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Let Them Eat Cake

If I saw someone walking around, wearing a clear plastic poncho, I would think that person needs to go home. If I saw that person wearing that poncho at Versailles, I would call the park ranger. Never did I think, that person, would be my mother. 
In the summer of 2008, my mom and grandmother decided that we were going to live in Paris forever. Their store, Circa, had just closed and they needed something to do. I needed to go to school, but that was beside the point. My mom pulled me into her room a month before we left for Paris and asked me, "What do you think about going to the American high school in P-" She didn't even finish her sentence before I started crying. As a girl who had just graduated middle school, I assumed I wouldn't be crying as much as I had the year before, but I was wrong. I was probably going to cry more this summer, than I did the entire age of 3.
We were almost 3 years away from my mom getting ALS, so my biggest source of despair at the time was the thought of going to high school in fucking France. At this age, I hadn't yet discovered that I had crippling social anxiety, my mom had always just told me that I was shy. She then followed this statement up by "and shyness leads to rudeness." She didn't understand that I could barely handle the idea of going to high school surrounded by kids I had known since I was 6 years old, let alone the meer thought of attending a new school filled with French kids. The boys would most likely be wearing skinny jeans and the girls would already be smoking. French teenagers are the worst and I wasn't ready for that! I wasn't going through life shy, I was going through life afraid of everyone. I wasn't just afraid of people that looked like they were going to kidnap me and take me to Albania to live in a room without windows on a fat man's yacht. I was afraid of what people thought of me, what people would think when I spoke, or did anything at all. I am still this way, I am always embarrassed. I try to never stand out. My desire to wear Uggs in public is overshadowed by the meer thought of someone seeing me in them in the first place. My social anxiety hasn't gotten any better over the years, but I found that a gin & tonic helps ease it a little bit. 
But, back to Paris. The idea of moving to Paris was always brought up, I just thought it would be one of those things my mom brought up but never followed through with, like laser hair removal. But, to my dismay, we had booked one way tickets to Paris that June. For some reason my mom and I were flying in earlier than my grandmother. I later realized this is because my mom bought us two business class tickets and didn't want my grandmother to know. If anyone should have the access to a lazy boy while flying it should be my grandmother. She is terrified of flying and probably would have been soothed by the unlimited mini ice cream sandwiches. I on the other hand, looked like a complete asshole. My feet didn't touch the floor and I thought nothing of it to bother the flight attendant every 6 minutes to ask how much longer we had to go and then if I could get a refill on my Sprite. 
A few weeks into our trip, my mom decided that I could use a walk. We went to Versailles, but it was a special day at Versailles. Every summer, Versailles puts on garden parties after the traditional tourist hours end. Anyone can go to these garden parties, you just have to reserve your spot in advance. And since my mom was my mom, she planned this day well in advance. These garden parties have now be replaced with the Festival of Versailles, but it looks about the same. Fireworks, champagne, treats.... It's the first two weekends of July this year, so if you're in the neighborhood, you really should go.

During our day at Versailles, we rowed boats, ate ice cream, sat in the grass and then played my mom's favorite game, embarrass Gracie. She loved this game more than she loved Bravo, so take that Andy Cohen. The game was usually played with an accompanying threat. This time, I had to ride a minute pony around the grounds or else my new Zara cardigan would be ripped off my body and thrown into the Seine. I have always loved Zara and I would do anything for it. So, I got on the pony. My feet touched the ground. The helmet was slightly too small for my head so it just rested on the crown of my un-brushed hair, I looked like an inbred queen on that pony. My mom had never laughed so hard. Later that trip, I think she felt bad for me and instead of threatening me, she paid me $100 to try on a pair of hammer pants for her. I did it with a smile. 
I got off the horse and thought that would be the end of the game for the day. I started to relax and enjoy myself again. The sun started to go down and the little bit of fog overhead, started to turn into rain. Uh oh. The firework show hadn't even started, we didn't even visit the macaroon station yet! We looked at each other, my eyes filled with fear, hers with creativity. She grabbed my hand and pulled me towards the little stands selling magnets and pens to stupid dummies.
"Excusez-moi, vendez-vous des parapluies?" She asked in her best French accent. 
"Non, mais j'ai ceux-ci a vendre" He said and held up a clear plastic poncho. The type I made fun of when I saw a family of 7 wearing them on Splash Mountain just earlier that year. The type that looked like you were getting ready to eat a whole bunch of shellfish. There was no way I would be caught dead in this poncho, especially after the pony incident. My little heart could only take so much!
But as I started to cross my arms in pure rage, my mom handed the man a few Euros, took two ponchos, and slipped hers on. I shot her a look like I had risen from the dead.
"Oh don't be such a baby, just wear the poncho." She looked like an idiot in it with her turtle neck sweater that she wore all summer, just like Diane Keaton, peaking out from the "neck hole" of the trash bag, I mean poncho. But, she didn't care. And wait, if she didn't care, should I not care either? She had a whole lot more to loose putting this thing on. She had friends to impress! She had a boyfriend to find! The most I had was chaffed thighs and soon to be frizzy hair.
See, my mom was the coolest. She had an undeniable cool factor about her. This was something I never admitted to her, and that's fine, she knew she was cool. She was so cool that she didn't care or notice that I never told her I thought she was cool! I'm happy I never told her I thought she was cool, that's just something no mom should ever hear from their daughter, it's just a rule. 
So there I was watching the coolest person I knew, put on something so lame. While such a minuscule event in the world, it was such a milestone for me. If she didn't care, why should I? I took the second plastic poncho, and slipped it on. I had to fight my own inner voice telling me to stop, drop and roll, but I managed to wear that poncho. Wow, what freedom, I thought to myself. I swayed side to side, testing out the space. When it really started to rain, I loved that I was hands free. I was free to pick off leaves of bushes as I walked by because I wasn't holding an umbrella. Did I discover who I really meant to be? A poncho wearing tween? 
A few weeks later, I was in Printemps in Paris when I stumbled upon a rack of ponchos, and these weren't plastic. They were cashmere. I immediately told my mom that the grey cashmere poncho with the bedazzled "Sucker for Love"  on the back and fringe on the arm holes, was what I wanted for my birthday. And a few weeks later, I wore that poncho without a hint of embarrassment. 
That trip to Versailles, didn't only help me get over thinking that the entire world was just waiting to make fun of me, but I also learned a little history as well. I started to notice that all throughout Versailles, were symbols. One in particular was the sun, which was the symbol for Louis XIV, also known as the Sun King. Now if you're like me and get most of your French history from Sofia Coppola's movie Marie Antoinette, Louis XIV was the great, great, great grandfather of Marie Antoinette's husband, Louis XVI (played by Jason Schwartzman). 

Louis XIV moved from the royal palace from the Louvre, to Versailles, where he quickly made his mark around there. The kings emblem was the God Apollo's face surrounded by rays of light, creating the sunburst motif. He didn't invent this though, there are traces of the sunburst all throughout history. In the Pope's palace of Avignon from the 16th century, there are sunburst motifs all throughout the chapel. It was believed that it represented the face of God overlooking the People. In Jan van Eyck's painting Arnolfini Portrait, from the 15th century, if you look at the background, there is a sunburst mirror. Slightly more subtle than the King Louis XIV version, but nonetheless the same. 

And now for the point of all this....

And guess what, I found a sunburst mirror and I managed to not keep it for myself! 

I also have three ex-votos or sacred hearts. I always appreciated these pieces. My mom had one on almost every bedside table during my childhood. She picked up her first ex-voto while we were in Paris on this trip. I always thought they were purely decorative until I was at the Marche aux Puces and had David translate to me what the dealer was rambling on and on about. After that, I knew I needed more of these. So, I bought some for myself and some for the sale. While an ex-voto doesn't have to be a heart, I find the hearts to be my favorite. Here's something interesting I read while trying to remember if I learned about these at Catholic school....
"This gilded metal Sacré Coeur or Sacred Heart is a Roman Catholic ex-voto from France. Ex-votos (from the Latin phrase ex-voto suscepto, meaning ‘from the vow made’) were – and still are – carried as devotional objects and to give thanks for granted wishes, prayers and intentions. 
The cult of the Sacred Heart can be traced to the 11th century. It gained popularity in the 17th century when a French nun named Marguerite-Marie Alacoque experienced visions of Jesus Christ, in which he spoke to her and showed her his heart, entwined with thorns and flames and surmounted by a cross. She devoted herself and her country to the veneration of his heart, and established a Sacred Heart feast day. 
In 1720, thirty years after Marguerite’s death, the bishop of Marseilles consecrated his diocese to the Sacred Heart in an attempt to spare the district from a plague that was sweeping across Europe. The city quickly recovered from the outbreak, and the Sacred Heart became a popular emblem worn for protection against danger and disease. 
During the French Revolution (1789–1799), patriotic Catholics again wore the Sacred Heart emblem for protection by stitching it to their clothing. It became the symbol of royalist counter-revolution for those who opposed the Republic. Today, the Sacré Coeur basilica in Paris, completed in 1914, stands over the city as a giant ‘ex-voto’: a monument to Catholicism and a symbol of national identity."

As that trip came to end, I learned that we were moving back to Santa Barbara, I was going to start being home schooled, that King Louis XIV had the best taste, and that my mom lied, ponchos were not cool.
The sale is officially live, email me with any questions or requests!


  1. OMG! Your Mom was a bit of the Devil!:) The picture of you on that mini horse!! I think it must have made you the great young lady you are today! In adult brother and his wife went zip-lining in some tropical country once. His apparently overly large head wouldn't fit into the helmut so they removed the liner for him. At that he still had to squeeeeze it onto his head. The pictures were hysterical and I'm sure the helmut offered no protection that way! Big brains unite eh? :) Hilarious and informative post Gracie. I loved it.

  2. You're as irreverent and entertaining to read as your mother. Thank you for the many laughs and hysterical images you've just provided. Please keep talking to us!!

  3. Loved your Blog and that picture of your sweet happy face was precious! You look so much like your Mother....and she was really cool! I find your writing endearing. Keep it up and I loved all of your new finds for the sale.

  4. Hi Ellie! Thank you for writing about the ex-voto. My own connection with this symbol is via Spain but it is the same really. I always think of your mom when looking at an ex voto. Can't wait to have mine home.
    Elena (mom2mateo)

  5. Oh, dear Gracie, you make me laugh, just as your mother did. I am enjoying every post and hearing of your adventures with your very cool mom. Keep blogging!

  6. dear dear Gracie, yesterday I went to the theatre and I saw the play "Tuesdays with Morrie". You very probably know the play, its about a university teacher who has ALS and the story is real, written by his friend and former student and by himself. I was very moved as you can understand, during the whole play the image of your sweet mother was before my eyes. She helped me in a very bad period of my life and I loved her very much without ever seen her. She gave me a big life lesson. Many kisses Gracie dear, you are as beautiful.

  7. Gracie,
    This post is the best yet! Love it! You have such a gift, just like your mom!