Although most books suggest that Provence is the best place in France to spend a year, this morning it appeared that I actually landed in Paris. Rain poured down, mist rose up, and when I looked out my back door, someone had stolen my umbrella. Quelle malchance!

A missing umbrella might otherwise be a small inconvenience, but my husband and I are down to one car. Last week, before our ‘departure’ for this Year In France (In Tacoma), our second car was totaled in an accident. All the other issues with the wreck aside, we decided to try living with one car for a few weeks rather than rushing out to spend money we don’t have on a replacement vehicle.

With our one car miles away at the train station, and no protection for our heads, I walked the kids to school in a big hat and trench coat. They wore their waterproof, hooded jackets. We all got very wet.

Always on the lookout for symbolism, it occurred to me that an ‘umbrella policy’ is an insurance term. Was the stolen umbrella foreshadowing a bad turn of events relating to the accident?

I found myself obsessing over the karmic source of our bad luck. Of course, I was raised with a solid layer of American morality and feel sure that any unfortunate event is divine punishment. Finally, though, I remembered that that attitude doesn’t apply here in France (In Tacoma).

The French, as I have come to understand them through movies, books and college classes, are far more likely to throw their hands  in the air, say, “C’est La Vie”, and retire to a nice glass of something strong to dull the pain. Since I am pretending to be in France, I figured I could at least pretend to not fret.

I made an omelet with mushrooms to help stimulate my French attitude of nonchalance. Still, it was hard to not fret, even to fake not fretting. And then, the auto insurance company called to discuss the terms of a total loss payout.

My stomach churned as I tried to guess the hit to our premiums, as I worried about the paperwork, and again I wondered if we tripped some bad luck circuit in our lives. Once the agent put me on hold to process some forms, I was left to my swirling thoughts and the muzak. That’s when I heard “Free Man In Paris” playing, in its anodyne form.

“The way I see it,” he said
“You just can’t win it”

It’s true. I can’t win it all the time. There will be some setbacks and unfortunate events.

Luckily, I’m in Paris, rain and all, and I can, at the very least, be free and wander down the Champs Élysées.

C’est la vie!


(If you’re following along at home, this is exactly how I prepared my mushroom omelet, using gouda instead of cheddar.)