Last night, Konik woke up sad and scared. After cuddling with him for a few minutes, I put him back to bed and returned to my own. He went right back to sleep, but by that time, my brain wouldn’t turn off. For some reason, I started thinking about going to France. It’s not an unusual thought for me. I’ve been wishing for 6 years that we could go back. No, I’ve been dreaming about going back for fifteen years, ever since I returned from my first trip back in high school. I’ve tried to explain this longing to my family and to others who are curious about why I care so much about a country that isn’t my own. But it is mine.
When we were living there, my parents and youngest brother came to visit us. My brother asked me if I missed the United States. It was a good question. I did miss the U.S., but in an entirely different way than how I miss France when I’m away from there. I explained to him that it’s like the difference between being away from family versus being away from a lover. I’ve lived away from my family pretty much since I left for college, with the exception of the year following my graduation. Since that time, it’s a good year if I see any member of my family twice in a 12-month span. I do miss them, and I look forward to those times when we can be together, but it’s not an all-consuming ache. When Mr. Gren and I were dating, he went away on a month-long trip to Slovakia (and proposed three days after he returned). While we were apart, my heart ached for him; I wanted to be in his company; I missed him.
As an American, the U.S. is my home, my family. I know the ins and outs, the good, the bad and the ugly about life in America, just like we all know the best and worst parts of our own family. Then we meet someone we want to spend the rest of our lives with. We know that person isn’t perfect and that there will be times that he or she frustrates the heck out of us, but they’re worth it. The love and passion is deep enough to forgive the faults.
France is far from a perfect place. It has flaws and failings, but I love it with all my heart. And my heart longs to be back there. I don’t know if I will ever have the opportunity to live there again, but I continually hope and dream for the day that we can visit again. Rana was born there and although she was only 9 months old when we returned to the States, she, too, feels some of that longing to be back. We’ve talked to her so much about our time there, and all the places we took her. At one year old, she recognized photos of the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. She has heard our stories and can retell them as though she remembers the event. Picnicking on the Champs de Mars, squealing with joy at the sight of Winged Victory in the Louvre, falling asleep on the metro… And, funnily enough, Rana has some peculiar French mannerisms that I can only assume she absorbed through osmosis in her nine months there. France is in her blood, too.
So last night, I was imagining what it would be like to finally take our family on a trip to France. My imagination skipped right over the 9 hour flight with three small children and fast-forwarded to the part where I could show them the Eiffel Tower in real life. Let them touch it. Stage a picture in the Champs de Mars where we had that picnic so long ago. I imagined their reaction at being in the courtyard of the Louvre, being able to dabble their fingers in the triangle pools, entering through the pyramid, seeing the sphinx, touching the walls of the medieval Louvre. I pictured their faces standing in front of Notre Dame’s imposing façade, hearing the beautiful tones of the organ, inhaling the incense, then going outside to admire the statue of Charlemagne (who they know all about thanks to the brilliant videos made by historyteachers on YouTube). I smiled at the thought of their wonderment at experiencing the market and introducing them to my vegetable man. And the best part of all would be knowing that then they would come away with their own conscious memories of all these sights, sounds, and smells. And it’s good to have someone to share memories with when that longing sets in.