Sunday, June 07, 2015

Life's Grand Adventure

I have been keeping a secret for nearly two years now. Well, my husband and I have. We'd started considering moving back to the USA for quite some time but each time we brought up the topic the timing just didn't seem right for me.

At first I felt "I hadn't been in France long enough yet to get to know it, enjoy it, before I just turn around again."

Then there were other reasons where it just didn't seem right.

Then, in the Spring of 2013 life began taking on new directions. My husband's work relocated from filming in Bordeaux (exteriors) and Paris (interiors) to everything being filmed in the South of France. Due to internal politics, we decided to stay in Paris until we knew the show would continue into its 10th season without being cancelled suddenly.

Also, in France, children go to a pre-school/kindergarten called Maternelle and it's a very big part of French life. It's not mandatory but I would say 99.9999999% children go for all three years. My son started in the French Maternelle and we didn't feel like moving him before the 3rd year only to possibly have to move again. I know everyone says children adapt, but if I didn't have to do it, I didn't want to.

So, we stayed put for my son to start his third year in Maternelle (Kindergarten year). My husband began commuting to the South of France for work. Before, when the show (Section de Recherches) filmed in Bordeaux/Paris he was rarely in Bordeaux (one time) and would be on the Paris set for one week, but home at night. Starting in about June 2014, he began going to Grasse for about 3-weeks at a pop, including weekends. The first few times he left for such a stint I was frazzled. The 5-week stint with no visit was a real humdinger! Now, I'm used to it. Although, as a happily married couple, living like we're separated feels odd sometimes. And of course, I won't know fully what it means to our son until maybe years later.

Well the show is going well but we still have this vision of moving back to the States. We've discussed it for five years. But where to go? NYC, or even the tri-state region, seemed out of the question. We both wanted to have space. Have a house. A place where our son could ride his bike without fear of busy city streets. Get a dog again. S-p-a-c-e... And, having lived in cities for 25 years, I too was feeling like it might be nice to get out of a city.

Looking further North we considered Boston but other than my father and step-mother (and her daughter's children) we didn't have much connection. I'd done some Cocktails with Courtney events there, but it wasn't a city we felt any real pull towards...

We thought about New Orleans. I have a lot of Pulitzer cousins there. It's where my grandfather came from. Well, he was born in St. Louis but his 11 other brothers and sisters were all born in either White Castle or NOLA. But other than a lot of 2nd cousins, and the fact that NOLA is truly an amazing example of a start-up city turning itself around after Hurricane Katrina, we had some reservations.

The Research Triangle, Charlotte, and Greensboro, NC were also all places we considered as, once again, I have family in all these areas as well. While we felt we could find jobs, once again we felt that after the initial novelty of the "French family" moving in, my sister, her children, and other cousins would quickly get busy back in their lives and in reality we might not have that family interaction we were seeking.

The last place I ever considered living was where my mother and step-father moved to in 1984: Tucson, AZ. I lived there one difficult year in High School after a wrenching custody battle. Always considering myself an East Coast girl, a New Yorker, and someone who loves green grass, trees, forests, fields, and all that comes from a childhood in Upstate New York, Tucson always felt the most foreign place to me.

And yet, it began looking like the best option. My mother was retired and I know would be able to help with things like school pickups, babysitting, etc. And, coincidentally my (French) husband has a cousin from his (Belgium) mother's side who lives 20 minutes from my mother's home. This cousin, coincidentally, is also a Tucson public school teacher (like my mother). And, she has three sons, all close in age to my son. We felt if he wouldn't have any siblings, at least he could grow up knowing cousins around his age. (All other cousins are older and "into their own things.")

Thinking about taking two Frenchmen to Tucson I did a quick search on "French in Tucson," not expecting much considering it's a one-hour drive to the Mexican border. However, low-and-behold there is an International School with a French section. The fact that my son could continue his French studies, while beginning to learn English, in a creative, encouraging, 0% tolerance of bullying, school was the near selling point.

Choosing to live closer to one parent over another is always something I think COD (children of divorce) always deal with. It feels like a sticky subject. And it is.

And yet, this time the move is under very different circumstances.

And so here we are: 30 days from departure. I sit surrounded by boxes and toys that my son pulls out of boxes. The pangs of sadness are sharper these past few days.

Paris has become my home. I've lived here seven years. I grew into a couple here. I grew into becoming a mother here. I struggled, I fought, I resisted, I changed, I adapted, I thrived here. I feel fully a part of French society today. Being a mother in France will do that, if you speak the language, get involved, volunteer, engage, and participate in your French life as much as you can. And I have.

And yet, here we go. Here we go, go, go on an adventure! (sorry: living with a toddler will do this to you!)

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Postcard from Paris (trois)

Bus, car and truck traffic a mess on all points leading to Alma Marceau. The King of Spain is in town. No notices on buses, metros or websites alerting people to use other forms of transportation (or find alternate routes). (For example my bus stopped at Alma Marceau and didn't cross the Seine to points East and South). 

Calling to organize a party for my son I also see they advertise ateliers for 50 euros. I ask for information about this, thinking i could save myself 150 euros (the cost of the anniversary is 200 euros). The woman on the line will not answer my question. Every single time I ask a question about the atelier, she answers with information for the birthday party. I don't even tell her it's a "going away" party because I fear, knowing the French, that she could very possbily refuse to do the animation for a number of reasons (we only do birthdays, we don't do parties for n'import quel raison, etc. etc. etc.)

And, most importantly, navigating the French codes while trying to help my son with bullying from his "friends" at school. My husband, while also feeling pain at this situation, gives the typical French response of, "we should let him learn to defend himself." My American friends give the "go talk to the parents, write a letter to the Principal, buy anti-bullying books and give them to the school!"  Sigh.

Monday, June 01, 2015

"Do you want a Coke?"

Here's a little entry I wrote in my son's journal...

May 27

It was a weird day because we went to the Unicef store to buy you the little blue car that you nearly shoplifted at Romain's birthday party. :?  We were 15 mins early so we waited in front. I noticed a homeless man across the street living in a kind of "Autolib" glass house. He waved but I looked away. Then I realized he may get your attention and I didn't want to say "don't wave to the homeless man" and get into a discussion on avoiding strangers, but he waved at you and you smiled and waved back before I could get you distracted again. I told you not to wave at strangers and to try not to look over at him again. "We don't wave to strangers" and "we don't know if they are nice people or not." (or something like that). Well within about 1 minute I catch him out of the corner of my eye moving, and then I watch him ambling quicker and quicker across the street directly to us, waiving and smiling. "Oh God, oh God" I just keep repeating. Thinking to myself "I hope this isn't going to go badly," as I clutch my large Louie (Louis Vuitton) bag close to my chest. He comes up smiling, extending his hand and says, tu veux un Coke? Over and over again. He tries to shake my hand but I am trying to avoid it and am just simply smiling and shaking my head saying Non. Non, merci... Then he reaches for your hand and (cause you're a nice boy) you extend your hand and shake his. So then he offers his hand to me and I'm not going to be rude so I shake it. I just keep saying Non to the Cokes and eventually he smiles and turns and leaves. (sigh). Now we have a longer discussion on how/why not to engage with strangers, and that you NEVER, EVER go with a stranger for a Coke, a candy, or a puppy. For n'importe quelle raison.