My Life in Paris: A Stroll Down Memory Lane
Forgotten loafers bring back happy memories for Theadora Brack.
Those pricey loafers; Hunkered down in my closet, I’m on the hunt for clarity and grace – in a Marie Kondo sort of way. I’ve been hoping not only to spark some joy but also to let go with gratitude the swarms of old sweaters and blouses without buttons. As I aim my flashlight with one hand and swim through the sea of trench coats with the other, I spy a Freelance shoebox. I thought I’d lost them after the rounds of decluttering I’d attempted in the past. But no, like a shiny penny, my loafers were not only back, but still in their original box – purchased during my first trip to Paris.
I had arrived jet-lagged but ready to step out on those old cobblestones. After taking the RER from Charles de Gaulle Airport to the Hotel Mondia in République, I headed for Boulevard Haussmann. I had prepared for this moment: not only had I learned to trill like Édith Piaf, read the entire collection of Anaïs Nin’s diaries, and skimmed through every fashion-related passage in Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, but I had also watched every movie I could find by Éric Rohmer, Jean-Luc Godard and Agnès Varda, so nothing else would do quite like Galeries Lafayette.
Surfing the skinny rues like a sulky New Wave starlet, I was decked out in a trench coat, short skirt, fitted cardigan and a bobbed hairdo with the copycat spit curls that Anna Karina had so fetchingly donned in Godard’s 1962 My Life to Live movie. I was also wearing a pair of Cortez Nike shoes in gold.
“Oh, là là,” the Galeries Lafayette sales associate whispered under her breath as I took a seat in the shoe department, almost under the big stained-glass dome. Today, my stylish, fashion-forward friends Stéphanie and Cat would never dream of leaving the flat without rocking a pair of classic Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars in black, but at the time of my Paris debut, sneakers were not yet having their moment on the streets of the capital.
Paris has Heaven in Store
I was in paradise, though, despite the shop assistant. Still feeling a little woozy from the jet lag, mostly I was mesmerised by my regal retail surroundings and their Belle Époque flower power; it’s not every day that one gets to sit in a century-old department store with its original elevators and floral plaster and metal work with a vibe of an oversized glittery birdcage-shaped jewellery box. I pointed to the pair of loafers by Freelance. Pretty? Check. Stylish? Check! Way out of
my travel budget league? Heck, yes. But I bought them anyway, wooed by the department store discount, Paris, the bustling, hustling scene, and, I suppose, my blooming relationship with the sales associate. Not only did she approve of my purchase, but she was also wearing the very pair. “I can do anything,” I remember thinking to myself as I looked in the mirror. Perhaps even ask for a bump in pay.
At the time, I was working at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, and the shoes with all their Parisian glory would definitely help me pump up the French New Wave air that I thoroughly enjoyed cultivating with relish. Also in my corner was the AVAM director: Rebecca Hoffberger was not only a Francophile but also one of the favourite students of actor and mime artist Marcel Marceau; she also married one of the stars of the Ballet de l’Opéra National de Paris. “Paris will love you,” Rebecca had told me. “Don’t leave without trying the cotton candy.” The following month back in Baltimore, I asked Rebecca for a raise – and yes, I got it.
… Back at my Closet
I open the shoebox. The scuff-free pumps by Freelance are still intact. But alas, they never actually saw the light of day again until now. The price tags are still firmly attached and the receipt is resting on the tissue paper, its total in francs. I suppose I was saving the shoes for a special occasion. Not wanting the stardust of Paris to rub off, I didn’t wear them. Or perhaps I discovered that I didn’t need the shoes to boost my self-confidence after all.
Mais non! This is definitely a statement never uttered by this shoe-loving Cinderella. Accessories always help one shine, especially when your pumpkin is running late.
That said, I can no longer recall why I didn’t wear them. Though tempted to try them on for size again and relive my long-ago retail revelry, I stop short. I close the lid. And I promise myself to live in the present, especially when it comes to high-ticket items. Some lands are best left unvisited. As Don Henley sang in The Boys of Summer: “Don’t look back, you can never look back.”
From France Today magazine
Lead photo credit : Always on the hunt for new shoes, Theadora fell in love with these finale-worthy bejewelled boots in blue at the Seyit Ares Fashion Show © Theadora Brack
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