One day, shortly before moving into our apartment in the Villa Parisienne in September 2009, I decide we need an armoire. The apartment has no closets, I grouse, how about driving up to the Braderie de Lille after we move in? The Braderie de Lille, held the first weekend of September, is reputed to be the largest citywide flea market in Europe; surely I can find an armoire there. But then I broke my foot and the thought of walking for hours on crutches to find the perfect armoire is not very appealing.
So by a warm, end-of-August Sunday we drive to the Puces de Vanves, a flea market I far prefer to the Puces de Clignancourt. Its rather friendly size is certainly easier to do with crutches. But after hobbling the length of its two streets and not finding the armoire of my dreams I am ready to head back to the car. We pass a dealer who is taking things out of a van parked on the corner.
Then I see it. It is reasonably sized, it is quite battered and it calls out to me. It is MY armoire.
I casually sidle up as best as I can on my crutches; no need to seem anxious, it can drive up the price. The armoire is stained dark brown. The doors are decorated with carvings of ships.
Deep scratches run down the front of the right door.
I imagine the armoire belonging to a sailor, the scratches from his parrot as he clambers to perch on top of it. On the back of the armoire a faded card is thumbtacked: “Mle Cailleux, 44 rue de Belleville, Paris 20e.”
The dealer sees me examining it and mentions that the scratches can be easily covered with “brou de noix” (walnut stain). No, I say to myself, the scratches, the stains, the imperfections, these are what make it unique. This armoire has a history…little do I know what kind.
“Cent cinquante euros.”
I look it over one more time and offer a hundred. He counters with one twenty-five but only if I pay cash. The armoire doesn’t fit in the car but he offers to hold it for a couple of days, until we pick up the van we’re going to rent to move our things to the apartment.
So for three years, in the Villa Parisienne, the armoire holds our clothes. When we move to La Luna, the armoire first holds sheets and towels. We now have the luxury of real, albeit small, closets for our clothes. I buy other armoires for our linens and decide to fit this one out for accessories and sweaters. I wonder if I should refinish it, I wonder if I should paint it, I wonder if I should put new fittings in the interior. After all, the bar for hanging the clothes is rather oddly placed and not very practical…
(to be continued)