07.09.2017

I managed to go for a walk this morning which is something I’ve been meaning to do every day since school started!  It was beautiful, as usual, Brittany never seems to fail in that regard.  Down the road we have a tiny little sign indicating the Chapelle Saint Jean.  It is a dirt path, and up until now I’ve never had a chance to see what is at the end.  I finally took the time this morning and it is a amazingly cute little chapelle, with a red door, at the end of a path.

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Some quick research online seems to point to the original building being built in 1656.  I’ve lived in France now for a long time and still find wonder in such old things.  I can picture in my mind baptisms, weddings, celebrations of all kind.  People walking from surrounding areas to the church for Sunday mass, maybe?  Baskets full?  Did they ring the bell often?  Does the bell still ring?  The chateau in this area is the Rosmorduc chateau, was the church associated?

When my girls were born we didn’t have them baptized.  I was not baptized as a child and at the time of my own children births didn’t feel the need to have them baptized. I now sometimes wonder about that choice.  In a world that feels so unsure, so hard, so sad…  Maybe having some hope, faith, attachment to traditions, isn’t a bad thing?  Walking over the same steps, the same phrases, the rituals that have little changed over time…  Having that reassurance of being part of something so much bigger then oneself…  And perpetuating years of traditions, carrying down rites people have held onto for centuries.

We visited Lourdes this summer and watching all the people come in hope, for healing, for peace, was beautiful.  I found it peaceful, and inspiring after visiting once with my inlaws, so went back with my girls and husband a few days later…  Religion and the history of France are very much braided together- it is the cradle in many ways of French civilization, its past and present; tied into family history, into celebrations and traditions.

I wonder some days if I’ve somewhat denied my children part of that, the passing down of gestures, celebrations and traditions.  Maybe one of them one day will need the belief in something bigger then them, and without having been given a religious direction would have to search for one?  I rarely doubt what we’ve decided to do as parents, but this one has been weighing on my mind a bit lately.  As I get “older” (though I am far from old); I think that maybe I would like one day to have my last rights, I’d like to be able to be buried next to my husband and loved ones, I’d like to have some faith in, well, something…

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03.09.2017

The Sunday before the réntrée…  A rainy, gray, wish-I-spent-more-time-outside-yesterday kind of day.  We are all curled up on the couch (in pants, socks and sweaters!) watching a movie.  And in-between the squeals and peels of laughter from my girls I’m thinking back on our summer.  They always seem to fly by…

I’m sad to see summer go.  We had a lot of fun this summer and it was fairly stress free.  We travelled to the south west of France, the haute pyrénées, for two weeks, where we hiked, visited sites, relaxed.  On our way home, we went to the center of France, near La Roche Posay, and stayed two nights in a château for the Pépé’s 85th birthday.  We ate at a nice restaurant, the girls swam in the pool, and asked about eight times per day “is there a real princess hidden in the château, Mama?”  Every time I answered the same way, “*you* are the princesses here today!”

We drove the six hours home from there and spent a few days cleaning up the yard, the house.  We spent the weekend du 15 aôut in the Vendée region.  MrB’s godmother has a house by the beach there, so we spent 3 nights there with their youngest daughter, son and his girlfriend.  We spent time on a sand beach, which the girls loved.  Our (very) local beaches here in Brittany are mainly galets.  

It was a beautiful, slow, enjoyable summer.  On the eve of picking back up the school week routine, after school activities, I wish we could do it all over again.  Even though I like fall, full of hot cups of tea, fires, knitting, crisp morning air… I’ll miss summer and its long evenings, apéros, and relaxed schedules.

French Husband will be back into his regular working routine the day after the réntrée, which means he will be here for the réntrée itself, then gone for the rest of the week for work.  I still am anxious thinking about potentially working since I am quite often alone with the girls during the week.  On verra, as the French say.

29.08.2017

Random thoughts of the day…

-A sore throat that seems to come and go.  Sore throat and then a cough, and then back to a sore throat again.

La rentrée.  Its in a week.  Apart from finishing to sort the girls clothes, I think we are ready to go.  I don’t know that I’m ready to have 2 kids in primaire, though.  My babies.  What happened to them? When did they get so big?  Can I go back to have a 4 year old, 18 month old and new born, please?

-Fall.  I think it is quite possibly the best season in Brittany.  Gorgeous light, beautiful weather, crisp mornings, hot tea fireside…  It sounds divine.

-London.  I’m hopefully going to spend a few nights in London in September.  I feel a bit … conflicted?  I am looking forward to it and hoping it works out and also feeling anxious about leaving for a few days.  I know the girls and Damien will be fine, but while I’d enjoy the quiet, I’ll miss them so.  I don’t want to cave into the idea that I’m safer at home, but sadly in the world we live in there is that small bit of me that is saying “stay home!”  And on the other hand, it would be fun to go, a nice break and I’m sure I’d come back home with more patience and resolve (and a suitcase with Christmas presents)!

-Job. At some point I should probably make the jump back to employment.  It feels a bit futile when I look at local-ish job options.  I’m hoping to get a job substituting English either in public or private schools.  Maybe at some point I could take the government issued test to get a tenured position.

-Tisane.  Its a nightly ritual now.  Put the kids to bed, turn on the kettle, prepare a taste with a spoonful of honey…   Mmmm bliss.

While browsing Facebook yesterday…

While I was browsing Facebook yesterday I saw something really interesting.  It was a post by a man discussing his mother’s death, their relationship, life.  And he mentioned, almost in passing, having lost his backpack once in college, and a homeless lady found it.  On one of the notepads he had written “Mum” with a phone number, and this homeless woman called his mother and arranged to get his stuff back to her.  After that, for years, this mother and woman would check in with each other regularly.  Keeping in mind this was before cell phones, so each call they would end with the next day and time for a call, usually to a payphone, I imagine where the homeless woman would be waiting.

It really struck me.  This, well, humanity.  Two people who had a happenstance encounter then keeping tabs on one another, checking in, over years.  Maybe, too, I was struck by the effort involved.  Now, most of us can quickly reach out to pretty much anyone with a cellphone, a computer, but for both to stick to set times and places to call, to continue to make the effort when I didn’t get the impression they ran into one another, there was no family obligation, just a simple obligation, one person to another.    It reminds me a bit of my Dad.  My Dad loves looking at Craigslist (I know where I get my interest in LeBonCoin from!), and through a purchase there met an elderly gentleman that he now regularly keeps in touch with.  A chance encounter, that has led to this gentleman taking the train out to spend the weekend with my parents, my Dad stops by now and then, sends him some pocket money now and then (so he can vary his meals from ramen)…  And I think they both get something out of it, and beyond the material.  It is a positive and enriching experience for everyone involved, on a basic, human to human level.  I think some of us are “better” at this then others, maybe.  My Dad seems to attract people, of all walks of life and is friends with many many people.  I can think of many characters from my childhood, all that entered into our lives from some chance encounter.  And the beauty of all those relationships isn’t lost on me- I realize how hard it can be to make friends, find a place in a community, or even in the world.

These weird, unexpected, encounters feel like destiny, or fate.  Something meant to be, something that was meant to happen, pieces of a puzzle falling into place.  Each person bringing something to the other, everyone enjoying something from the encounters.  I like thinking that it is fate, meant to be, that we are all fulfilling some bigger picture, or moment, that we are all linked in some strange, unpredictable way.

Les Gendarmes

Next up in the series on becoming French…  A surprise visit by the Gendarmes!  While I knew it was likely to happen, somehow when they actually showed up it was a bit of a shock.  I wasn’t expecting them this “soon” (manner of speaking, after all, my file was sent in months ago!), and I half expected a note in the mailbox to organize a time for them to come.  Instead they got to see a table with remnants of breakfast still on it, a mountain of unfolded wash on a couch and many other small touches of real life.

I had the littlest home for the morning from school because she was congested and she is prone to asthma or lung type infections.  Anyways, so we were home on a weekday morning, hanging out, I was on the internet, little Miss was watching some cartoons in undies wrapped up in a blanket.

And then, TOCK TOCK TOCK, someone knocks on the door.  This is already somewhat an event in itself.  We aren’t super rural, we do have a few neighbors, are on the edge of a village, and often I close our gate, so it isn’t a daily occurrence.  The dog goes wild.  Child comes running over to investigate, naked.  I see a dark silhouette through the pane on the door and think it is the postman.  Immediately think “yay, a package!”, swing open the door in excitement.  And it isn’t.  It is two gendarmes, of course, looking rather stern.  Actually, I don’t know that they look really stern, probably just the effect of the uniform and the stance they always seem to have, legs shoulder width apart, hands behind backs.

Of course, mother and wife that I am, I think that something has happened either to my girls, or to my husband.  I’m pretty sure all the blood drained out of my face seeing them there.  They were quick to reassure that everything was fine, they were here to speak to me with regards to my nationality request.

So we stood in my messy entryway (think rain boots for a family of five, other various shoes, a kimono on the ground where it was tossed the night before upon returning from judo, a few small piles of clean clothes children were supposed to carry up to bedrooms, and weird catch-all table that lives in the entryway until I find an armoire that makes my heart flutter covered in random bits and pieces of life…), while they asked me a few questions.  When did we move here?  How did my husband and I meet?  How many kids do we have?  How old are they?  What does he do for a job?  What do I do?  A few kind of random comments that I wasn’t really sure how to reply to like “Wow this is a big house!” and “You don’t have hardly any accent at all.”  And then they left, it was all pretty friendly and not a big deal.

They went down to the  neighbors after to ask if we really were a couple…  And of course, small village, my neighbor knew the older gendarme so they stayed and had an apéro at hers before heading back down to the gendarmerie.  The neighbor actually played a pretty funny role in this whole situation before the gendarmes even got to my house, but more on that, later!

So, all in all, just under 4 months after my file was sent in, I had my gendarme visit.  Now just waiting for my entretien d’assimilation, so getting there, slowly but surely!  I can’t wait!

While I am forever seeking out the next step, considering what is next, somewhat like a neurotic planner (which is actually fairly funny since I really tend to fly by the seat of my pants!), I’ve been trying to stop.  Take what comes.  Enjoy the day.  Worry less about what is to come and focus more on us, our now, our reality, our life.

This has really been driven home lately as I watch, from afar, an acquaintance, deal with a devastating diagnosis of terminal brain cancer.  I “know” both halves of this couple, both went to college with me, I’ve shared classes with both, separately, and together.  (Joys of a small college, everyone knows or knows of, just about everyone!)  They have small children, a life they’ve built, she’s built her own job, universe, professional circle, based on a passion.  And now this.  Her writing about it has been achingly honest, and truthful.  From going to a doctor for migraines, finding a large tumor in her brain via MRI, an operation to remove the tumor, and starting radiation therapy in a bid to gain time, all within one short span of just a few weeks…  To face ones mortality in such an abrupt manner.  Be living one day, dying the next. To take stock of your life, of what you are leaving behind, how people will remember you, and trying to leave something of substance behind for your tiny children.  So, someday, they can have and carry a tangible piece of their mother and her thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams with them, even if she is gone. So they can hear her voice through her writing, at least.  All of this while choosing to fight, choosing to hope, choosing to live.  It seems like such opposing thoughts, opinions and views to reconciliate.  How can one live such opposing lives at once?  Taking the time to feel air fill lungs, to hold children forever and ever, while also taking time to set affairs in order, explain wishes for a funeral, make sure a will is up to date.  I imagine like one does for the rest of life, one foot in front of the other, but the weight of these steps must be heavy…

My heart aches for her, her family, her children…  And it has been an important reminder, to me at least, to live in the now.  To drink up every second of this sometimes messy, sometimes frustrating existence, because, this, the here, the now, it is beautiful, magical, special and may just be the best yet, or ever.