My alarm is set. In a few hours, it will go off and we will begin the journey back to the States. 7:30 shuttle to the airport and we're scheduled to land in Orlando at 7:30 tonight -- 17 hours on the road (only 5 hours time difference because France turned back the clocks on Saturday and the U.S. doesn't turn back clocks until next week).
This grand France-living experiment has been ongoing for 10 months now. It has been everything I hoped it would be and everything I dreaded it could be. My year has been filled with highs and lows from the thrill of leaving for France to the plunge of sadness when someone in my family needed me and I realized that I couldn't be there for them.
To borrow a phrase, "France, I wish I knew how to quit you," but you still have my heart.
|Cathar Castles under blue skies|
|Mountains and sunrises|
And the benefits are lovely.
*Community dinners and hikes.
*Concerts every night until 2 a.m. with the whole village standing in the square singing along -- "Hey, baby, I wanna know, will you be my girl." Or mangled English songs like "Born to be Wide."
*The sheer hedonism of slicing into a foie gras and spreading it on slightly sweet toast then washing it down with a Sauternes wine.
*The joy of sinking my toes into a sandy beach then walking into the Mediterranean, the water only slightly cool on a 90-degree day.
*The spring in my step as I hang a cloth bag on my arm and walk down the hill to the town bakery for a chausson framboise (raspberry turnover) and exchange cheek kisses with the baker.
*The aching blue of the sky above the peeks of the mountains that surround Quillan.
*The lyrical, expressive language spoken all around me, and the hope that one day I will overhear people speaking and not realize that it is French instead of English.
*The thrill to watch in person the Tour de France buzz past and to share in the happiness, watching the game in the square all together, as France won the World Cup
*The new friends we've made because we have so many hours to socialize, secrets shared over cake and laughter escaping like so many bubbles of Blanquette sparkling wine.
*My morning runs throughout France, past ancient churches or the town baths, the sky slowly turning light and casting colors
We have plans and roots in France.
Still, I can't help wondering how everything might change during the nearly three months we're home.
Dad's surgery and recovery, hopefully so he can get back on the golf course.
Our kids' security. People urge us to let the kids go, let them make their own mistakes. I'm not trying to be a helicopter mom, just a safety net.
So leaving France behind is melancholy - excitement to see my family, to just sit and catch up in a half hour what cannot be conveyed through awkward Facetime conversations caught here and there. Followed by fear that we might not get to return to this complicated, idyllic life we dove into.
I confide in Earl that if something happens that we don't return, this has been the most spectacular 10-month vacation I could ever hope for.
We haven't visited or explored all the places we want, but we've made a nice start of it.
So today, this chapter closes and when we land in Florida to 85 degree weather and my parents waiting, another chapter begins.
I know the trajectory this plot line is headed, but I can't skip ahead to the end of the book. I'll just try to find joy and love as we move forward.