Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Next Chapter

It's the middle of the night in Paris and I can't sleep. I'm not on U.S. time though, more like China time, but I know this only because I teach English to Chinese kids.
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
Things are more complicated here -- going to the doctor, figuring out how to buy property or rent property, utilities and driver's licenses and visas. But they're all things I'd have to figure out in the U.S. if I moved to a different city.
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
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We have our return tickets. We have our visa appointment scheduled. We have our friends' spare bedroom piled high with our belongings -- three cutting boards, a bread knife, a wine bucket, 12 drinking glasses, barbecue tools, a skillet perfect for omelettes. Another friend stores our bicycles and bike carrier. Slowly, we have begun to accumulate things after purging ourselves of everything in our Ohio home last year.
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.


francetaste.wordpress.com said...

You are right about how things would be complicated if you moved within the U.S. When I moved back to the U.S. for a year after living in Belgium for six years, it was as if I didn't exist. Total nightmare to rent, to get phone and electricity and all that. When you grow up in a place and never leave, you jump through all those hoops so gradually you don't notice them. It's only when you have to do them all at once, changing countries, that they become a headache.

sillygirl said...

Love "Born to be Wide" - thanks for that it makes my day!

Unknown said...

Of all your posts, this is my favorite. Your summary of the joys during your time there folks my heart with fond memories. I hope you do return, but understand the need for you to be here in the States for now. Our love to you and your family.milles bises...
John and Lynn

Sim Carter said...

You know me, I'm blubbering like a baby at this post. Thank you for sharing the pleasure and the pain. I can only wish you the continuation of a beautiful, meaningful life journey.

Jeanie said...

I'm glad you are returning for awhile -- it will be good to get with your tribe (although I'm sorry it's for a concerning reason). But I also know you will return and that will be all the more sweet.

It's a beautiful post. The things you love are the simple "real" things -- gatherings in the square, going to the boulangerie. They are REAL life. YOUR life. And I suspect they will return in good time.

Sending good wishes for safe travels and a good outcome stateside for your dad. (My Paris posts are starting so maybe you can live a little vicariously while you are back, if it doesn't feel too sad!)

Paulita said...

Thanks to everyone for your responses. They mean a lot to me, to know I'm not alone and that I have support from people who become real friends, even if I never meet you face to face.

Mystica said...

Even in my own country trying to change ownership papers on property to the same for electricity and water is taking ages. In a foreign country it will be the same. Things do work out eventually.


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