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!)