Tuesday, January 05, 2010

It's Tuesday, this must be France

Our new, temporary, home

I'm sitting in our new shabby rental, and I'm not talking "shabby chic," trying not to cry.

The radiators work, it's dry, sort of, there are plenty of windows, big ones, that let far more light in than any of the houses we've been in so far. It has potential.

But it's a temporary home, again. How much work do we want to put into finding that elusive potential hidden somewhere underneath layer upon layer of neglect and abandonment?

It kind of reminds me of when a friend is dating, or heaven forbid, married to, the wrong person and they spend so much energy trying to convince themselves, and everyone else, to see the "good sides" of this person and overlook the giant W (for wrong), or even D (for danger) flashing like a neon sign on their loved-ones forehead.

The problem is, and this is a big one for a girl with the nose of a hound dog, this house has a certain smell. Let's just call it, "eau de desolation."

It's the kind of smell that assaults your senses when you first walk in, then slowly your nose gets accustomed to it and you can almost imagine it's not there anymore. Almost.

Do I get out the incense? Burn some sage to dispel the evil spirits? Get an essential oil thingamabobby and plug it in in hopes of disguising the problem? Start an apple pie business and keep the place smelling of apples and cinnamon 24/7?

We've been back for two days, we've been lollygagging in the warm arms, and kitchens, of Ian's family in England, and I've only just begun to slowly unpack our bags. Inertia and ambivalence has paralyzed me. I can't find anything, not even one pair of clean underwear for Esther. Or Isla's allergy medicine.

So why am I blogging instead of organizing and cleaning? Because I can. And I'm not in a car, or on someone's front steps, I'm inside my shabby house, enjoying the Wifi that floats into my window from the neighbor's house.

But that's not the only reason I'm not cleaning. It's pure stubbornness.

I'm still not convinced we can go through with this move. I'm still thinking someday our prince will come, maybe we should keep our bags packed and ready by the door....

On a lighter note: We had a lovely time in England, trying to bread the world record of cups of tea and mince pies consumed in one sitting.

We tried to stay the night, on the way home, in Bergue, made famous by this must-see French film, but there was no room at the inn, so we travelled on to Lille. Yet another amazing French city I'll never really see unless I run away and visit it without my family.

But I get to see this much, on a frigid, early morning walk:

Lille opera house


Lovely Lille

This sidewalk smells good

Hotel Paix

The last feeding at Hurley on Thames

Let the river take us where it will....

On the way to get a haircut.

"I wish I were the Queen and all these swans were mine."

Walk to Marlow

Happy thoughts

"There has to be another chocolate here somewhere."

Strappin' on the fancy shoes.

An angel appears.


Brooke G. said...

I have a feeling that you will probably look back at all this and laugh.... some day.... in the VERY distant future... hopefully.... er, I am not helping much, am I???? I wish you and your family well, Betsy. Good luck getting organized ;) LOVE the beautiful scenic photos!

MT said...

Positive spin attempts....try to embrace the whole "haunted house" appeal. Not desolation, but mysterious abandonment. Far more romantic although perhaps equally depressing. At least you know that there is not another temporary shelter in your future. This is it until the farmhouse, right? Smells evoke powerful memories and emotions. I can imagine in 20 years one of your girls encountering again a similar smell and remembering that kooky house (with nice curtains?) they stayed in for a while in France. When their supercool, awesome parents taught them that they can go outside their comfort zone and survive, even thrive.
I commiserate with the whole being here and not actually getting to explore the way I would if I were by myself, or at least childless. On the other hand, the kids help me to see things I otherwise would not. Maybe the girls will help you find some of that je ne sais quoi that is hiding in your new abode.

And I love the bathtub :)

Karin (an alien parisienne) said...

Hi Betsy! Thank you for dropping by my blog and I'm glad I got to catch up with you at Momformation as well as here. I *love* this post -- I love the story and the photos.

You are so very *real* in your blogs and I appreciate that so very much. :)

I laughed (knowingly) at this part of the post: "The problem is, and this is a big one for a girl with the nose of a hound dog, this house has a certain smell. Let's just call it, "eau de desolation.""

He's not here, so I can whisper behind his back a little (it's nothing I have not told him already...). Paul was very much living a bachelor/divorced man life before I arrived. His place looked and smelled like it, lol. Plus, his general sense of style is "shabby chic," emphasis on "shabby," to begin with.

When I arrived to live with him, my first notion was to CLEAN, and clean I have done ever since I got here, 19 months ago, lol. I have felt like Snow White taking care of the seven dwarves, or like in the movie "Enchanted" when Giselle calls all of the city creatures to help her clean (I'm assuming that with two young girls you might have seen that one). It's sorta, kinda sorting itself out now. Starting to, heh. Now I want to painta ll the walls. In fact, I even had a dream about that last night! If I could, I would replace the so-called carpet and re-tile the bathroom, but those things will probably never happen. We'll likely just be living in another place before that level of re-do in the apartment would happen.

What I have learned from living in conditions that are a little shabbier than I am used to is that, first, I can. I have let go of some of the standards that I had. My living conditions when I was living in China were very shabby, too. It has helped having that experience first -- pretty much nothing has been quite as shabby as that experience was!

Second, I have indeed used a lot of incense, hahaha.

Third, I have done what I could to organize and clean, but also realized that it is not the house that makes the home, but the people in it. I love the people in it, and therefore love the environs more, too.

I really like what MT wrote up there! I absolutely think it is true, and that the girls and you will indeed look back on this adventure with the spirit she describes. And like Brooke wrote, I think you will probably look back and laugh because, yeahhhh, that bathtub is a HOOT! :)

I am so glad you have internet back. That is a huge bonus!

Hang in there, good luck with getting as settled as you can in the funky house, and I hope things will start looking up soon!! Only two and a half months until SPRING! And spring is gorgeous in France, I think. :)

Emma said...

You just keep blogging girl! I loooooove the bath in your haunted, desolate house... as Brooke G said, you will look back and laugh (eventually). Because, truly, what an adventure you are giving your girls, along with the priceless lesson that a home is not about who has the best curtains or the fanciest appliances or the cleanest linen cupboard, but about where the people you love are. They will grow up to be resilient and accomodating and have a sense of humour about things that may go awry.

The photos from England were lovely. I am sitting next to my open window listening to the cicadas and trying to remember back to the one 'white christmas' i have had.

Betsy said...

How did you all get so darn smart. I appreciate the perspective. My mind was starting to get so narrow it was caving in on itself. Thanks all.

Andrea Frazer - Pass the Zoloft said...

I love the photos also!