7 Things I’m Grateful for During the Coronavirus Lockdown in Paris

Michelle Richmond
Mar 18, 2020 · 6 min read
Paris grocery store shelves during Coronavirus
Paris grocery store shelves during Coronavirus
Store shelves in Paris were still well-stocked two days before lockdown began. Pasta and rice were mostly gone but there was plenty of coffee, tea, cheese, wine, cereal, packaged cookies, chips, and produce.

I thought today I’d share a few things I’m grateful for, as the reality of lockdown begins to settle in here and back home in the Bay Area, and in many cities in America. Thanks so much for all of your comments yesterday. We are all going through the same thing, even if some areas are a few days or a couple of weeks ahead of others. So here, what I’m grateful for:

Lockdown

I’m grateful for this because it is forcing all of us to be extremely careful, not just guarded and cautious. Just on Sunday, we went out for a brief walk because it was the first sunny day in a while, and also because we didn’t know when we would get to go out for a walk again. It seems everyone else had the same idea. I imagine that the one beautiful spring day, unfortunately, will be the cause of a lot of new infections.

Our new lockdown requires us to carry an official form if we leave the house. You can leave the house individually, but only to buy food, see a doctor, visit a pharmacy, exercise near one’s home (without meeting up with others), walk a dog, or go to approved work. Our papers will be checked by the military. If this sounds like a weird thing to be grateful for, think of Italy. In France, even with tests only available to the most serious cases, our cases are doubling every 2–3 days. Half of the patients in ICU with critical complications are under the age of 60. We need draconian measures.

The mantra, “It is temporary.”

As my husband keeps telling me, This won’t last forever. It will last for a while. Initially it seemed schools would reopen here after spring break, giving kids 5 weeks out of school. But I’m not sure that’s long enough to flatten the curve, given the emergency state France is in now. It’s possible schools won’t reopen at all this year. But eventually, they will. So will movie theaters, shops, restaurants, and all of those centers of daily life we found so necessary just days ago. This too shall pass.

Food and Water

The grocery stores here are well-stocked. I know that isn’t the case for a lot of stores in America. The food supply chain is still strong here and in America (there was a terrific article on the basic stability of the American food supply chain a couple of days ago in the NYT — the problem isn’t supply, but rather the fact that hoarding is causing empty shelves). Here, as in America, farmers have goods to sell, producers have supply. For the time being, transport is working. I think there may be less hoarding here, perhaps because people are accustomed to buying what they’re going to eat that day or that week. It’s also worth noting that a lot of food floods into the city every day to power restaurants and cafes. That food has to go somewhere, now that all of the restaurants are closed.

The taps are running. We have hot water. What a blessing a glass of water and a hot shower is when the world is upside down.

The upside of Disaster Fatigue

The last 18 months in Paris have been difficult. Longtime residents of Paris have been telling us for a year, “You picked a terrible time to come to Paris.” We heard the boom of water cannons week after week, we have smelled tear gas seeping through our windows, have seen the smoke erupting around us and noticed the bitter tinge of tear gas in the air too many times to count. We’ve watched Notre Dame burn.(Literally, I stood on Pont Neuf and watched the fire raging, which, in hindsight, was unwise, given the elevated levels of lead in the air).

Oddly enough, these challenging months may have prepared the city, in some way, for what’s happening now. In addition to 70 straight weeks of Yellow Vest protests, some of them rowdy and violent, we just came out of a months-long transit strike that made getting to school and work and living a normal life difficult. Paris is a city of revolution and unrest, of pulsating anxiety on the best of days .It is possible that Paris has disaster fatigue, and in this state of utter fatigue, there is less panic.

The Familiarity of Armed Guards (and absence of armed civilians)

We’re accustomed to armed guards patrolling the streets with machine guns. It isn’t new or unusual for us, so it isn’t alarming to see them now.

I remember my first flight from SFO after 9/11, in October of that year. I was shocked at the sight of the National Guard with machine guns at the airport. Here, armed guards are a fact of everyday life, so the sight of them doesn’t cause unease and is unlikely to cause conspiracy theories to circulate. In fact, there may be a sense of steadiness and reassurance in that familiar sight.

It’s worth noting that only law enforcement is armed here. It would take an extreme breakdown of French government and society for armed individuals to run around causing fear and wreaking havoc. No one’s going to pull out a gun at the grocery store or on the street.

My Son’s friends, WhatsApp, and Video Games

When my son gets online with his headset to play video games with his friends, I hear him laughing and talking and having a great time. This is a gift. When he’s gaming with his friends, he’s not under stress, and he’s not thinking about the fact that he can’t leave the apartment. The tech we like to demonize — too much screen time, too much texting, too many video games etc — is our saving grace during this time.

A book is a joy and an oasis for me, as it is for many of us, and maybe our kids will end up reading more during lockdown too. But our kids need to keep interacting with their friends as much as possible. They are under so much stress, living with so much uncertainty. Teens especially are separated from their tribes at exactly the moment in their lives when their tribes outside of family are increasingly important to them. Online gaming is one way to keep that connection strong and make life feel normal to them.

Dedicated family time, without the morning rush, the afternoon rush, or any other rush

When was the last time you got to make pancakes for your kids on a school day? Kids still have school and we adults still have work, but with commutes and external structures removed, we have reclaimed massive amounts of time. We’ve never known what it’s like to parent without outside demands on our kids’ time — sports, lessons, recitals, and other extracurricular activities — not to mention all those meetings we have to get dressed for, those unnecessary functions we don’t know how to say no to.

Now we get to say no to everything, because everything is on hold. That means we see our kids and partners more, a strange, unprecedented gift most of us have never seen in our lifetime. (Of course I know this doesn’t hold true for people in health care and other essential industries, who are doing heroic work to keep things running as well as possible.)

That’s all for now. I hope you are well back home in California and Alabama and all across America. Much love to you as you settle into your own new quarantines and isolation, into your own new realities. May you read a great book, watch a great movie, make something, learn something, play a round of Risk that lasts the whole damn lockdown, and enjoy your husband/wife/partner/kids/pets/your solitude. Stay safe and well.

What are you grateful for during this period of self-isolation, wherever you are? Share in the comments.

Michelle Richmond is the internationally bestselling author of five novels, including most recently The Marriage Pact. A native of Alabama and longtime resident of Northern California, she currently lives in Paris. Follow Michelle to read more like this.

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Michelle Richmond

Written by

NYT bestselling author of the THE MARRIAGE PACT and THE YEAR OF FOG. Caffeinated in Cali. Books at michellerichmond.com Write with me at https://thenewMFA.com

The Reluctant Parisian

Welcome to The Reluctant Parisian, a blog about expat life in Paris with a Silicon Valley spin. I am a novelist by trade, an Alabamian by birth, and a Californian at heart. I'm also a wife and mother. How did we move from Silicon Valley to Paris? Reluctantly. #Paris #ExpatLife

Michelle Richmond

Written by

NYT bestselling author of the THE MARRIAGE PACT and THE YEAR OF FOG. Caffeinated in Cali. Books at michellerichmond.com Write with me at https://thenewMFA.com

The Reluctant Parisian

Welcome to The Reluctant Parisian, a blog about expat life in Paris with a Silicon Valley spin. I am a novelist by trade, an Alabamian by birth, and a Californian at heart. I'm also a wife and mother. How did we move from Silicon Valley to Paris? Reluctantly. #Paris #ExpatLife

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