Monday, March 18, 2013


Esther told me last night that she is a true "Sagittarian."

 "I like it here, but I always have that feeling that I want to go other places and see other things," she said.

I told her I know "exactly" how she feels. I'm so often plagued by this feeling. I think I'm still in denial that we are no longer in France and have ended up right back where we started from, on this breezy mound in Vermont. My only consolation about being back here, aside from the fact that it's stunningly beautiful, even in the dead of winter when you feel as if you're trapped in a charcoal drawing, black and white and multiple shades of grey wherever you look, is that I'm close to my parents again. That and it's an idyllic, you could say kick ass, place to raise children.

Is that enough of a reason to decide where you let your roots stretch the deepest? It will have to be, because it's all I've got.

Though I've kept up the appearance of being back, and having Ian with us again is an amazing relief, if you were to look closely you might see certain signs of lack of commitment here and there in between the lines.

Our phone, for instance. I bought it a year and a half ago and got a new account and phone number with Vermont Telephone and I still haven't figured out how to use my answering machine nor have I set up a greeting for said answering machine. We've been relying all this time on the automatic voice mail system. When someone calls and we're not here or, more likely don't get to the phone in time because I haven't adjusted the  ring limit,  a strange woman's voice says " The person you are calling, "Betsy Shaw (in my voice), is not available. Leave a message please." 

How hard could it be to record a greeting that says
"You have reached the home of Betsy, Ian, Essie and Isla? If you doubt we live here, check out the mess of hockey sticks and skis and poles on the porch. Then venture further and try to open the door fully without it getting stuck on the bumpy carpet of footwear for every occasion and every sport and every kind of weather possible, on the mudroom floor. Then, step into our kitchen where you will see evidence of humans who live a bit like squirrels, casting the shells of our nuts here and there, leaving cereal bowls in front of the fire where we ate breakfast, and the overstuffed compost bucket on the counter that all of us have learned to ignore until the moment a potato peel actually reaches out and grabs our sleeve when we are reaching past it for the olive oil."

Perhaps that's too long of a greeting?

I ran into someone I know the other day and she was telling me about her daughter who teaches at an international school in Germany. All at once I started swooning with envy at the thought of having a stable job that allowed me to bring my children with me to Europe.

But you've already done that, Betsy. You're back now. You chose to come home. Oh, right, yes. I'd almost forgotten. Silly me.

And as much as the kids are badgering me for new dog, preferably, by their standards, a puppy, I  am hesitant, nay petrified, to make that kind of commitment. I'm not sure this ship could handle an anchor that heavy. Next thing you know we'll have two cats in the yard......

Do you know the Regina Spektor song, Fidelity?  
 "I never loved nobody fully. Always one foot on the ground. And by protecting my heart truly I got lost in the sounds. I hear in my mind all of these voices I hear in my mind all of these words I hear in my mind all of this music. And it breaks my heart."

Though apparently about love, this song always makes me think of wanderlust. Instead of always having one foot on the ground, I seem to always have my mental bags packed. Just in case I get the urge for going.

But it's good to know at least one of my daughters has her bags packed too . Makes for a quicker getaway.


Emma said...

I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. Maybe if you allow yourself those feelings of restlessness, and don't pretend that you are content to stay put forever, then you'll actually feel more at home?? Home may be where the heart is, but there's no law that says that has to be just one place.

Anonymous said...

I am a sagittarian too, and I know exactly what you mean. I love my home,but I am always restless, always want to see other places. I also know the fun of having a child who feels as you do :)

Susu Paris Chic said...

I lived in Paris for ten years. Now I live in Quebec City. I found your blog thru Karin's who also used to be my "real life" friend in Paris. I miss Paris terribly at times, up to being depressed as of today... I thought that reading you could be a good way to "compare notes".

Was Living Down Under said...

And I thought I was the only one who felt like that. And I'm not a 'Sagittarian'.

I keep having to remind myself as well that I chose to come back. But I think it's that whole thing about choosing for yourself or choosing for your children. Growing up in one spot is good for children (having moved around a lot growing up I wanted something different for my children). I think that stability and proximity to family are important. And so I base my decisions on those values.

However those values are in conflict with my need to keep moving, to dream, to not sit still. I am not sure that this listlessness would be solved if I was on the move. Is it a hunger for something more than what I have? Is it a dissatisfaction with the life/job/situation that I've chosen for myself? I'm not sure.

There's a children's book called "The Snail and the Whale" by Julia Donaldson. It's about a snail with an itchy foot who isn't content to sit on the black rock with his mates. He wants to see the world so he hitches a ride with a whale. I think Esther has an itchy foot. Not a bad thing. But being on the go forever doesn't necessarily bring contentment. And therein lies my problem...

Anonymous said...

Traveling is an adventure. We glean different things from every place we go. They all have their own "feeling/s". The thing is, there are so many more places to experience. Always. I think that we believe that we're looking for the "perfect place", but what, or where, is that really? Maybe it's a little bit of everywhere. Some places more than others, definitely. For me, it's definitely green, mountainous, and has that perfect smell when I'm standing on top of a grassy hill. I haven't found it yet. Maybe someday.....


Dana said...

My dream is to have enough money so I can buy another place in the world (currently it is in Paris) where I spend half my time there and half my time at home where my friends and family are. It does presuppose I have enough money to live on.... and it probably won't be until the kids are independant. Oh well, nice dream but I do know people who actually do it.

Karin P (Do Overs in Denver) said...

It's the curse of once having been an expat never again wanting to feel your feet on the ground! Maybe a little Sagittarian, too, lol, but this Taurus lady feels it a lot as well, and I am not "supposed to."

An aside, because I just saw it: Oh hey, look!! Susa commented! She is delightful & I am so glad she found your blog. :-)

Anyway, this rang so true to me: "But you've already done that, Betsy. You're back now. You chose to come home. Oh, right, yes. I'd almost forgotten. Silly me."

I was not expecting to be back the way I came back, but there is a rightness to how I did as well. My seven year old needed me, and the Universe sucked me out of France and plopped me back in the US. I have to be here now, so there is no going back, but I do mourn the possibilities of being other places and doing other things.

I did choose to come home when push came to shove.

You know, I felt the same way after living in China from 1990-1991, too. It was only one year spent there, but I caught the bug. I did not leave the US until about 17 years later... Maybe it will be a similar situation for me with regard to France.

I always did want to see Thailand, Bhutan, India. I'll be a lot older, and maybe not as travel-able, but I love to think about it. :-)

One thing I do to help me out is keep certain "foreign" traditions alive in my home. I still cook a lot of Chinese-style food, and now I only buy Bonne Maman or St Dalfour jams, haha! I try to keep my American home as "expat friendly" as possible, and ensure that I don't lose that travel-minded, restless foot syndrome (of the wandering kind), even if I won't be traveling for some time.

Hugs to you all. I do very much get all of you and your myriad mixture of feelings.


Ceciel said...

I love your greeting ! So evocative :)

Anonymous said...

Betsy - love the part of your greeting that refers to the compost bucket. Awesome and perfect.
Keep talking, we're listening.