Letter from Paris: Joyeuses Fêtes
So, those Jane Gaugain mitts? It’s a good thing I finished them, because I’m wearing them right now so I can type. Paris is about as cold as Paris gets. It even snowed this week, for the first time since I moved here. I took this snapshot of the aftermath.
My neighborhood lost its ever-loving mind. Terrified commuters, skittering down the slick sidewalks with haunted faces, were bundled up like extras in Doctor Zhivago. Parents muttered about the inhumanity of forcing children to go to school in such weather. There were extended discussions on the news of how best to survive.
The cat, meanwhile, has taken up permanent residence under the duvet, emerging twice daily to poop and refuel.
Mind you, the temperatures in question are slightly below freezing. As one who not long ago lived in Chicago, I find it all rather hilarious.
I can’t laugh, though, because it still hurts to laugh. I’m at the tail end of the worst bout of sickness I’ve had in years. Not Covid, no. Not the flu. And yet, sufficiently awful.
It jumped me on the way back from a teaching engagement in California. My first big fiber arts show since the Before Times. The teaching went well, the knitters were a delight. The journey back, however—thirty-two sleepless hours of jostling by a hostile crowd of fellow travelers—was too much. I arrived at home utterly pulverized.
The doctor gave me a pharmacopeia of pills and elixirs but warned, “This thing that is getting about everywhere, it is difficult to shake off.”
He warned, “It is necessary that you you go to bed,” this is how they talk in French, “and you me are promising that you—you will rest in the bed, and rest, and rest again.”
Easy for you to say, doc.
Early on, I was able to lie down and turn out some little crochet medallions in vintage cotton to use on the Christmas tree.
My inborn American optimism encouraged me to believe I would live to see Christmas. My nascent French pessimism had doubts.
I developed a constant cough so bad that it made me see stars, my ribs cracking with every fit. I will spare you further disgusting details, of which there are many. But I couldn’t knit, I couldn’t crochet, I couldn’t even read. In fact, for the first time in my life, thinking hurt.
During one spell of feverish half-sleep I developed hallucinations. The cat changed color. The furniture revolved and rearranged itself.
Then my late grandmother appeared.
For hours, she stood at the foot of the bed telling me over and over how foolish I was to move to France, how sorry I would be to die in a strange country far from home. That’s how I knew she was a hallucination. My grandmother’s actual ghost would have pulled up a chair.
Anyway, as you will have gathered, I am not dead. I am wobbly, but I am alive.
Sapin de Noël
I have decorated my new German feather Christmas tree with the little medallions (I got them from one of my 1880s crochet guides) . . .
. . . and the crochet garland (okay, fine, it’s an antique edging pattern intended for underwear) that I made last year.
Let’s go a little wild in 2023.
And, inspired by the Great Parisian Frost of 2022, I’m about to begin making a knitted crazy quilt. Perhaps you remember this crochet lap blanket I did to use up odds and ends in my stash?
Well, it didn’t work. I mean, the lap blanket worked fine. I’m happy with it. What didn’t work was the stash busting part, because there is still this to be dealt with.
The trouble is, I was so particular about the colors in the blanket that I ended up not so much busting the stash as extracting bits and pieces of it in a persnickety fashion.
I need space in the cupboard. So this time? I’m going wild. Wild, I tell you. No rules, no limits. Really. I mean it. Check in with me next year.
Joyeuses fêtes à tous,*
*Happy Holidays, y’all