It snowed in Paris today!
Astrid had been in Paris for exactly eleven days. Today was the twelfth and she had seen snow before – after all she came from America – from a little town just outside of Boston, Massachusetts.
But Astrid, who had been named for her French Grandmother and her sisters Aimee and Agathe who had been named after her mother’s aunts, had never seen snow HERE before.
At ten years old, Astrid had herself visited Paris ten times – each year on her birthday to visit her Grandmother, but her birthday was in July and it never snowed then. Actually, it was her sisters’ birthdays’ also – they were triplets, but Astrid had been born first and was their leader.
Astrid, Aimee and Agathe came to Paris with Mama and Papa. Papa worked in business and Mama stayed at home with them. Papa and Mama were both from France and had lived in America because of Papa’s job for eleven years. But both were homesick and always wanted move back home. Eleven days ago, they did.
Papa’s company had made him the big boss for the Paris office – a fact which each of the triplets found very funny – their cozy, cuddly Papa a big boss? The girls had taken to calling him that at home – ‘Welcome Home ‘Big Boss’! or ‘Do you want some more chocolate cake Big Boss?’. Mama and Papa always laughed and hugged them. They were so happy to be moving home.
Their home in Paris was along the Seine, near the Louvre and in a building that was very old. They lived with their Grandmother whom they now called Grandmere and her small white cotton ball of a dog named Neige (Snow).
Neige had taken to Astrid and her sisters and became a fixture in their room. Grandmere had made the room very pretty when she learned they were moving in – their iron beds were piled high with satin quilts in their favorite colors – pink for Astrid, soft green for Aimee and pale blue for Agathe.
Their window seat overlooked the Tuileries Gardens and they sat for hours looking out at people passing by. Since the room was large each little girl had her own dresser and closet. The walls of their room were lined with bookshelves holding all their favorite books and dolls. It was their palace. In the center of the room was a grand dollhouse that looked like the Louvre.
Since they had visited so many times, they knew the doorman – Msr. Longtemps and his wife, their housekeeper, Mme. Longtemps. Andre Longtemps was their 12 year old son and was often a playmate.
So far Andre had given them the tour – The Eiffel Tower (which Astrid had personally visited 7 times); the park known as the Tuileries Gardens, Mlle.Rousseau’s bakery, Msr. Cheney’s butcherie and Mme Lambert’s bookstore.
Astrid as the oldest and the leader was often the one to determine the adventures for the day. She had kinky blonde hair and her Papa told her she had the heart of a lion.
Aimee was always willing to go along since her sisters and Andre were her best friends, but she was quiet and independent also. She liked to sit and read while the others occupied themselves with redecorating the dollhouse. She looked much like her sisters of course, but had ringlets instead of kinks in her hair.
Agathe was the thoughtful one. She spent a lot of time with Grandmere hearing stories and she loved to bake. Many times, she got up early in the morning to help Grandmere with the breakfast baking – she had become an expert at rolling croissants! Her hair too, was blonde but she usually wore it in a clip to keep it out of her face in the kitchen.
This morning, when Astrid woke up the sky was a funny light grey and as she lay on her side looking out the window, she thought she saw snowflakes!
Quietly, so as not to wake her sisters, she crept out of bed and went to the window seat. It was cold there, so she drew a fluffy white throw around her shoulders and looked out to the Tuileries. The lovely trees and shrubs were covered with snow; the Rue du Rivoli was a blanket of white and the points on the fence surrounding the gardens all wore white caps. Across the street a man stooped over from the wind walked across the street toward the entrance to the Louvre, his footsteps disappearing behind him.
Behind her she could hear stirring and a small cough – she looked back and Agathe was sitting up in her bed.
“Astrid, why are you sitting up at the window? It’s 6 in the morning!” whispered Agathe, sleep still in her voice.
“Agathe, it snowed in Paris today! Won’t it be fun to go out and see how everything looks in the snow?”
Agathe heard the excitement in Astrid’s voice and ran to the window to join her. She jumped up on the window seat beside Astrid and Astrid shared the fluffy throw with her.
The two sat there and watched the scene outside with their noses pressed up against the glass. Every few minutes they would turn to see if Aimee was awake. They whispered about plans for the day. Astrid wanted to run out into the Tuileries and through the Louvre courtyard. About 15 minutes later, Aimee awoke to see her two sisters chatting quietly at the window.
“What are you looking at?” she asked in a sleepy whisper. Astrid and Agathe both answered in an excited voice:
“Aimee – it snowed in Paris today! We’ve been waiting for you to wake up so that we can go out and explore!” Neige from her perch at the bedroom door heard their excitement and began to bark excitedly.
“Look – even Neige wants to go!” Astrid laughed.
Quickly, the girls put on their warmest clothes, extra layers all of them, for they planned on not coming home for hours. This was different from the snow at home that covered autumn leaves, piled up on birdbaths and fences and ended in slushy piles by the side of the road.
This snow was French snow, and everyone knew that had to be the best! How would the Eiffel tower look? And the statues in the Tuileries? Would the snow cover the glass panels on the pyramid in the Louvre?
They didn’t have long to wait. Andre, sensing an adventure, was in the kitchen downstairs when the girls got there.
“I propose a contest! The one who guesses first what is under the snow piles in the Tuileries will be the winner! “Andre announced with a flourish.
“What will we win?” Aimee asked shyly.
“I have something my parents have found in the basement that everyone will long for – but only the winner will receive it! I will tell you what it is when we crown the winner.”
The four children ate as quickly as they could so that they could get out into the snow. Astrid was already thinking about the statues she knew were in the gardens, trying to remember where each one was.
When Astrid and Aimee and Agathe and Andre and Neige emerged from the house, it was to a very snowy street. The Rue du Rivoli was a winter wonderland! The colonnade was empty of people and there was utter silence. Shop windows were dark even at eight in the morning. A few bellmen for the hotels were sweeping the snow off the front entrances and they smiled brightly at the children and dog.
One of them knew Andre and teased him a bit. “Little man, be careful — with all these beautiful girls, you’ll lose track of things and your little white dog will be buried under a snowbank! Here — put this green ribbon around his collar so you can find him.” Roger the Bellman, who was very tall, bent over then and tied a piece of bright green ribbon from a package, around Neige’s neck.
Astrid smiled and “Merci, monseiur! This is my Grandmere’s dog and I could never lose him!”
Turning back to her sisters Astrid led the merry band out into the middle of the street – not a car in sight — and into the Tuileries Gardens. Just inside the gate was a circle of snowmen — but very tall snowmen!
Mindful of the contest that Andre proposed, the girls ran from snowman to snowman trying to guess what they were. “The dancing couple! The man with the fancy pants!” “The Lion!”
The girls were guessing so fast (and they were all correct), that Andre finally said “Arrete! I can’t keep up with you. I will choose 1 thing — and if you can guess what it is, you will be the winner!” But we have much to see so I will wait to choose.”
“That sounds fair, don’t you think Aimee and Agathe?” Astrid asked.
“Oui – that’s fine! Let’s look at more stuff.” The group of them ran from the Louvre where all the panes of glass in the Pyramid were indeed covered with snow — some skewed to the corner, some fully concealed.
Floating in the steel grey fountain near the large pyramid was a duck with a petit pile of snow on his head. There were white tufts floating in the water, which from a distance seemed to be little snow piles and then — they moved and righted themselves. It was the rest of the duck’s family! Agathe and Aimee giggled in delight and Andre, having spied a perfect, undisturbed patch of snow – began making a snow angel in the middle of the Louvre plaza!
The wind was beginning to blow now and Agathe and Aimee were starting to freeze but not Astrid and Andre! They were running from one snowman to another ‘revealing’ their true identities.
Finally, Astrid realized that they indeed had been out for hours and looking at her sisters saw their pink and nearly red cheeks, the wet tangle of bangs on their foreheads and the wet hems of their coats.
As the oldest sister, she knew what she had to do. “Ok Andre’ choose your target! Time to guess and then we can go get warm! Grandmere gave me money to stop at Angelique’s for Chocolat Chaud!”
Andre looked around and tried to find something that was untouched by their frenzy in the plaza.
“D’accord! I have chosen. Do you see that pile right there–just to the left of the fountain and slightly below?” Andre asked.
Aimee, Astrid and Agathe squeezed their eyes tight trying to focus on what it could be. It didn’t seem familiar. The shape was too small to be one of the grand statues — it wasn’t a chair or a trash barrel. They were stumped. And Astrid was ready to give up when Aimee piped up — “I know! I know! I’m the winner — that is ……. Neige!”
“Absolutely perfectly correct Aimee — You win!” Andre crowed as he reached over to brush the snow off of a sleeping Neige.
“The clue was the tiny bit of green ribbon sticking out!” Aimee cried. “What did I win?”
A perfect red sled – I found it in Papa’s basement and he fixed it and repainted it for me. And now it is yours!”
The children, all excited about what adventures they’d have on a sled in the snow, collected Neige and trouped out of the garden to the door of Angelique’s where there were foamy, whipped-creamed Chocolat Chaud’s all around.
Andre sat next to Astrid and watched Aimee and Agathe sipping their hot drinks and attempting to spoon feed Neige some, said “Another grand adventure Astrid! What shall we do tomorrow?”