It’s so hard to say this, but although I’ve loved you well and truly for several years now, the time has come to leave you. A bitter time.
It’s especially hard to leave in winter, when you’re chilly, deserted. It seems that you might need me more, when your streets are empty. When the summer people are gone, the rest of us huddle together a bit more, breathe more freely, take a little more time to talk. It’s too hard to go today, but it won’t be any easier tomorrow.
Your casual summertime friends, on their way to the Office of Tourism, know you so differently than I do. They see your classic beauty
and not so much your quirky asymmetries.
They might wander the Rue Sigalon, but would they ever imagine that within the tiny cinema one can see a live Metropolitan Opera broadcast of Carmen, or a live performance of the Vagina Monologues?
They might stop for a glass of wine at a sidewalk café
but would they ever find their way into our favorite spot, where Odette knows our order before we ask?
They might stop into Hervé’s shop, but will he cut their hair as tenderly as he does mine?
Walking and weeping my way around town, bidding my au revoirs, I almost couldn’t bear to say nous partons. We’re leaving.
How to say goodbye to Christi and her adorable husband, who sell Shel’s favorite roast chickens, who will be having a baby soon, a baby that we won’t be here to see?
How to leave André
and Christian, who have sold me fruits and vegetables hundreds and hundreds of times, Christian who calls me “charmante dame?” No one’s ever called me that before.
How is it possible to move away from a house that has a bakery right next door, where every morning Shel goes, barely dressed and combed, to get something freshly baked by Monsieur Quanté?
But harder than that, oh, much harder, for me at least, is leaving my dear Nadine and Marie, keepers of the butcher shop of my dreams, where they’ve given me the very best of everything, including cooking instructions, recipes and little French language lessons, always with the brightest of smiles, and who sent us off to America with a gift of soft warm scarves to protect us against cruel fate.
And oh dear heaven, Dorindo and Thierry, who have brought so much beauty into our home, always knowing what was needed to fill our lives, and the lives of our guests, with the sweetest of the flower world, and who sent us back to America with dozens of kisses and some lovely embroidered covers for pots of homemade jam, jams that I used to share with them, but now, won’t.
And then, Marie. Marie who has kept our house and our lives in order from the beginning, teaching us how a French household should be kept, tending Beppo and Zazou when we were away, doing everything possible to make our lives easier and tidier than we’d ever imagined. If only I could put her in my pocket and bring her with me.
So many faces I’ll be longing to see as soon as we’re away from here. And that’s not even mentioning our friends, the people you’ve read about here over the years, the people that have made our lives rich beyond imagining.
But our bags are packed, and boy are there a lot of them – 21 to be exact, a whole life reduced to 21 containers taped and bubble-wrapped to a faretheewell.
A truck on its way from Spain to London pulled up at our door, only 5 minutes after the last box was taped shut, and now our whole life is on the road, out there somewhere.
Beppo and Zazou have their French kitty passports and they too are out there, somewhere. Actually, they’re in the kitty hotel, waiting to be sent speeding across the sky, in a way quite unnatural for cats, to join us in another 10 days.
We’re all going now, every one of us, every last scrap of stuff, leaving behind these beloved faces and places, a trail of tears and sniffle-filled Kleenex littering our wake.
Because as much as I love you, Uzès, I love Shel more. Yes, even more than I love our French life. And we have to go where he has a chance to get well, so we can come back here and kiss those dear faces once again. And if we can’t come back, well, we’ve had all that we’d dreamed of here, and more. We’ve spent the happiest part of our married life right here, in your arms.
Yours forever, gros bisous,