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August Memories “à la Rentrée”

The end of August carries a lot of personal significance for me.

Like many people who come at “La Rentrée,” we packed up our house in Los Angeles and moved only our most prized possessions to Paris just before the school year started. On September 4th, we will celebrate our 21st year in the City of Light…it’s so hard to believe so many years have passed.

It was a momentous and frightening occasion to realize that we were in this totally new place, with a different culture, a different language and a very different lifestyle. Those first few days and weeks in Paris were formidable as we waded through the adventure with both fear and awe. Every day was a new day and a new learning experience.

Three years later, now very much entrenched in Paris life, it was on this very date (August 26th, 1997) that I became “Sadie, Sadie, UNmarried Lady.” My daughter and I flew back to Paris that day after signing the official UNmarried papers, and installed ourselves into our ‘new’ rental apartment in Le Marais that has since become our permanent home.

At that time of year, it was hot and all the windows were open to let the breeze in. The sounds on the street were new to us, including a woman living in an upper apartment opposite us who not only enjoyed exposing her upper body nude out of her window, but who also enjoyed having regular and very loud sex in the wee hours of the morning. When she would see us watching her, she would wave to us. Yes, it was laughable and memorable. Sadly, she’s long gone.

Just a few days after our move, on August 31st, Princess Di’s fatal crash took place in the Pont de l’Alma road tunnel. Years later, the Flamme de la Liberté (Flame of Liberty), a monument near the Alma tunnel, related to the French donation of the Statue of Liberty to the United States, became the official memorial to her untimely death. No one, including us, will ever forget that fateful and fatal day.

On August 29th, 2005, Hurricane Katrina broadsided my home town, La Nouvelle Orléans. I was here in Paris, of course, preparing for La Rentrée, when my family packed a few things, got in their car and headed for safety in Houston from the oncoming storm. Little did they know that they wouldn’t be coming home for months and that some of them would have no home at all to return to.

New Orleans celebrates Katrina’s 10th anniversary — a city that the Washington Post called a “sliver by the river” and others have called a “resilience lab” in a recent article — where “An influx of capital and newcomers has triggered changes.” (Be sure to see the 24 images published by the Washington Post in this article.)

New Orleans hasn’t been my home since high school, but that hasn’t changed my feelings for the town that sparked my connection with France. As soon as the city was reopened after the devastating floods, I went there to be with my family and see the destruction. The house I grew up in on “Fleur de Lis” Drive one block from the 17th Street Canal levee that had broken was destroyed and the big old oak tree in the back yard totally uprooted.

No, I’ll never forget it. There are times I wished I had been there to be a part of the crisis along with my family, but it’s in my heart and I was there in spirit.

Every year, when the summer season comes to an end and La Rentrée begins (schools reopen September 1st), the memories flood back from the past 21 years living in the City of Light, when the door closes on the past year and the new year begins…more so at this time than on January 1st as per the calendar year…or so it seems. This week activity in the streets and in the restaurants is heightened as vacationers return to their homes and go Back to Work and Back to School.

Happy La Rentrée!

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
The Adrian Leeds Group

(in 2002)

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