Saturday, August 21, 2010

Mixed emotions

We spent Thursday at Remi’s granddad’s place. Since his parents are on holiday and his granddad no longer drives, we try to make sure we have a meal with his him every week (salmon, rice and green beans this time). Plus Remi had some garden clean-up he wanted to do for him. So we made a day of it and brought Juliette along, too.

"Je suis au jardin." (I'm in the garden. Dédé's message to any who might come by while he's not inside.)

The weather was really lovely, except for a bit of a nip in the air in the morning. All the better to enjoy some of that country life. I do like letting Juliette get to move about more freely in her great-granddad’s courtyard and discover the joys of lady bugs crawling over her hand and saying “bye bye, chicken” to the errant hen that was in his garden. I get to enjoy the more simple pleasures of picking a few flowers to fill a glass for Dédé’s (that’s what Remi called him when he was little) table and collecting some windfall apples and plums from the trees on his property.

But these days in the country always lead to a bit of tension between Remi and me. He’d love for us to live out in the country, maybe even in the village where his granddad lives. I’m not totally against country living, but I just don’t want to have to drive an enormous amount to get to a decent job. And considering I’m only part-time at two jobs which sometimes equals full-time even in the bigger city where we live now, I don’t have very high hopes for the far out country. I’m not an adamant city mouse, but I did grow up in the very well-equipped suburbs of the biggest city in my state (Birmingham, Alabama), with over a million people in the metro area. Which has one of the finest medical centers in the country, I’d like to add. And now in my current city in France, I live within a five- to fifteen-minute walk from pharmacies, doctors and fairly well-stocked grocery stores. I adore not having to take my car to do some of these errands. But I know that the country can be peaceful on a fine summer’s day. I too would love a little garden patch to let my little one run around in.

This day with Dédé scratched at another little situation, too. Though I enjoy spending time with his family, I often get a pinch of regret that I can’t spend as much time with my own. There I was making a meal for Remi’s granddad, listening to his old stories (the ones he’s repeated already, but I listen to politely anyway). And I was wishing I could spend as much time with my grandma back home, turning 79 this Wednesday (early birthday shout-out!). When I told this to Remi the next day, he said “sorry” in such a sincere way that it made me feel even sadder.

Is this what an expat’s life must be? To be thousands of miles away from the people you grew up with and only see them once a year, maybe twice if you’re lucky and finances permit? I knew it would be tough when I made the decision to come here eight years ago. But it’s still tough, sometimes bearable, sometimes not so much. And until I win the lottery and can travel back at my leisure, I don’t see how I can make it much better. Though I made the choice to be here, I am forever divided. On sunny summer days when we’re exploring lovely seaside towns or historic villages, I can be distracted; I can say I’m having fun. But I’m always thinking about writing the folks back home about it. It might seem silly to say I’m homesick after so long in France, but so it is. And no amount of medical research has found a cure for this “sickness” yet.

If any other expats, or those a bit far-out from their families in their own country, have some insight on this, I’m all ears.


Anonymous said...

This post should have come with a warning as I should not have read it the way I'm feeling right now, one day before coming back to France (eek, tears)

I think feeling permamently guilty comes with the label 'expat'. Guilty about leaving your roots behind, guilty that your children will never know your family as they should. Especially guilty as your own parents age and you are helping other people's parents instead.

I don't think it gets easier the longer I'm in France. In fact, it's worse.

Know you're not alone in this feeling, that's all I can offer you in terms of comforting words. :o(

Anonymous said...

As a fairly new expat, and without a family of my own yet, I can only imagine how you must feel. I grew up with a very close extended family, spending evenings and weekends with my cousins and grandparents. I had such great fun and always dreamt that my children would have the same sort of experience I had.

I have fallen in love with a British Boy and I doubt we'll ever live in New Zealand (which is what I long to do, I miss home so much but with a 24 hour flight its so hard to make it home even yearly). It saddens me to think that I'll try and raise children without my family around. That they'll not know my family as well as the boys family, and not have the experience I had of a close family, or grow up having the same NZ childhood memories as I did. I can only hope that I'll earn enough money to make the trip home at least once a year or fly my parents over.

So, while I don't have a family yet, just thinking about the situation saddens me. So I can totally get what you are feeling now. I wish I knew a cure, I think a teleporter would solve everything :)

Lindle said...

Definitely a teleporter is required, kiwi. I am waiting for the holographic Skype, or the remote camera transmitter where I can take it with me as I walk around the garden, parks, etc. I want my daughter and grandbebe to be beamed into the room so she can twirl around in her pretty dress or jump and bounce her toys--or so that I can "hold" my family.
Then I think about the olden days when families moved away from each other and were lucky if the Pony Express brought them a letter, much less a photograph.
It's just hard to let go when you have strong relationships with your parents and kids. It's really hard when your loved ones are ailing and you can't make a bowl of soup for them and you worry. You have to give so much of it over to others.

Nicole said...

Granted, I have been spending ALOT of time in the States since my girls were born (8 weeks this summer!) but what I've come to realize is that I do manage to see my parents more than some of my siblings who live in the States. When I come, I stay with my parents and I really try to make good use of my time so I visit all my relatives and organize dinners and days out. I figured out that if I lived more than 100 miles away from 'home', I probably wouldn't see them anymore than I do now and I probably wouldn't make such good use of those visits either. Sure, I could pop around for emergencies or special parties, but I don't think that family time would have such a priority in my life. Its ironic, but when you can do something anytime you want, you end up not doing it at all.
I don't know if it suits your kind of work, but I've found that spending extended summer vacations here in the States (with my husband flying out to join us in the middle) is really good for the kids. They get settled in and have their little habits and rituals that make this feel like home for them, which is so important for me, and their English improves dramatically. When they get older, I think that we'll let them stay here on their own with my parents, something that I don't think would be possible if they didn't feel so at home from these long summer holidays with me.

Jessamyn said...

Nicole is right in a way. I live two hours from mom but see her once a month - if that. So when you come in the Summer for two weeks, the days add up about the same. Your visits are intense and emotional, mine are just spread out and of the everyday nature (no offense intended at all momma). I'm glad to be close, but you probably make better use of your time with the family than I do. And I do think we'll find a way to make the summer visits longer. JuJu will be able to spend more time away from her routine as she gets older. She'll be able to adapt better. And we will cherish every bit of time we have with you and her. And we'll stay in touch with you through skype and phones all year round. If you choose to stay in France, we'll discover new technologies to make it easier to stay in touch. Love you babe!

Preppy Pink Crocodile said...

Well I am not an expat (yet anyway) but I do live far away from all of my close friends. I think you need to think hard about feeling even more isolated if you move to the country. The older we get,the harder it is to make friends. Is there perhaps a suburb that might be a compromise between city and country?