I was exhausted from a cyclonic effort to pack up my decades of adult American family life and organize it into storage bins. And downsizing to the the absolute essentials in five overstuffed suitcases to bring to my furnished Paris flat.
My landlady -- soon to become a good friend -- had emailed me photos of the apartment, and said, "Everything's ready for you -- sheets on the bed and a bottle of wine waiting. Do you drink coffee or tea in the morning? Your phone and TV are all set. Can't wait to meet you!"
All I had to do was arrive and collapse. Which I did.
I had a vague notion of where the apartment was, on place de la Madeleine. Despite many previous trips to Paris, I was clueless about the prestige of the location, and was thus comforted by Francophile friends' instant enthusiasm for and approval of such a great address.
Then that day in March I arrived raggedly and blearily from Charles de Gaulle airport, with deep circles under my eyes, lips chapped from a frigid New England winter. I lugged my five suitcases in sequence up the antique wrought-iron elevator, up the stairs to the top floor. And I collapsed on the exquisite fresh sheets.
I was in Paris!
Jet lag mildly abated after a nap, I leaned on the windowsill, soaking in the view from my perch. I was awestruck. I could almost reach out the window and touch the Eglise de la Madeleine. Everything seemed otherworldly from this vantage point. So I ventured down to explore the neighborhood. At the ground floor of the building was a discount textile store called Toto.
I laughed, giddily, helplessly.
But I was in France now. Would anyone understand the joke?