Posted tagged ‘Return to France’

Heading Home

July 13, 2017


Tomorrow I’m headed home to Uzès, one more time. It’s a funny thing about the idea of home. Sometimes I miss my island home, sometimes I feel right at home here in Walla Walla. Pretty much always I miss the home in Uzès where Shel and I lived for so long, the friends we loved, the familiar sights and sounds and flavors.

Because I stayed in another house when I was last there, two years ago, it’s been four whole years since I slept in the bed Shel and I shared for more than 1000 nights. Four years since I awoke to the tuneless, no-nonsense clanging of the bell in the nearby convent and the smell of bread from the bakery next door. And just over two years since we laid his ashes to rest by the pool where I plan to swim every day for the next week.

It’s going to be hot, in the 90s the whole time, and of course there’s no air conditioning in the house. Just the cool tile floors, the shutters closed during the day, the crisply ironed sheets, and the chilly, inviting swimming pool. I’m planning to spend a lot of time in that pool, doing just what I used to do. My trick is to put a nice glass of pastis at one end of the pool, then swim laps. Two laps, a sip. Four more laps, another sip. One can, and I used to, spend hours like that. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my cranky shoulder will hold up to that regime.

I’ll hug and kiss old friends but won’t be there long enough to make new ones. But even though the time will be almost unbearably short, that’s why I’m going, for those hugs and kisses, those beloved faces, the hot streets, the packed-beyond-belief summer market, to see which shops and restaurants have closed and which new ones have opened, to have lunch on the terrasse with a vast assemblage of patés, cheeses, and olives, and rosé by the gallon.

Ma vie d’antan me tend les bras. My old life is waiting for me with open arms, and tomorrow I’ll fly straight into them.

Return And Turn Again

November 12, 2014

DSC_9232Here I go, on my way back to France, via a week in London. In London my plan is to be as much of a tourist as possible, so I promise to show you all the sights, as soon as I get used to traveling on my own after 20 years of travelling with Shel.

Once in France I plan to nestle in, finding a French life that can be mine alone. Shared with you, of course, but otherwise mine, all mine. Wish me luck and please come along for the ride. It might get a bit rocky, but I hope it will be rewarding.

The Power Of A Kiss

October 2, 2013

IMG_8052Being kissed all day, isn’t that everyone’s dream? When we first arrived back in France we were dazed and exhausted, and I was quite revoltingly ill from something I’d eaten during the 21 hour voyage from one home to another. I languished in bed our entire first day here, forcing Shel to revive his French at a much-faster-than-anticipated rate. But yesterday I was able to emerge into the world and take stock of our old-new life.

The cherry tree had been badly pruned and was bleeding sap, albeit beautifully. The sun shone warmly, and I was able to swim, although the water was startlingly cold. Refreshing and revivifying as that was, the real lifesaver was being kissed up one side and down the other. Folks we haven’t seen in almost two years greeted us with enthusiastic kisses everywhere we went, and were especially appreciative to see Shel looking well, since most of them had never expected to see him again at all.

So even though I still feel disoriented walking in the street, those bisous are anchoring me securely. Six sweet kisses at the green grocer’s, six at the butcher’s plus a hand kiss, fifteen or twenty from other friends, and that in just the same number of hours it took us to travel between worlds. Plus, I know that in just 22 minutes I’ll get another three.  It makes me feel like Sleeping Beauty, and like I’m coming back to life.

Heading For Home

September 27, 2013

DSC_7610-001Sometimes it’s impossible to see where you’re going, even though everyone around you is in the clear. Sometimes it seems like you’re living in a perpetual fog, unable to find your way. Sometimes you’re just dépaysé, disoriented, far from home. And that’s how French Letters has felt lo these 20 months, far from France, out of its element.

But now, actually tomorrow, French Letters will be repatriated, however briefly. We’re heading back to France for six weeks, to our same town, same house, same friends, same life, our vie française. Of course, you can never really go back. One couple of friends has gotten a divorce. A beloved teacher has retired. We’re no longer on speaking terms with a neighbor. Shel will play in a band with different members. And those are just the changes we know about. There are bound to be many others, given the passage of time.

We’re leaving our island with heavy hearts, because our beloved Beppo has never come home, and we now believe, as much as we can’t bear to admit it, that he’ll never come home again. But like that ferry in the fog, we can’t see everything that’s out there, we just don’t know all that’s going on around us, even on such a minute scale. Sadness envelops us like a cold mist, but joy might be just around the corner.

les palmiers 766

And if it’s going to be anywhere, it’ll be lying in wait for us here, in what was for so long our heart’s own home. The wisteria won’t be in bloom, that we know. More wineglasses will have been broken by summer guests, that we know for sure too. Shel will go next door to the bakery every morning, sure as sunrise. And for the rest, well, we’ll just wait and see. Come along with us for our fifth return home.

Back In The Land

March 6, 2011

Marie met us at the gate, bearing keys, and essentials like coffee, sugar, and jam for the morning. There was really no way to hug her enough, without it getting ridiculous. Katherine and Bert sent flowers from Holland, saying “Welcome Home.” Dorindo and Thierry delivered them, with countless hugs and kisses.

Our next door neighbor Jean-Claude walked us through his new house, almost finished now. Madame Amblard, on the other side, had tears in her eyes when she saw that we were back. We walked into town and did some shopping, glad that nothing at all seems to have changed during the year we were away.

Maryse came to dinner and brought a special bottle of wine, her childhood favorite.

She and Shel had tarte aux pommes for dessert,

now that we’re back in the land where the baker is proud enough to sign his name to his work. We talked until midnight, when not another word of our terribly unaccustomed French could be coaxed from our tongues. All that was just during our first 30 hours here.

We fell into bed, not knowing what time zone to call home, but deeply weary and grateful for our cozy bed. We woke up early this morning, and lo and behold, the dream was still coming true.

And We’re Off

March 2, 2011

Tomorrow we’re going back to France, a thing I won’t truly fathom until we land in Paris. We dreamed the impossible dream, and now it’s coming true, against all the odds. Génial ! Wonderful! Fantastique !

We’re limiting ourselves to one suitcase each, which turns out to be easier than I’d thought it would be.  We each get 50 pounds, but amazingly both of our bags are a bit underweight.  I suddenly realized “hey, I wear the same pair of jeans almost every single day here at home, why do I need more than that in France?”  Well, actually I do need more, but not that much more. We already know that where we’re going is very casual, and usually warm.  We won’t be dressing up, and we have a washer and dryer.  And, drum roll, there are stores in France!  If we need something we can buy it.  I don’t have to take shampoo and toothpaste and band aids and all the paraphernalia that filled our five gigantic suitcases the first time we moved to France, because now I know exactly where to find everything, how to live on the local economy. It’s a great feeling, liberating.

Today as I was out doing errands I was thinking about how to explain something in French, something technical to do with a bottle of wine I’m taking over, and when a woman held a door open for me I automatically said “Merci, Madame.” I think I’m ready to be there, well-worn jeans, rusty French and all. When next we chat, I’ll be here:

My computer sits right inside that lower window, the one opening onto the balcony. See you there.

Counting The Minutes

February 27, 2011

In just a few days we’ll see the venerable Pont du Gard, our dear friends, the town where we lived so happily for so long, our dear rented house where we spent some of the happiest days of our lives. In less than a week we’ll be repatriated to that life, just one year to the day after we left it. When we walked out that door we didn’t believe we’d ever be back, Shel’s health seemed so precarious that we couldn’t imagine a time when he would be able to return. And now here we are, almost ready to go.

I say “almost ready” in the loosest possible sense of the phrase, since we’re not packed at all.  In fact, we’re not going to pack until tomorrow, when Beppo and Zazou are spirited away to the luxury kitty hotel where they’ll be spending the next three months. Packing upsets them, and we already feel guilty enough about leaving them.  I know they’d rather be in France with us, especially Zazou, who might long for her native land. But it’s such a long and arduous journey for a cat, and to make them do that twice in three months seems cruel and unusual. So they’ll stay where they can be pampered, and we’ll go to where we can pamper ourselves, albeit catless.

We’re exercising a strict packing discipline too, just in case we have to get home in a hurry.  One suitcase each, that’s it. We’re allowed 50 lbs in that suitcase, and I’m assuming that the weather is going to be warm every day we’re there, because only summer clothes could possibly fit into that tiny weight limit. One sweater, that’s it for me, cross my fingers and hope for sun.

And speaking of crossing, I keep making lists, crossing things off, adding new things to do faster than I can cross out the old ones.  But I know that by Wednesday night when we give our suitcases that final zip, all will be well.  Moving from one country to another is predictable chaos, at first you think it can’t be managed, then you run around in circles for a little while trying not to shriek, then you’re sitting in an Air France plane sipping free Champagne.  Four more days.