But hey, at least I’m not taking the bed, right? Ha ha.”
“Right,” he said. “Ha ha.”
We went into the workroom. I showed him the six seven-foot-high shelves of books.
“These too,” I said.
“OK,” he said. “Well. Wow. More books.”
“But these shelves are smaller,” I said. “Ha ha.”
This time he didn’t laugh.
And then there was the very, very wide bookcase in the kitchen that had been built to hold the overflow by hollowing out all the space under the breakfast bar.
“Have I seen all the books now?” he asked, hopefully.
“Almost,” I said.
“Let’s take a break,” he said.
After the break, he asked about the equipment I’d mentioned. We went back to the workroom.
“First, there’s this,” I said.
“Is that … it looks like a … what do you call it?”
“A spinning wheel,” I said.
“You want to ship that to France?”
“Is it a lamp?”
“No, I use it to spin yarn.”
“OK. OK, got it. Right. What’s next?“
I showed him the floor loom.
“Is that … some kind of exercise machine?”
“It’s a floor loom,” I said. “For weaving. It needs to go.”
“Wow,” he said. “OK. Will that fit in your place in Paris?”
“It had better,” I said.
There was a long pause.
“You still there?” I said.
“Yep,” said the man. “Still here. So, a spinning wheel. And a … weaving loom. A big weaving loom. And books, most of them knitting books.”
“That’s right,” I said. “Just necessities.”
“But no bed,” he said.
“Nope,” I said.
And so we pressed on past the three sewing machines, one of them cast iron; the rigid heddle loom; the other rigid heddle loom; the inkle loom; the tapestry loom; the four-drawer chest full of knitting needles and crochet hooks; the rug hooking frame and the embroidery stand; the serried ranks of needlework notions and the family of dress forms (man, woman, three kids). I reassured him that we were almost finished.
“Well, good,” he said faintly. “But no bed, right? You’re sure?”
“No bed,” I said. “There’s just yarn left. Only my very best yarn, the important stuff.”
“Yarn?” he said. “OK, no problem. Yarn. Do you have some idea of how many balls?”
I opened the door to the stash, turned on the lights, and showed him.
“Would you like to venture a guess?” I said.
Of course it was all fine, in the end. I’m here, my yarn is here. And the moving company told me that they expect the nice man from Seattle will be able to return to work by Christmas. Valentine’s Day, at the latest.