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.