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Dreaming of France: 29 Avenue Rapp

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Scrolling through my Instagram& finding this image, I’m surprised I haven’t shared this particular French door for Dreaming of France before. 29 Avenue Rapp boasts what might be the most famous door in Paris. It’s definitely one of the most beautiful.



Designed by Jules Lavirotte in 1901 it’s a striking example of Art Nouveau architecture and features the very risque sculpted Adam and Eve above the door. I first saw the building in the movie Gigi as the building where Gigi's Aunt Alicia lives and where Gigi goes for her lessons in how to catch the right man. Preferably someone rich like Gaston.

Naturally when Mark and I visited Paris, we had to pay the building a visit. What struck us about 29 Avenue Rapp was how many people just walk on by, as if were nothing special, just another old stone edifice, the door, just another entry. I think even if I lived on the block, even if I saw the building and its door every single day, I would still have to pause and take it in. Not a whole …

Qué sera, sera; What will be, will be.

My mother passed away two years ago, this Sunday, April 13th. Diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease over a dozen years earlier, she really left us long ago. It's painful to think back on how confused she was, not just at the very end, but in those last years when her memories, her life and its details faded as if they'd been written in disappearing ink. While the image of her looking lost and bewildered as her identity slipped away still haunts me, I'm pleased my eternally singing mother is so present in my writing. When I wrote the piece, Of Brasso and Brownies, about growing up in Niagara Falls in the sixties I thought it was about me but, reading it again, I can see my mother, alive and vital, loving and proud, played as big a role in my story as I did. Of Brasso and Brownies is #9 in my On the Street Where I Live stories.

Of Brasso and Brownies


It’s daunting to move into a new house and make it yours. A never before lived in house seems more than new as it stands before you, untouched, immaculate, strangely virginal. The difference between new and brand new can be an almost empty hollow feeling. No ghosts live within those walls. No child’s smudged fingerprints have been wiped away.


I was ten years old when we moved into our new house in Niagara Falls. We moved in the spring of 1963, the season of change in what would turn out to be a decade of change. In a house without history it fell to us to write the first page.


Our old house was a two story red brick rental in the part of town where chestnut trees lined the streets. It was a gloomy house inside, made darker still by the ancient maples outside its windows, leafy branches casting ghostly images against the fading floral wallpaper. A dark oak door outside my bedroom led to a musty attic, too scary to think about, let alone explore. When we moved to Cherrywood Acres, a new development on the outskirts of town, only the model home and a handful of new houses bloomed where cherry trees once stood. The paved road wending its way through the tract led nowhere; the sidewalk started and stopped in front of our house which sat on a half acre of hard frozen dirt. From my bedroom window I could see empty lot after empty lot marked off by pieces of red cotton tied to short wooden stakes, stiff little flags heralding the coming of progress.


Our new house was a modern split level, Number Two in the brochure, picked and built to order. An ordinary house really, but I remember my mother poring over paint swatches and samples of floor finishes for weeks before we moved in. I remember her sitting in the murky light of our old living room, agonizing over color choices like champagne, desert sand and pale mushroom. She chose finally a soft ivory for the walls.


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