Once upon a time, I used to live in France. And just like Charles Dickens said, It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. But, despite the “worst of times,” not a day has gone by in the 6 years and 6 weeks since we left that I don’t think about being back there. For someone like me, who lived and breathed all things French since her sophomore year of high school, getting to actually live in France was a dream come true. Apparently my enthusiasm was contagious enough to infect my non-francophone husband. When the opportunity to move there came up one and a half years into our marriage, we were both excited about it and ready to go!
And for the past 6 years and 6 weeks, we’ve been trying to figure out how to get back. We haven’t even been able to go back for a visit. And the farther removed you are from something, the foggier the memories become, the more things change without you being able to witness the change firsthand. Thanks to Google Earth, we’ve found that our bakery, our favorite creperie, and the little craft shop I used to go to have all changed hands and all become something different. Maybe the neighborhood needed something different, but it’s hard not to feel a little pang of wistfulness knowing that it’s not the same. I guess, you always hope that people or places left behind will somehow freeze in time, ready to pick back up when you return. Kind of like when the Pevensie kids return to England from Narnia in the Chronicles of Narnia books. I suppose that creates its own set of problems.
I hate that international travel is so far out of our reach right now. Heck, we haven’t even been able to travel a few hours south to visit my grandparents. Our passports have expired and we can’t justify the money to renew them right now. Guess there won’t be any spur-of-the-moment trips overseas should we be the recipients of some fabulous windfall.
Since the likelihood of us getting back seems to diminish with each passing year, we do our best to bring little bits of France into our lives here. Even here in the cabin which is decidedly un-French. Sometimes I make French meals, especially if we can share it with friends. During the school year I tutored some junior high/high school students in French and I hope that will pick up again this year. Even if they can’t answer me, at least it gives me a reason to speak French. The screen saver on my computer is a slideshow of all the photos we took while we lived there; sometimes it’s the best reason to have the computer on — just to sit and watch all of those beautiful places go by. The kids like to ask about the pictures, too, which gives us a chance to tell stories, to help them understand.
Mr. Gren and I watched “Midnight in Paris” a couple of weeks ago and were pleasantly surprised. It captures that same wistful longing that we feel. The main character, Gil wants to remain in Paris and wishes to go back in time. Paris kind of does that to you. What was it like when _______? As far as I’m concerned, the answer is always the same: magical. Oh sure, time has smoothed over some of the bumps in the road from our time there, but we still remember the severely painful personal events, the frustrations of being a foreigner, the terror of the Prefecture (expats will know what I’m talking about on that one)… And yet… some of those things could have happened anywhere, and some of those things made our experience uniquely French. All of those things made us wiser.
And none of those things dulled the beauty of our time there.
I understand the sentiment. I am back now, but I know it is only temporary and I am so scared of wasting a moment. When you have been on the other side wishing you could go back so badly and regretting the moments you wasted, it seems such a rare gift to be in Europe again. Sleeping seems a waste at times, but then I remember each adventure is new and different and it is ok to sleep too 🙂
I know you understand! You were all a little skeptical of me way back when I told you that you’d miss it. 🙂 So now, make the most of it, but yeah, do make sure to sleep or you won’t remember any of it. 😉 Say hi to all the places that you missed the most; it helps! Try to work in something that you always wished you had done. And always tell yourself that you *will* make it back someday to do some of those other things that you didn’t have time for on this go ’round. 🙂
Beautiful thoughts and beautiful photos. Thanks for sharing.
I wish you and Mr. Gren and your babies could go back. ((((Hugs))))
Thank you, friends.
I think that any place that you live in for awhile grows to be a part of you (okay, well, maybe not Pueblo from what Rachel says ;)). I feel a similar way to the Philadelphia area where we lived for two years. There’s so much we didn’t get to do and see since we were so busy with our studies. We, too, have pictures that the kids ask questions about and that we enjoy talking about our experiences with. And I often long to go back and perhaps even live there for awhile again. Of course, Philadelphia is within much easier reach than Paris (in fact, I got to take two of my kids back there this past spring for a quick trip). And I’m guessing that a place of a different culture makes a deeper impression. And then there’s all that talk in movies and books about Paris doing that to people even more than other places (for instance, Sarah’s Key, which I recently read and then watched on Netflix – you might enjoy it). I hope that you and Paul will be able to return to your beloved France someday!
I love how you write, Jen. You put my thoughts exactly on paper (computer?). I feel this same way about many things in life. Since we’ve been the only family in our little high school “niche” to actually get out and see the world, it seems that when we go back everything SHOULD be the same as when we left.
Do you KNOW those darned nieces and nephews had the gall to grow up and get married, with children of their own? How is that possible?
Same as those crazy youth kids from the church we used to attend on Marvin Rd. and now the ones from Emmanuel too? What IS going on? I’m the same … oh sure a little grayer, a little “fluffier” in places, my knees and back don’t work as well as they used to (darn it!) but that’s all just mileage, right? So, why did everything else think it could change? Then I suppose my parents feel the same way about me and my 20-something “kids”. It’s crazy!!
France & Europe are on my “TO DO” list … I guess I better get busy….time is slipping away, apparently.
I wonder what the need in France is for Speech Therapists 😉
Thanks for Sharing!