The time has come to head home for a well-deserved and much needed break.
I have been looking forward to this for weeks. Correct that. I have been looking forward to this for weeks, when I was not busy teaching or volunteering at Junior's school. It has been a bit hectic here lately, with the 6th grade Graduation party and all the year-end, school-related events. I know many of you can relate.
Still, in a few short days, (once I have prepared all the Post-it notes that will help Le Husband function around the house while Junior and I are in Europe,) I will embark on the long trip home. Paris and my dear Nice are on the menu this year. French Girl, it is time to pack those bags!
|Ah, Paris, si romantique!|
|Imitation Hermès steamer trunk, anyone?|
Exactly a year ago, this family was about to leave on a mini-tour of Europe. You may remember this story, and the travelogue that followed.
A funny thing happens when you live so far away from your homeland, and all your family. No matter how enthusiastically - and at times dutifully - you try to fit in; create a life for yourself; make friends (and we have been lucky on all counts for the last 16 years,) you remain... une pièce rapportée. An add-on. An Expat. De partout, et de nulle part. Not quite from there anymore, not quite from here either.
Sure, your [adopted] culture feels familiar. You get the locals, and their strange ways. You bloom where you are planted, as they say, because that is what people do. Life would be pretty miserable, (not to mention lonely,) otherwise.
Still, things can get hard when you get pangs of that old feeling they call homesickness.
It does not help that I teach French for a living; or that I instruct travel workshops on France and French culture. Oh, and let's not forget the wonderful blogs I follow daily, where my friends - francophiles and Paris lovers extraordinaires - write enthusiastically about my homeland, while publishing enticing photos of la Belle France.
It does not help that wherever I go, France follows me around. Seriously. French culture is everywhere, or at least symbols of the French way of life. I do not look for signs, I promise. They seem to find me...
|Even with its name mispelled, |
everyone will recognize the French dessert that inspired this item
Illustration. Last weekend. Winslow, a small [favorite] town on an island, in the middle of the Puget Sound. Take a look.
Spotted in the Pacific Northwest for you...
|Fellow blogger Vicki Archer lives in Provence... |
but her book made it all the way to Winslow!
|Eiffel Tower luggage tag, Parisian-themed stationery, anyone?|
|A bathroom is not a bathroom without French hand-milled soaps...|
|Cupcakes à la Française?|
When we sat down at a favorite café serving traditional Northwest fare, Montmartre and le Sacré Coeur watched over our table.
As soon as I left the restaurant, I noticed this cheerful sign in a window...
|(because everyone in the Pacific Northwest needs to be able|
to say: "Red hens" in French!)
In another boutique, a local was busy dreaming...
Yes, it is a fact. As the annual trip home gets closer, and closer, France takes over, as if to prepare me for the transition. France takes care of her own. She knows I might feel disoriented when I land at that God-awful Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport. I might have lost "mes repères" (my bearings,) you see. But France won't allow it. "Come home," she whispers. "Come home, look what's waiting for you across that big-@$# continent; across the pond! Do you remember now? Do you?"
And as I leave the airport behind, and settle into my parents' apartment or our residence du jour; as I adjust once again to smaller everything (houses, beds, bathrooms,) I surrender to old familiar sights, smells and feelings. They are so much sharper, and brighter than on photos, blogs, and in my students' textbooks. They are the past [treasured memories] a fleeting present [mine only for a few days,] and [one hopes] part of my future.
Then, like Cyrano(*), another child from le Sud-Ouest, I can finally exclaim: "Mordious! On est bien chez soi."
|Welcome Home, French Girl!|
(*) Cyrano de Bergerac, by Edmond Rostand.
"By Golly, it feels good to be home!"
Afterword: I find it quite extraordinary that only two photos in this post were actually shot en France, don't you?