I am a thief. The wrecker of childhood friendships. Meddler in junior international relations.
We are going back to America. Abruptly.
After getting a depressing e-mail from our rental tenants back in Vermont, a long tale of roommate dysfunction and financial woe, I crawled into our dark bed, snuggled up next to Ian and worried.
Though he was still awake, I said nothing.
The next morning, I told him about the e-mail. With daylight the news became less and less ominous and more illuminating. Had we not been waiting for a sign about what to do next? When to call it an adventure? How to wrap up this raucous, seemingly-unending chapter of our lives up into some sort of responsible, adult ending?
Well. Here it was.
It is getting clearer and clearer to me now that it's time. We are outliving our income here. We have not the resources, or, seemingly, the audacity to consider exploring France, or Europe, further. Not that we haven't entertained the thought, endlessly.
While I still feel unsure, if not slightly defeated, about the thought of returning back to Go, I can’t see my way through how not to return.
How and why. Why wouldn’t we return? It is our home. The mountains, the trees, the snow, the spring peepers, the bugs, my family, our friends, our dog, our lovely house, all of it. Our home. Why wouldn’t we go home?
We never intended to stay in France indefinitely. It is no weakness to recognize that a foreign land, however beautiful and culturally rich, holds no deep intrigue, no sense of belonging for you. It is wisdom. Plain and simple.
I have tried and tried to deny that I am rigid in my needs. I need snow. I need sport. I need mountains, I need movement, activity, roots. Most of all, I need the complete connection of common language, something I don’t see happening for a long long time, if ever, here.
I need to feel my upper body sway and dance and shiver and shake in the elements but I need to feel my lower half firmly rooted to one place. How liberating it is to admit this. I want my home. I need my home. This free floating is no longer for me. Even a sea captain longs for the home he leaves behind each time he sets sail. As do I. It’s not human weakness. It is human.
There is more to excitement than simply not being at home. My life may be inherently more interesting, in a logistical way, but it's not automatically fuller, or richer, because I am in France.
It may be different. It may be challenging. But it is not full in any sense of the word. It is in ways more shallow, somehow one dimensional. Living in a foreign language, without being able to fully express oneself, is like living behind glass. Being voiceless. I want to live in 3-D again.
I need attachment. A sense of place is what has driven me all my life.
Sometimes I have run from sense of place, especially that sense of place I've always derived from my birthplace. The rest of the time I have spent searching for it, lamenting the lack of it, analysing what it is exactly. Sense of place.
Where I fit in. How the world fits around me, like a stage. My backdrop, the backdrop for my play. My life.
Now that we’ve decided to go home, everything is taking on a surreal, bittersweet, last-chance, three -months- to- live quality. I've been watching the kids, not daring yet to tell them.
But the other night, with a Guinness in hand, for courage, sitting by the glowing coals of Ian’s bonfire at dusk, the air growing cold but the birds still singing busily, I told Esther and Isla.
Esther sat next to me by the fire, then said, as if on cue, “Let’s talk about something. Something fun. What should we talk about?”
“Well,” I smiled. “How about we talk about going home?”
“Okay, she said, thinking it was the usual circular conversation we have had so many times before.
“We are going home,” I said. "Soon. Really soon. Like maybe Easter, soon.”
Esther's eyes got big. Her face registered confusion.
I explained our reasons, gave her some more details. Then we got quiet and we both stared at the fire as it took on different shapes and moods. It was filled twinkling lights, like the glowing windows of fairy homes. Then I saw what looked like the Louvre burnt down to a shell, in the coals.
Isla, in my lap, said nothing. She acted as if we were talking about the weather.
I feel bad,” Esther finally said "I feel bad for Oliver and Georgia."
“Like you know that feeling when Evelyn told me she was going to be homeschooled?”
“Yes,” I said.
“But they will understand. They knew, on some level, you weren’t staying here forever.”
“Yea, but they didn’t know I was leaving before the school year was over."
Then, at dinner, we talked some more, and talked about Martha. I told Isla she would be able to go to Martha’s.
Finally, Isla tuned in.
“I’m going to Martha’s?
She got out of her chair, walked around the table, kissed me lightly on the cheek, and said, “Merci, Maman,” and walked back to her chair.
Since that day, she has asked me almost every day, "Are we going home to America today?"
"Not today," I say. "But soon. Real soon."