Diaries Magazine

Adventures in Baby-raising: Avoid Getting Kicked out of Places.

Posted on the 10 December 2015 by Ellacoquine @ellacoquine
adventures in baby-raising: avoid getting kicked out of places. my new ride.
Getting around Paris with a now almost ten-pound baby attached to me has limited my daily jaunts around the city, keeping me at home more than I'd like to be. It is also cementing the additional baby weight onto me where I feel like I will be in a perpetual state of stretch pants since nothing fits yet. Between the gray bone-chilling weather that is winter in Paris, it taking about an hour to get out of the house where I always forget something and having been recently reminded that we now live in a world where attacks have become a new norm, has made leaving the house increasingly undesirable. 
I look back on my early Paris days of 2009 and marvel at just how carefree life was. I had no attachments and felt safe from senseless acts of violence as I blithely lived out my Paris adventures as if I was Brigitte Bardot. Never did I imagine that I would be a matriarch to a household several arrondisements away from where I started, and living with the fear that I could be helpless in protecting my baby from this new world we live in. Unsettling doesn't even begin to describe how this feels. When I do leave the house now, after days in when it starts getting a little too "Flowers in the Attic" as I watch the season progress from my window, it is usually for a good reason, like going to the market, the post office, or one day in particular getting my baby's passport photo taken. I feel like in general getting passport photos taken is such an arduous task. Very few people look attractive faced front and center with their hair tucked behind their ears with their lips pressed together. Can't the standards be changed to something a bit more glamorous, or at least appealing? I feel bad for government officials who have to look at these terrible photos all day long. When I look at my official document photos (and well, photos of me in general at the moment) I wonder, "God, do I really look like this?" My photo on my French resident card is particularly unfortunate. My eyebrows are uneven from an ambitious plucking session where one eye looks like it has a caterpillar sleeping above it, and the other is in an eternal state of inquiry. It is so noticeable that the last time I was at Charles de Gaulle Airport, I was asked what happened by the customs agent who then advised me to always get my eyebrows shaped by a professional. Merci. On the day of the baby's passport photo, I bundled him up in his Michelin Man puffy coat that sends him in such a screaming frenzy and stuffed him into the carriage, where all you could see was a little head floating in a sea of plush. While he doesn't love being constrained, the soothing nature of the stroller has him asleep within seconds. And thank God for that. I'm not an advanced enough mommy to handle walking down the street impervious to a wailing infant.  It was a late autumn day where the city under the blanket of foliage looked like it had been gilded with a paint brush. I was wishing that the baby would wake up to see his first autumn; the leaves falling from the trees similar to the way that the first sprinkling of snow falls.  I arrived at the photography shop that I carefully selected, as they specialize in infant passport photos. Pushing the door with one hand and with the other stabilized on the stroller, it would not open. I tried again, but to no avail. A man inside the shop could be seen through the window watched me struggle, but did not offer much more acknowledgment of my presence than staring at me with indifferance. It was then that it occurred to me that the store was closed for lunch, something after all of these years in France, I still fail to take into account. With ten minutes left of his break, I politely nodded to him in a way that I thought communicated that I respected his break and would wait. I clicked the break of the stroller and took my phone out to do what all new parents do when they have a free moment: take yet another photo of their baby sleeping. As I was snapping away, hoping that a fresh fallen leaf would find its way onto the stroller for his official "look! baby's first fall" pic, the door of the photography shop jolted open.  "Qu'est-ce que vous voulez?" The man who had been staring at me through the window said with some force.
Sensing that I had somehow disturbed him, I didn't answer his jarring question asking me what I wanted, and told him that I was more than fine with waiting until he reopened at 3 pm. Since it was such a beautiful day, I had no problem hanging out for another five minutes. He ignored my sincerity and motioned with impatience for me to come in. Okay. Being a new stroller driver, entering the store consisted of a few thuds, bangs and cumbersome maneuvering of my new wheels as I tried to get up the small stoop. Watching the baby shift from side to side as I awkwardly handled his vehicle while the man huffed in my ear from my inexperience only made me nervous, not to mention really hot as I felt like my scarf was slowly trying to strangle me.   I was asked again what I wanted but this time with a little more gusto, I told him passport photos.  "French passport photos?" He barked. (Yes, barked.)  I confirmed French, as well as a set of American sized photos.  "We don't do that." He said pulling his head back as if my request was simply unheard of.  I explained that the difference between a French and American photo is merely the sizing by a few millimeters. Surely a photography store is able to create different sized photos, right?  "No." He insisted, shaking his head to underscore the impossibility. Okay, no problem. I'll just get a set of photos compatible for French documents, I told him.  He then peeked in the carriage and flung his arms up in the air. Now what did we do?  "Mais, il dort!" He responded to my thoughts.  Well, of course the baby was sleeping, he was fresh out of the womb. That's what babies do, they sleep, I wanted to tell him. I also wanted to remind him this was my first time taking passport photos for a newborn and came to him because I assumed it was not his. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) I don't have a quick tongue in French and couldn't convey a snippy response to his apparent distaste for us. Once he was done shaming me for having a sleeping newborn baby, I'd had enough and asked him to simply ease up.  "Doucement, monsieur," I said to him, gently holding up my hands to press against the aggression he was imposing upon me. "Soyez gentil."
"You don't think I am being nice?" He turned to me with wide eyes. "Well, frankly, not really," I admitted with a shrug.  "D'accord, on a fini," he said, tripping over the stroller to open the door. "Cassez-vous, alors. Bon journée." Not quite sure what was going on, as my brain was translating, I stood there frozen in shock. Cassez-vous? Wait, what was going on? He was not just telling me to leave his store but telling me to get the hell out. Cassez-vous! Who says that to a customer? A woman? A new mother? At least he was speaking formally in vous...and then it occured to me that it was possible he was speaking in plural, which meant his rage was also directed towards a newborn. What. An. Ass. With my jaw literally dropped as he stood there holding the door open, he gripped on about how he opened the store five minutes early for me and that I was ungrateful. On the sidewalk I screamed, "I told you to finish! I was in no rush!" but before I could relay even a fraction of my point, the door had been slammed in my face leaving us on the sidewalk with my embassy appointment days away without official passport photos.  I looked down at the baby whose blue eyes were starting to open, unaware of the mayhem that has just taken place, and was responding to his surroundings. He couldn't process the information fast enough as his eyes flickered to the sounds of cars and pedestrians on the sidewalk, the cool air, and his mother in mild distress grunting in aggrevation of getting kicked out of a store. His eyes then followed an autumn leaf that trickled from above and fell on to the blanket he was bundled in. He laughed. And it was just perfect. In a world that can be so ugly, sometimes it's worth seeing it through the eyes of a baby's small scope where everything is new and simply beautiful.  (But really, fuck that guy.) 

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