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  • Writer's pictureRachel Ogilby

An Attitude of Gratitude: Saying Goodbye to Paris

I peered over the card the toddler was scribbling on. “We picked it out this morning. It’s a happy birthday card, but you know,” his mom said. “Oh, Carter will love it!” I responded.

I had just dropped the kids off at daycare and was getting my coat on to leave. The day prior, I had stuffed thank you notes in the cubbies of the children for the parents. We were grateful for their kindness, their patience with our terrible French, and the lovely way their interacted with our children.

It was one of the ways I was trying to find closure as we planned our departure from Paris. I didn’t think I would ever actually be ready to leave, but little acts like this were helping.

“Your words just moved us so much, we wanted to give you something in return,” she said. “My phone number is there if you need anything. Maybe we can grab coffee before you go, if you have time?”

It was the third or fourth offer from another mom at daycare to get coffee or lunch. Every invite was well-meaning and sincere, and yet none of us had made it happen yet. We were all running around, caring for our families and our homes. Many moms were also busy at work.

I flipped over the card to see the front. “Oh, animals! Zebras and lions! These are Carter’s favorite!” I mused. “I know!” said the mom, to my surprise. “Thomas picked it out special for him.” Carter was often found clutching a plastic animal, moo-ing or roaring. I was touched by the thoughtfulness.

I went home, practically skipping with a full heart yet wondering if a sadness would hit me later. It was strange leaving Paris. I had seen my midwife (sage-femme, literally “the wise woman”) earlier in the week for my last pelvic floor therapy appointment.

“Well, no wonder it’s hard to leave,” she had said. “You had both your babies here. A huge part of your life was here. C’est normal.”

Healthcare Visits

Along with sending little letters to people who had touched our lives, I was trying to wrap up every healthcare visit I could. Both children had their last pediatrician visits this week. I went to the eye doctor and so did our toddler (it was too soon for him, but still valuable, and practically free).

I purchased a pair of glasses and sunglasses with my eye prescription. I saw the dentist. I went to the osteo (similar to a chiropractor). The total price of all visits were less than 300 USD. I assumed I was basically cost saving by getting in as many appointments I could before reentering the US healthcare system.

I said goodbye to each provider, many of whom I’d now known for years. The midwife and I reminisced over the post-partum visits she made to our home where she weighed our son and helped me breastfeed. The osteo thanked me for the countless Anglo-Saxons I had sent her way (once you find an excellent English-speaking provider, you’re sure to pass on their info!), and I thanked her for working magic on my body for the last two years.

More Thank You Cards

The week prior, I had written another letter of gratitude for our pharmacists and our favorite boulangerie (bakery). It resulted in similar sweet sentiments from the boulangerie workers. “Vous pars quand?” When do you leave? “You’ll come back the day you leave to say goodbye, okay?”

We had been in the bakery nearly every day. It was our favorite place for croissants, and its baguettes and sandwiches had fueled us through two pregnancies. If we walked past it, our toddler would ask, “baguette??”.

The bakery, along with the Arc de Triomphe which we lived near, were probably the two landmarks which made us feel home.

The letter to the pharmacists was similar. Later the same day, I received a text message from the pharmacist, who had my number on file. “I am so touched by your gift. It is the best récompense for me to do this job for people like your family.” I ran into her at the playground a few days later. “Your letter was like… how do you say… a ray of sun,” she said.

Each interaction had filled me with more and more gratitude – it was as if the more gratitude I expressed, the more filled my heart.

At my final lab draw at the nearby laboratory, I typed into google translate, “My family is leaving to live in the US. Thank you to you and your staff for being so wonderful.” It was a simple message, and yet the technician became misty eyed. “Good luck to you and your family and all your endeavors,” she said in French, and I nodded, not knowing the words to respond.

The Last Few Weeks

Our final weeks here in Paris are filled with last minute visits to historical sites, seeing friends before we have to say goodbye, drinking good, cheap wine and feeling especially grateful for childcare we can afford.

“Are you happy to be leaving?” we’re often asked. We still haven’t figured out how to answer the question.

No, we’re not happy to be leaving. But yes, we’re happy to be going to live near our families. We’re excited about living in the home we’ve purchased. I think we’ll be thrilled to be back in the city we grew up in. Yet, it’s hard to say we’re happy to leave the city where our babies were born!

We talk with our toddler as often as we can remember about the upcoming move.

“We are going to go live in the United States, close to grandma and grandpa. We will say goodbye to our apartment and goodbye to the bakery,” I told him.

“Bye bye baguette. Bye bye croissant,” he responded, waving. It seemed he understood.


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