A sense of place? / Se sentir chez soi?


To listen to this post in French, click below

Ronni at TimeGoesBy opened a companion blog by the name of A Sense of Place. She is planning a move from an appartment in New York City she loves.

My telephone number used to be TRUdaine 03 23

She mentioned that one of the things she would miss would be her phone number story with the Manhattan number.
It may seem crazy in other parts of the world, but from age four to age 55, I kept the same phone number and this is the only thing that I would have loved to keep, when I moved. My phone number used to be Trudaine 03 23. In those days, you would dial TRU 03 23. Then, it became 878 03 23. We hated it when it changed to an all number number! You see, to other Parisians, Trudaine meant that you lived in an area approximately delimited by the Gare du Nord and Montmartre.

When I was four, my parents stopped selling clothes on open-air markets and bought a shop in Paris. For about two years, they left Deauville on Sunday evenings and came back on Fridays. I was left to the care of my grandmother and my aunt Fanny. I don’t remember much of those times.
Then we moved to Paris, to a flat on the fourth floor of a building rue Ambroise Paré. There was no lift and it was very difficult to have one in that building. My father had a heart condition and my mother had emphyzema, so some 25 years later, my parents moved to a building with more modern facilities and I remained in my childhood flat.
With an interruption of four years, the two years I spent in Champaign Urbana, as a teaching assistant and two years in a flat rue de Rochechouart, not far from rue Ambroise Paré, I lived in the same flat from age four to age fifty-five.

There I became a child, a teenager, a young woman, a wife, a mother and finally a widow.

There I lived with my parents, my brother Félix, and for a couple of years, my grandmother Léa and my aunt Fanny.
Later on, my aunt Fanny got married, moved out and my grandmother went to live with her. When I was 18, my brother got married and moved to the flat just underneath ours on the third floor.

Finally, I lived in that flat with my husband and this is where we had our child, Julie.
My husband died in 1992 and Julie and I went through difficult times in that flat. That flat felt to me both like a comfortable nest and a place from which it would be impossible to get away. It needed refurbishing and modernising but somehow, I wanted to break away from that place and never got around to do the necessary changes. It was too much for me. And at the same time, the flat felt like a cocoon, it protected me from the outside world. I could stick to the past.
Then one day, it started feeling like I was glued in there and couldn’t move.

The whole thing felt like an adventure.

Finally, in 1999, I made up my mind and decided I wanted to get away from the place where I had always lived. I made the move in three months, sold my flat and bought a new one.
So to me, moving represented growing up, breaking away from the past, in a positive way. For the first time in my life, I chose everything, from the tiles in the kitchen floor to the paper on the walls and the number of plugs in each room. Until then, it had always been someone else’s decision, either my mother’s, who loved to organise people’s lives, or my husband’s. And in those days, it did not bother me. I found it comfortable.
So I guess that moving represented growing up. At 55, it was high time.The whole thing felt like an adventure.
I moved from the north of Paris to the south of Paris, from the right bank of the Seine to the left bank. I used to live within walking distance of Montmartre and Le Sacré Coeur or the Opera. Now I live within walking distance of the Eiffel Tower or the Montparnasse Tower.
I am only starting to know my way from my flat to other places in Paris. Only really starting to have a sense of place.
And I like it.



7 thoughts on “A sense of place? / Se sentir chez soi?

  1. I have just discovered your blog site (I’m a flickr!) and I love to come visit and read what is happening in your part of the world. I too am widowed. My husband died in 1998. You were in Urbana? My sister attended from 1974 to 1978. My husband’s uncle was a professor there and retired about 7 years ago. Small world, eh?

  2. Claude…I know what you mean when you describe your place as a cocoon. Although I have travelled a lot, I have not moved much during my life. The tiny flat I live in Sao Paulo now is the same as 32 years ago when I got married (though we did rent a house for 8 years while the children were little) and the countryside house, where I go almost every weekend is just 100 mts away from my parents’, where I spent my childhood holidays from the age of 1. I have often told my husband that these places felt both like my jail, because they tie me down and haven, where I go back to in relief to seek comfort and appartenance.

  3. Claude,
    c’est merveilleux d’écouter te raconter l’histoire de ta vie,
    vue de ton habitat. En lisant la version anglaise, je sens commme
    ta voix devient vivant dans mes oreilles. Je connaisait déja tes photos,’
    et c’etait tout. Maintenant, il y a encore des morceaux ajouté de l’image
    mentale que je me fais.

    J’ai vecu en France en 1970 Cabourg non loin de Deauville, comme mon
    mari vénait dy pays. Et, toujours, j’ai gardé la musique de la langue
    parlé dans ma mémoire – même s’il nous vait quitté il y 28 ans!!

    je crois habiter dans mes mémoires aussi…

    Sus, Danemark

  4. Bee, I thought you were a great traveller, always on the move! So you know the cocoon feeling. It’s good in a way, but sometimes, you just have to move on!
    Sus, the place I go to Normandy for holidays, Bénerville, is quite close to Cabourg.
    Thanks for your kind comments everyone.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s