we have moved a lot, but never quite this way.
upper deck in a first class train as we roll our of Gare St Jean
ciao, ciao Bordeaux
ciao ciao mes amis.
12 years and 44 days and it seems like we all grew up here, its crazy! We never meant to invest such a large part of ourselves here, if we had we would have done it differently, but we would have ended up in the same place.
Arriving in a heat wave that still sticks to my back, speaking in phrases, grunts and foreign tongues, we plodded and plotted and landed with aplomb, more than a plomb, in 2003, in Martel, in France profond. Schools, real estate agents, le marie, tradesmen, marche’s and the curious french people that took us into their hearts where we stayed for 7 or more so years…
Page two, discovering the city mice in us, the urban splendour of Bordeaux! speaking in sentences by now, never quite right, but we were a bit more than understood. Bordeaux changed who we were; perhaps it was the urban thing? Half of being french is what we learned in the country, but that life was not so different from say, Connecticut or the Ozarks, just with better food and stones. The other half of the french assimilation is this “european” mentality that came to us in Bordeaux. Giving away the car, walking and shopping and socialising at a macro level. Somehow in the urban context we developed an expatriate personality which is different from the assimilation mode we started in.
It was important in the begining, when the adventure was to be a brief one, that we dig in deep to the whole french pie, we eschewed the anglophone community, in part because there wasn't one, in the hopes of becoming frenchmen in disguise. It was fun and frustrating and fulfilling, so many recollections of failure and folly, stupid things we said, did, or didn't where we should have, relying on our american persona to excuse our errors. I hope they thought we were cute as often as stupid. The different people that have moved through our lives in the past 12 + 44, the best one’s have stayed but there were a few good ones we left behind. The kids that just stare, really, american? but why you talk so funny? the old ones that tear up and express a gratitude that I can barely understand and all the rest, friends, good friends, that started out from curiosity and compassion to become so much more. We have made some real friends and we are taking them with us! We are taking so much with us!
The extrication? the unraveling, our departure, our reboot….
Moving 7 times in the past 12+44 has been great, really. It keeps us honest, it keeps us lean, in suitcases if not body and mind. One can't keep skeletons in the closet very well when the closets keep changing. The physical process identifies the emotional one. We still have baggage, it still doesn't match, there is one fibreboard drum which made it right up till the end, a suitcase from my grandfather too, and a collection of backpacks and sacs and now a collection of 52 banana boxes that too may live to see another day! But Im mixing my metaphors…
This last departure is different. we are perhaps tying a knot around the package and wherever we open it what tumbles forth will have changed in the translation. 12+44 has been such a resounding success and its kinda like, over! Which means that something else must be about to start and that’s strange. We are returning to a known set of parts and a known life, rich in friends and relations that have nourished us at a distance, but….
I feel like I have changed so much, who hasn't in 12 years, its easy to see the proof in the photos, the infant we carried around, the dark hair thats made room for grey, the eager eyes that now wear glasses. So, I suppose, the life we are returning to must have evolved as well. And I want that. I want our old life to be different and the same, I want the relationships to be there and strong and new and old and I fear the changes that will be there and just hope, and expect, that we have all grown in the same ways. 12 years is a long time, it was longer than I had dreamed it could be.
Did I say it was a success? It really has been great, as a family we have prospered, we are strong and happy and ready for what’s next! Oscar did so well at being a student, we did well enough at being french land barons, and perhaps the return to an altered life will make the mid-life transition an easier one as the nest we are emptying is a new and familiar one. Its an odd set of circumstances. perhaps I’ll soon stop talking to myself!
I got to watch Oscar saying goodbye to a friend or two and tried to imagine it. For O this has been such a huge part of his life, and he’s now leaving friends he has spent thousand of hours with and for another country. Saying goodbye they hug like americans, kiss like frenchmen, and it seems to be me who tears up. Oscar is leaving a lot behind.
We each have our way of coping with the grand changement….Patricia takes pictures of everything…..Oscar is having vivid dreams….Me, Im just worn out by the emotion of leaving a life, or maybe it’s the parties!