There’s a big empty space next to the armchair where my Mom’s suitcase laid open and upended for six days. There are now more empty hooks on the coat rack and her Bobbi Brown and Chanel makeup is gone from being strewn about my dresser. What seemed so messy and cluttered two days ago, now feels…bare.
Oh, but I will dry my tears, because look! There’s a remnant: a toothpick on the floor, which is funny since if there were an award for Best Usage of a Toothpick, she’d win it. Same for Gum-Cracking, and Tripping Over Her Feet. All things that drive me crazy, but also make her who she is and who I love so much.
More notably, though, she’d also win for Best Energy and Optimism. And if there were awards for Best Excuses for Ordering Another Drink (None) or Amount of Miles Flown With or To See Her Children (A Lot), she’d get those, too. Add them all together and she’d get the highest honor at the Mom Oscars: Uber Mom.
Sorry, Meryl. Can’t win ’em all.
Mom’s proven her worth time and time again throughout my life as a wanderer who moves from one country to another; from one apartment to another; from one pair of worn jeans to another. She’ll shlep bags and boxes up five flights of stairs (or minuscule elevators) and into and out of storage and attics and basements. She’ll pack towels and heavy books into a suitcase and trek it all the way across the Atlantic. She’ll read articles and suggest revisions. She’ll buy and bring the entire cold aisle of CVS “just in case you get sick one more time.” She’ll climb the Montmartre steps, go to a museum, stop for a glass of wine, go into countless shops, stop at a market and take the metro—even if we have to transfer. (Of course, Uber Mom also knows when to take an actual Uber, which is what we did on our final evening in Paris, as it was raining and we had to go from my apartment in Montmartre to a tiny concert venue in the 10th where we were seeing Bear’s Den perform. Oh and yup, she’d also win for Most Tolerant at a Small, Standing Room Only Concert Venue.)
While she knows when to slow down and regroup, she’ll keep going and going and going without question if that’s what’s best for you or what you want. I continue to be amazed at her spirit and selflessness and unending, unconditional support. And I continue to wonder why the heck I didn’t inherit enough of it.
Finding the toothpick makes me giggle. Her lingering scent makes me breathe easy. Both remind me that my Mom was really here in Paris with me for a whole week, doing what she does, being who she is, and boy, did I need it.
During her stay, we really just did things we’d do back at home: eat, shop, drink and move my stuff around. (Cue eye-rolls and giggles from my father and sister and brother, each of whom I thank for letting her be mostly mine for a week.)
When she arrived, my studio was only starting to take shape. I had a solid duvet, a bland bathroom and clothes stuffed into random shelves in all corners. Now, it’s a colorful, organized space I can call home on this side of the globe. It’s amazing how much difference a dust ruffle makes. (Especially one you could only hope was the size you needed, which you chose after eyeballing mattresses in BHV following a whole day’s worth of activities.)
That’s not to say it was all measuring and shopping. While taking advantage of the final days of soldes at Galeries Lafayette, we also went up to the roof to see a stunning view of Paris and paused for a glass of Champagne in between trying on shoes and bags.
But really, we also went on an amazing food tour of Saint-Germaine des Pres with Paris by Mouth, where we learned about bread and cheese and chocolate. For example:
- Curved croissants are generally made with margarine, so in Paris, you want the straight ones made with all that buttahhhhhhh, baby.
- When you order a baguette, you want a baguette tradition from an actual boulangerie, which assures it’s baked on the premises.
- All cocoa melted and cooled into squares, then topped or injected with creamy nuggets or toppings are not created equal. If you can, find a chocolatier that’s been awarded an MOF, which stands for Un des Meilleurs Ouvriers de France (Best Craftsman in France).
Following our tour, we wandered in circles a bit on the Right Bank until we were cold enough for a chocolat chaud (hot chocolate)—specifically the one from a wee little patisserie recommended by David Lebovitz, who my mom referred to by first name the whole week as if he were her BFF. (I lent her a copy of The Sweet Life in Paris.)
Once we were good and sugared up, we moseyed over to Shakespeare & Company, the famous bookstore opened in 1919 by Sylvia Beach, an American who the likes of Hemingway, James Joyce and Ezra Pound would come and visit during their sojourns in Paris. Being the bookworms that we are, the two of us spent a good hour scanning its shelves and walking up and down its creaky wooden floorboards, eyeing the bestsellers and ancient tomes alike.
Incredibly, over the course of the week, we also managed to squeeze in an almost-but-not-quite visit to see the just-opened Klimt exhibit (it was ridiculously crowded so we left after I complained—in French—and managed to get our money back!), an actual visit to the Museé de Montmartre just near my house, and the Pompidou where Mom saw Koons for a second time. (“Because just going to the Pompidou itself is worth it,” she claimed. I’d have to agree. It was the premiere fois for us both.)
Since our bodies ached and feet throbbed by the time Friday rolled around, we decided to spend our last full day together at a hammam called O’Kari where we were scrubbed, rubbed, washed and hosed down in what may have been the best treatment we’d ever had, complete with a natural honey hair wash and black seed oil face massage.
Speaking of honey, throughout the week we ate well, starting with a classic French dinner of canard (duck) and cabillaut (cod) at Le Grand 8, a quaint, charming spot up here in Montmartre.
We casually sat at the bar in Verjus, where we tasted more contemporary small plates of homemade ravioli filled with citrouille (pumpkin), and sat squished like proper Parisians at Le Servan in the 11th with a new friend (and proper Parisian) who insisted I order the bulot: cold, chewy, snail-like shellfish to be dipped in mayonnaise. Oddly really, really good.
We had a to-die-for leisurely lunch (avec deux verres de champagnes, bien sur) of cold, raw coquille Saint-Jacques (scallops) paired with warm burrata and pesto, along with a flaky foie gras tartin with vegetables and a dessert of perfectly baked grapefruit creme brulee at Clown Bar.
Oh and I can’t forget our Thai dinner of crevettes (shrimp) with basil avec riz and satay with peanut sauce. Because, every now and then two New York Jews need to get their quality Asian grub on. (As it so happens, we dined there on the Chinese New Year. Yes, I am well aware of the massive difference between the two ethnicities. But still, our palates were clearly feeling the Eastern vibe.)
Our final meal together, though, was homemade. I had said weeks ago that I wanted to cook one of David’s recipes with Mom, but we couldn’t seem to fit in a trip to one of the produce markets since they’re only open on certain days and tend to close early. Instead, we chose a simple, yet classic recipe for Croque Monsieur that only required a few fresh items, which we could get at local grocers: dry jamon (ham), sourdough-like bread (ideally from Poilane, which we visited on our food tour and also comes highly recommended by David) and compté cheese. At home, I had eggs to make it a Madame.
The plan was to cook it together before Uber Mom left via Uber X to CDG, but something funny happened: I cooked and she got ready. In fact, it was pretty much what happens when I’m at home. I pretend as if I’m paying attention and want to help, but really I’m just there if necessary, going about my business while she chops and grates and mixes. At first, I was like, ‘What’s going on here? I thought we were doing this together!’ Then, I decided I quite liked just having her there to ask whether the amount of butter I measured for the bechamel sauce was correct, or the heat was high enough on the burner. For a change, it was nice to make something for her…so long as she was within reach.
She may no longer be reachable by touch or a loud yell through the kitchen into the bathroom, but the thing about mothers is that they’re kinda-sorta always still here. Even if they’re thousands of miles across an ocean—they remain with you. Especially when you’re dealing with an Uber. They’re there in your own habits or in the empty space next to the chair or in the toothpick on the floor. Or…or…or… In which case, you accept the award on their behalf and express extreme gratitude for their continued, uber-esque and almighty presence.