Wednesday, April 06, 2011

What, or who, we're leaving behind

Did I forget to mention Ian isn't coming back to America with us?

Not right away, anyway.  We are leaving him behind to get on with finishing, or at least somehow wrapping up, the farmhouse project--no, it's not done--while we get on with reclaiming our former life and homestead.

Daunting is not a big enough word.

And is this arrangement even sensible? I don't know. But I do know that we are ready, and Ian isn't quite, and without that monthly rent check to keep us buoyed financially, my constant suggestions we go to Paris, or the alps, anywhere but here, each and every weekend and school holiday become even more fiscally delusional than they already were. (This is not why we're coming home early, mind you, just one of the factors.)

I will readily admit to being a high maintenance wife here in France. Knowing that Paris, the Pyrennes, Brittany, and the Mediterranean, not to mention all of western Europe is just a train ride away is a constant distraction. I can see Ian's productivity tripling with us out of the picture for a few months. (No longer than four.)

I crawled into bed with Esther the other night to help her warm up her ice floe mattress--it gets so cold, the cotton sheets feel wet. We wiggled and snuggled into each other, fondling the hot water bottle with our feet, desperately willing away the frigid air under the covers and willing the heat of our bodies into the the sheets and beyond.

Finally, Esther said, “When I was in the kitchen just now, it was like a button had been pressed and suddenly I could imagine what it’s going to be like without Daddy in America with us.”

Ouch. I've been waiting for this detail to sink in. I haven’t located that button yet. I am in complete denial. I am forced to forge ahead, not think about it too much, to take whatever comes my way and hope I will rise to the occasion, tap into my inner pioneer woman, and not take my frustrations out on my kids too much.

Is it sane? This plan of ours? I don't know.

I can’t stand the thought of him here, across the ocean, and us back there. While I'm not too concerned he will go looking to the toothless, house-dress sporting widows in the area for private French lessons, I will be worried for him every day. He will be pining for us, his daughters and his trouble and strife, that's me, every day. He loves being a husband and a father. This much I know.

He came up behind Esther at the computer last night, and carefully gathered her still wet- from- bathing hair off of her neck and twisted it into a ponytail in his large hands. He said nothing.

He didn't need to.


Laree said...

I wondered about the farmhouse project. It didn't sound like it was ready to be done.

I feel your pain. My hubby left for a 4 month internship 2 months after our wedding. It was super hard (but we didn't have kids yet)

Now he's a pilot. He's gone 4 days out of every week.

It's hard. Really REALLY hard at first. But, just like pretty much anything in this life, you do actually get used to it eventually.

sharonhofmann said...

You'll be amazed at how strong you are. My husband was away a lot when my kids were babies and I look back and wonder how I did it. But I did. I also appreciate so much more when he is home now.

Living Down Under said...

Oh Betsy. Not sure what to write... Positive or negative?

Positive first? You can and will rise to the occasion filling in for Daddy when you need to. The things that stress you in France won't be there at home so you'll hopefully have more of you to give if that makes any sense.

OK so now the hard part. Please make sure that this isn't for too long. As a child, we spent several years where my dad lived in another town for work and we saw him on weekends. And for awhile it was another country and we saw him during school hols. We missed him terribly at the beginning but it did affect our relationship with him. As an adult, my partner spends a lot of time on the road for work. It's never easy on the kids and definitely not easy on me (especially here where we have no family support system). I don't mean to be a wet blanket. Life sometimes throws things our way and we have to deal. Just don't make it too long. :)

And you're right. Without you lot there he'll probably spend every spare minute getting the farmhouse done so he can come home to you.

Wishing the best for you guys. Happy you're getting to home but sad as well, as I've enjoyed hearing about your french adventures. I'm sure you're having the same bittersweet feelings?

It'll all be good. We'll be moving home soon too (though not quite as soon as you!). It'll be good :)

Living Down Under said...

PS: The photos are beautiful. The one with Ian and the baby (Essie or Isla?) is gorgeous.

And your words too. The ponytail thing. Reminds me of my mum playing with mu hair (when it was long), even as an adult. Really beautiful.

i.ikeda said...

We're facing a similar dilemma right now, although not the same distance. My husband has an opportunity to take a job 14 driving hours away and I'm not even sure where I'll be able to move with him. It won't be exactly easy to see each other on most weekends. We know it's the best choice for us right now, but it's going to be hard. The prospect is daunting, and I know we'll miss him as much as he'll miss us. I just hope once my research is done, I can find a position in the schools where he'll be.

Do you have an idea of how long it might take him to finish the project? I think having a timeframe might make it more bearable for everyone. Good luck with everything.

Betsy said...

LivingDown Under: That is, that was, Isla. She's hard to recognize, but looks so much like her daddy in that pic, I had to include it.
And don't worry, I forgot to disclose the detail about how long, and it is only for the end of the summer, September at the latest. Four months is our set limit for being apart.

Janet in Italy said...

Oh, Betsy, what a touching and beautiful post, as always! You choked me up on that last mental image of Ian, Esther, and the ponytail.
I had a feeling this inevitable decision would someday arrive. I'm happy that you'll be coming back home, but, as "Living Down Under" said so poignantly, I'm sure the decision is bittersweet for you all.
When will you be returning home? I bet Ian will finish up that farmhouse in no time, so that you can all be together again!
I too wil miss reading about your French adventures, but I'll look forward to reading about new ones back in VT! Bonne Chance et Bon Voyage!!

MT said...

Seriously, seriously, are you kidding me? Did you know that my husband is still in Geneva? We moved back to Canada and I started my new job here and then Chris went back to Geneva leaving me here with the 3 kids. You are spooking me out now.

Anonymous said...

Betsy: I am in tears after your description of Ian twisting her hair into a ponytail. Your writing is so moving. I hope you have a collection of shirt stories or a novel to share with the world someday. I would stand in line for that!
Take care,

Betsy said...

MT: I did not know that. You will have to share your lone-wife wisdom with me.

MT said...

We have very similar, and very different lives. I should specify that Chris is currently there on a 3 month contract only. I'm not sure how wise I am, nor if my wisdom would be applicable to Vermont-maple-syrup eaters, but if you do want some misery loves company support feel free to email me. You have my email address on your "Stunned and humbled" post...

Anonymous said...


I was away from my husband for 18 months. That was 7 to 8 1/2 years ago and I will never stop appreciating having him right here. The way that he smells, the way that he feels against me in bed when he's breathing deep with sleep, just seeing him walk or talk to me. There are so many things that I could mention. I can tell you that reading your post made me cry just thinking about that time in my past and in your future.

I hope that he comes home to all of you quickly. Keep us all posted.

sharon said...

You can do it. You will be back home, which is always easier, and you will have friends and family to catch up with. I take the kids home every summer for 6 weeks (often by myself) and the husband and I have had several periods apart (18 months was the longest stretch but he was home every 8 weeks for a bit). And you are right, he will get so much more done w/o you there and have a huge incentive to finish :-)

So glad you are going home.
Sharon in Prague

Pennie said...

In early August, when C was maybe 4 days old, our air conditioner went kaput, and my husband insisted that me and the baby stay with his mom, where it was cool and quiet while he prepared us to move. It ended up being two months. He came to see us almost every day, but usually only for a couple hours because of work, and only stayed overnight a couple of times (he and his mom fight too much for more than that ;) ). If we, in that precarious time, could do it, you can do this too. You'll always be surprised at what you can do.

Seamingly Sarah said...

I can't believe you're leaving france! I go away for a few weeks to have a baby and this is what happens! I love your writing and the way you convey your life into words will never cease to hook me.

And although your Ian (did you know I have an Ian too?) will be delayed it won't be forever. Good luck.

Emma said...

oh wow Betsy, that will be a challenge. At least the girls (and you) will have the excitement of returning home and catching up with friends and family to bouy you up a bit. And yes, I bet Ian will get lots and lots done. From your descriptions of him, he sounds like my husband, personality wise- someone who puts their head down and gets on with a task. (unlike me who can find plenty to procastinate with!)

Megan said...

Woah, woah... you're leaving? The sun has been shining here in Paris and I have not kept up with my Babes In The Woods blog!

I'm sorry that your family will be separated for a bit.

... but you're going home!!

My husband travels a lot and I know it hurts his heart to be away from us. One thing that we do is write him little notes (jokes/homemade story books/photos/art projects, ect.)and then send them with him so he can open one or two each day when he's missing us. He loves it. Maybe your girls would have fun making surprises to leave for their Papa before they leave? You can send videos each day, call, write... I'm sure you will find creative ways to not feel so apart.

You are the sweetest family and you're off to embark on a new adventure! Cheers!

(I'm looking forward to going back and reading the lead up to this post.)

Betsy said...

Megan: Paris must be gorgeous. We were in Versailles last weekend and it was delicious in the evening, all the cafes full and lively. We imagined Paris....
I am worried we won't get back there before we leave, though I really, really want to say goodbye to my new favorite city. I might have to run away..
Thanks for the tips. I am sure we will survive, yes. But leaving France has proven harder than I thought. I am paralyzed with the finite quality of it all.

kebrown2007 said...

You and the girls will get through this, and Ian will be back before you know it. If you need anything, I'm only 10 minutes from VT.

Mama Badger said...

Betsy I have no good advice for this one. You and Ian are such good partners in crime. You are right, though, with you gone he will be far more productive. He can use the project to give his days structure and meaning, and you will use "getting back into life" in Vermont to get through yours. And in the end? He is coming home. (oh, and he can send you fabulous presents from France to remind you and the girls of your time there!)