Sarah Tuttle-Singer
A Mermaid in Jerusalem
Mothers Day

My sweet baby girl is in Paris, and I don’t know how she got there

She's the one doing the changing; I'm the one have the growing pains
Edited in Prisma app with Dallas
My baby girl is in Paris - illustration by Avi Katz

My sweet baby girl is in Paris, and I don’t know how she got there.

One minute, she was milk-drunk in her pink fuzzy sleep-sack with the tiny hearts on it, nestled in my arms, gazing up at the glow-in-the-dark star stickers on the ceiling, and the next minute, she is texting me a photo of her looking up at the Eiffel Tower. She tells me the sunrises are so different from the ones here in Israel – the sky warms up to a soft vanilla with purple clouds. It is like she is standing in the middle of a Monet painting.

She drinks her first mocha cappuccino at a Starbucks in Paris. Extra foam. A little chocolate powder dusted on top, the same way I always sprinkle cinnamon on my café hafuch (Israel’s cappuccino or latte). She posts photos of her coffee to her story on Instagram.

But Instagram doesn’t even exist and she’s only 2, and where the hell is her sippy cup? Where did I leave it?!? We need to find it!!! I can feel my anxiety rise like the tide inside my chest. She only drinks from her Disney Princess sippy cup!!! Unless she’s nursing herself to sleep, hand on my breast, eyes half open. She’ll get dehydrated if we don’t find her sippy cup!!!

But now she’s in Paris, eating a croissant by the Seine and drinking her mocha cappuccino. The sky is a swirling mass of grey and purple and navy blue, and she’s standing with her face to the wind, her arms outstretched, a red beret – of course – perched at a jaunty angle on her head. She has her sketchbook out and she’s drawn the Luxor Obelisk, and the profile of a woman with her hair flowing into a starry, starry night. There’s a sketch of Harry Styles, too…

But where’s the little hat she loves? The white and aqua cotton knit with a pompom?? Did I lose THAT, too??? She LOVES that hat – she wears it all the time. She’s only 4 and her ears will get cold. I need to find it. She hands me a piece of paper full of crayon flowers, the sun and the moon and a thousand stars. I hang it on the fridge.

My daughter is in Paris on the Champs-Élysées – she’s looking for a new pair of shoes. Maybe she’ll get boots. Warm ones. Smart girl. It’s cold in Paris and I still can’t find her hat with the pompom. She tries on her first lipstick, then two spritzes of Coco Mademoiselle one behind each ears.

But just a second ago, she was 5 and tromping around the living room in my high heels! I drew a heart on her cheek with my lipstick. She rubbed it off. She buries her face in my neck and tells me I smell like cotton and dreams.

My daughter sends me a video where she’s dancing in a nightclub in the Latin Quarter. Swing music, nice and bouncy. I didn’t know she could dance like that – left, right, twirl, her mass of curls catching the light.

But I’m confused because just a minute ago, I tried to get her to dance with me in the living room and she ran shrieking to her bedroom.

She calls to tell me that the busker by the Louvre played Sympathique by Pink Martini, and didn’t I used to sing that to her years ago? No, I tell her, I sang it to her last night when I tucked her in because she’s 7 and I tucked her in last night.

The Monet sky is bursting and she is standing in a sunbeam next to Sacré-Cœur. She sends me a recording she made of the choir – voices high and low, a hundred angels.

I feel feathers on my face, and she’s right there next to me tickling me with her long golden hair. She is 10 years old. She asks me to pick her up early from her friend’s sleepover because she says she’s worried she’ll get homesick. I pick her up and we snuggle watching Wayne’s World and I Love Lucy.

She’s in Paris with her cousin and her savta (grandmother). She bought her own plane ticket with her own money that she saved from her bat mitzvah. But she’s only 12, my beautiful bat mitzvah girl, and there’s a COVID lockdown across the globe and the planes are grounded and the parties are canceled and still, we are celebrating with our family on Zoom, and then she and her brother and I take a walk in the fields behind our house. She stands like a tree in the orange-blossom wind… her legs sturdy, firm against the earth, and we are the wheat that surrounds her. Her friends drive by with their mothers and bouquets of balloons, but don’t come within 100 meters. How did she manage to fly to Paris during the lockdown?

I can see her little petunia head peeking out from under the big fluffy blanket, her thumb in her mouth, she’s got her pretty little Playmobil ponies all lined up on the bedside table, her Elmo phone beside her, the glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling are her entire night sky, this is her universe. And she’s in Paris – red beret on her head, sketchbook full to brimming with notes and drawings – smelling like orange blossoms and rose petals, her arms wide open while the lavender and umber sky deepens into night as the first stars appear softly, gently, a million times over. She is in Paris, on the cusp of 15, embracing the whole wide universe…

…which is embracing her right back.

About the Author
Sarah Tuttle-Singer is the author of Jerusalem Drawn and Quartered and the New Media Editor at Times of Israel. She was raised in Venice Beach, California on Yiddish lullabies and Civil Rights anthems, and she now lives in Jerusalem with her 3 kids where she climbs roofs, explores cisterns, opens secret doors, talks to strangers, and writes stories about people — especially taxi drivers. Sarah also speaks before audiences left, right, and center through the Jewish Speakers Bureau, asking them to wrestle with important questions while celebrating their willingness to do so. She loves whisky and tacos and chocolate chip cookies and old maps and foreign coins and discovering new ideas from different perspectives. Sarah is a work in progress.
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