Halley Knigge (Griffin)

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Living alone is a way different experience from any living arrangement I’ve had before. I love it, but every once in a while I have an odd moment when I realize that living alone really is living toute seule.

Today, for example, I realized that it is not at all difficult to go a day without speaking to anyone. This morning I woke up and went for a run, then after a shower and bundling up into some warm clothes (it’s hovering around freezing here in the mornings and at night) I walked down to Sciences Po to print out a paper and take care of a few errands. Then I went grocery shopping, and it was paying for my groceries at Monoprix that I realized I hadn’t spoken a word all day.

I smiled at the checker when she greeted me, but I didn’t actually speak a word out loud until I went to nanny at 17h. I was surrounded by people all day long, in the streets, at Sciences Po, at the grocery store, and I managed to not have spoken to any of them.

In my silence I was able to observe that Parisians actually do wear berets. I was quite shocked to spot my first one (forest green) on a middle-aged woman today. Until now, I’d only seen them on men in army gear holding automatic weapons. Now that it’s cold though, with frost on the street in the mornings and an icy smell to the air, I guess it’s beret weather. I was honestly really surprised – the image of a French person in a beret seemed so incredibly clichéd that I couldn’t imagine that they’d actually make an appearance in Paris.

I saw five people in berets on my walk to and from Sciences Po – three on women mom-aged and older, one on a chic dark-haired girl about my age, and one on an older man. I’ve started a mental tally. Who knows, maybe I will end up coming home with a pile of flat wool hats after all. They probably won’t say “Paris” in rhinestones, though, like most of the styles available in the souvenir shops lining rue de Rivoli.

It feels like I left for Barcelona when it was fall in Paris, and now that I’m back it’s very suddenly winter. The temperature took a sudden plunge last Wednesday – when I left for the airport on Thursday morning it was – 4 degrees Celsius, and it hasn’t gotten much warmer. I turned on the heater in my apartment for the first time last week and accidentally blew out the power in my apartment, but Amelia (who was over for dinner) and I found the fuse box relatively quickly and got the lights back on after a few minutes.

Since I left Paris the day after Toussaint, I also returned to find the city dressed up for the Christmas holidays. I found this kind of odd until Christina realized that with no Thanksgiving to celebrate, Christmas is the next big holiday after Toussaint. Still it feels odd to be seeing Christmas lights and Christmas tree ornaments already covering the city. I guess it’s probably the same in the U.S. It always seems like Costco has decorations for sale beginning midway through September, and I’m sure stores like Target and K-Mart are gearing up for this long commercial season.

The nanny kids were so tickled by this picture – they thought it was so cool that we can go cut down our own Christmas tree every year.

I still can’t believe it’s November already. I’m trying to forget about Thanksgiving – I think I’ll feel more homesick with some kind of sad French imposter holiday than if I don’t pay it any attention at all. I kind of felt that way about Halloween – it was fun to get dressed up, but it was so different from Halloween at home that celebrating it Paris-style just felt kind of sad. Even without Thanksgiving, I’ll be 21 in a little over a month. A week after my birthday my aunt Penny will be in Paris, and a few days later Christina will be staying with me again while she prepares to fly home out of Charles de Gaulle. I’m not completely sure what happened to 2006.

Shout-out to Thanksgiving!

Right now I’m sitting in the lobby of the Académie Américaine de Danse de Paris waiting for Ella to finish with her jazz class. Her mom thought it would be a big pain for us to have to take a bus or metro in the cold and dark at 19h, so we take a taxi to the 6ème every Monday. I am not complaining – it’s cold out there!

Anyway, my inadvertent vow of silence only did end up lasting until I went downstairs to nanny. I think I might be a little lonely living all alone in a strange city if I didn’t have a pseudo-family to welcome me home, to worry if I’m not around, to say goodnight to before I go to bed.

I’m used to coming home from trips to be greeted at the airport by someone from my family – it was weird landing at Beauvais with Christina and finding our own solitary way home before collapsing into bed.

Today though, I went downstairs and got the longest knee-hug of my life from Georges before being swarmed by Ella, Zoë and Paul, all clamoring to tell me all the news of their week. Paul tried a new flavor of Hubba Bubba yesterday (lemon), Zoë wants to get a pet gerbil, and Ella can’t wait for the February break when the whole family is jetting down to the Seychelle Islands to escape the frigid Paris winter.

Even Cassie had to compete with the chattering kids to tell me that she almost had a heart attack when she read Georges the book Chicka Chicka ABC and he started pointing to letters saying “G – Georges!” “H – Ollllie!” “Z – ZahZah” (Zoë). I started teaching him the letters in the book the week before break, and C (who didn’t know about it) was pretty shocked and excited that he’d remembered what I taught him. A told B and B told C…Meet me at the top of the coconut tree! Chicka chicka boom boom, will there be enough room?

It made me feel a lot more at home in my single-girl apartment to be welcomed back by people who missed me.

Author: Halley (Griffin) Knigge

Storyteller and adventurer with a focus on new and social media. Ten years of award-winning writing and editing experience, eight years working professionally to share compelling stories through brand journalism, three years as an airline spokesperson, two years as a Tacoma Arts Commissioner and 30+ years of learning something new every day.

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