How it began. In 2009, I got it in my head that over the next few years my daughters needed to have an international experience before they graduated from high school. It began with casual talk and the planting of seeds about a life in a foreign country and a fairy-tale escape from conservative, suburban life in Colorado. Slowly the idea began gathering enthusiasm with the girls, and half-heartedly my husband got on board, knowing that he was the one who would have to find a job to make this fantasy a reality. In a testament to how much he loves me, he worked overtime trying to find a way to make an overseas assignment possible. We looked at options in the Far East and India, Bonn was floated around, and finally the opportunity to move to Paris came up. My husband, now reverently referred to as Superman, seemed to pull a job, in the cultural capital of the world no less, right out of thin air.
To be honest, none of us were over the moon about the prospect of moving to France. Somehow over the decades we had bought into all the negative stereotypes about the French and France, and weren’t overly eager to jump right into a land full of Frenchies. But in September 2009, we packed up our house in Colorado and crossed the ocean. The first 5 months were an absolute cauchemar, between the ongoing abuse from the French postman and the ghastly French teachers at the girls’ bilingual school, we longed for the ease of America.
Life in Paris was full of highs and extreme lows until about February. From the outside, France and especially Paris, appear to be a dream posting. But the reality is, Paris can be extremely lonely, bitter cold (in more ways than one), and an enormously difficult city to navigate and feel like you belong. Until the French let you in, they can be exceedingly rude. Life in Paris was not all champagne swilling at le Tour Eiffel and lazy days strolling the Champs-Élysées.
But as the days turned into months, we all began to appreciate the things that the French do so well: from all the clichés (baguettes, wine, cheese, chocolate, fashion, perfume and fields of lavendar), to the Frenchies appreciation and attention to beauty and perfection, to their quirky and maddening rules, that force you to slow down and be in the moment. In addition, the numerous benefits of living in a world-class city are not limited to historical, cultural and culinary opportunities, but there are also the practical benefits of not having to own a car, living in a small space with so much less “stuff” to take care of, and having more time to spend with your friends and family. As our eyes opened to this diverse country, we had a curious switch in our attitudes, it became harder and harder for us girls to imagine leaving Paris. We were smitten. By May we were all scheming about ways to extend Superman’s contract. By June we were desperate to make it happen and optimistically paid the deposit on another school year. But no matter how hard Superman tried, by July, the stars stubbornly refused to align, and in August, we were forced to head back to the States.
There and back. The culture shock of being back in America hit us all hard; the girls and I were miserable. On top of that, Kitcat, the older of our two girls was diagnosed with a Giant Cell tumor, while at the same time, my maman was declining rapidly from Parkinson’s disease. I was meant to be in Colorado to take care of them both, and was thankful to be dealing with these difficult medical problems in English.
Still, we had left our hearts in France. In order to retrieve them, a new plan was hatched. It took us two long years, and hundreds of hours of creative persistence on Superman’s part, but in the end, he managed to get us back home to Paris for another two-year stint.
We’ve spent the last year readjusting to life in la ville de la lumière and are finally all on track. But while my France has begun to show its tarnish, I have found myself back in the panic seat realizing that unless Superman comes through for a third time, we will again be sent packing to America in less than 365 days.
Addendum: In September 2015 we moved back to small-town Golden, Colorado. Our two gorgeous girls are now at University–one in London and one in NYC. Superman and I are empty nesters, and I am trying to find my feet in my new life. So far I have been exceedingly lucky to spend part of my time in Colorado and part of my time back in my beloved France. I’ve changed the name of my blog to 365+ Things I Love About France, and try to write about new things I’ve found in France to love and things in the States that are pretty lovable, and of course, about finding a bit of France in the USA.
Thank you for stopping by and sharing my journey.