“Did you find the apartment—or did the apartment find you?” a friend asked me when I broke the news I’d made an offer on a place in Paris. In truth, the apartment did find me in spite of many months of determined searching, my criteria list clutched in my hand.
It was the last apartment I’d seen that day, a bonus appointment my friend had made for me because he believed the agent was American and would give me better service than a French agent. We weren’t even interested in the apartment; it was more about the connection. And at that point, I was already deciding between two places, admittedly, neither of which really grabbed me in the way I’d hoped—one was a nice-sized home but in a poorly maintained building; the other, a small but sweet nest in a glorious old edifice, but up a steep, three-floor climb. As we waited outside the building for our bonus appointment with the agent—an Australian as it turned out—I mused to my friend wouldn’t it be magical if this place had the best of the two other apartments: a sweet nest in a gorgeous building. As it turned out, it did.
There were other charmed moments surrounding the apartment. For example, the owner was American, too, and we both worked in publishing. And like me, she had two lives, one in the States and one in Paris. The best part: the agency representing the apartment dealt exclusively with foreign investors, which meant they were on hand to walk me through the entire purchase process, an experience that could have been stressful and overwhelming. The agency called Vingt Paris, owned by an energetic Scottish woman, set up my utilities, arranged for my architect and contractor; and could manage the place in my absence for a small fee. To find the perfect apartment in Paris is gift enough; to find one that came equipped with a management agency felt like winning the lottery.
Some say when something comes easily it’s meant to be. Of course, it helps if you have someone pulling for you on the other side. In life, my mom was a force majeure; in death, with all those saints and angels to order around? Fugetaboutit. If her baby girl was going to buy a place in Paris, mom was going to make sure it was under budget, needed no renovations, and had a management agency attached. All as safe and easy as possible. I realized later her fingerprints were all over this project, from the blue kitchenette (she always had a blue kitchen for St. Mary), to the house number, which is the same as her birthday. She was a devout Catholic, so it’s not lost on me that I found the apartment on St. Patrick’s Day, in a neighborhood called Sainte-Marguerite. Mom would make sure I wouldn’t forget my saints.
Everything fell in to place just as it was meant to. My offer on the apartment was accepted three days before my sister and I starting the grueling task of emptying our childhood home. We closed on my new apartment three days before we closed up mom’s house for good. My place in Paris would prove to be a lifeline, a source of hope during those emotional and exhausting weeks as we said goodbye to the last tangible connection to our parents. I would lose one home, but would gain another—and just in time. Thank you, Momma.