I’m having all of the necessary, predictable reservations about our decision to leave.
Just like a woman who decides to leave her gorgeous, interesting, successful, but -not-exactly-right-for-her boyfriend, the finality of the decision has left me fraught with nostalgia for France’s sweet side.
Her apple and cherry blossom gauziness has returned to woo me, visually, romantically and sensually. It's as if all of Burgundy is wearing an intricate veil, making her beauty all the more intriguing. Buds have sprouted into neon-green leaves. Everywhere I look, there are flowers, gauzy, white, pink, yellow, blue flowers. The landscape has softened, after a winter of sharpness. The very air is sweet. Doux. Why does the coming of Spring surprise me every time? I'm like that goldfish in Ani DiFranco's song, Little plastic castle.
Suddenly, I am insatiable for her food. A bacon, tomato and chevre sandwich on an exquisitely crusty baguette traditionne from the Avallon bakery practically seduced me last week. I ate half of it with one hand, while hurtling down the N6.
And Ian made a simple salad of shallots, petit poids and new radishes last week. The kids turned their noses up at it. I ate the entire bowl. It was if I was trying to fill a deep hole, with food.
And her people, her people: They are suddenly all so friendly and familiar.
Yesterday, at the stable, I loved France, and the Pesteau Farm, with such a fervent passion I could scarcely breathe.
Everything seemed right and perfect and preferable about it. The sun, the green hills, the fuzzy ponies offering themselves up to my eager children as a means of self discovery. First Esther, looking so capable, so confident up there on top of her favorite frisky pony, Hitouche. So centered in her seat, taking all the instructions, in French, without falter.
Then Isla, overcoming her fear of trotting, and her allergies. Smiling while trotting. Reins in one hand, her other firmly grasping the pommel, or a Kleenex, her little seat also so firm and centered, listening intently to her teacher, smiling, letting out little squeaks of excitement laced with fear, laced with self satisfaction. Swoon.
The look on her face was mostly one of pride. Seeing my kids proud of themselves has got to be one of the most awe-inspiring, spiritual pats on the back motherhood has ever handed out.
I was crying under my sunglasses for most of the morning. Crying as Isla trotted round and round the indoor ring. Crying as Esther led Isla on her pony across the brook and through the cross country obstacles. Crying as Isla lay her head across her pony's mane an ducked under the poles. Crying as she reached into her pocket, got her own mouchoir out, and blew her nose. I'm a mess.
And talking, again, with Eloise's mother, a woman whose name I will never learn, but who I have always enjoyed talking to. I told her we were leaving. She was surprised. Our conversation came easy, of course, now that I’m leaving.
And I was filled with regret for the time lost at ballet, which Isla also loves, but which has pulled me away from those ringside talks. I didn’t find them at the ballet studio. I definitely don’t find them at the school gates.
The most reliable place to find connection has always been African Dance. Last night was no different. No disappointment. I returned after months away, two months perhaps, and was soooo happy to be back in that room full of my people. My tribe.
Vivienne was more friendly than ever, was that my imagination? and we spoke with ease, as we lay on mats, side by side. We chatted like school girls, like old friends, as we warmed up. Why is my French pouring so readily out of my mouth, after all this time?
And the banter, and the joking and the smiling faces all around the room, so welcoming, so warm, so familiar. Forging connections in these estranged circumstances is so challenging but so incredibly rewarding.
Vivienne made sure I was coming back next week for the live drummers. I sealed the deal by paying up front. Hopefully I will stay healthy.
My winter sinus infection saga went on too long. Finally seeing the ORL was another miracle: The miracle of French health care. I felt better within 24 hours. And, as usual, my session with the doctor, the successful communication, was another feather in my cap. And the ease and accessibility and affordability of French health care glared at me with an accusing eye. Why would you trade this for American health care robbery?
I don’t know. I don't know.
It’s all bittersweet. It is all another chapter. A new chapter. Another new chapter in a book that has seemingly endless chapters. It’s time to turn the page. But wait, I just want to read that part again...
The leaving France theme is pervasive. There will be so much to miss, like French school lunches, and the sound of Isla playing in French with her friend Cassandra, and just knowing that Esther and Isla are working for world peace in their own small way. All this, and more, over at Momformation.