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!

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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.