À la recherche du temps perdu…
And, too, an ending, at least for now. We are leaving the ocean, and the thought of its missing proximity, the loss of its daily nearness and companionship, always there, taken, perhaps, for granted, even by Max & Chloe, the dogs, the Labs, the Monsters, as they make their morning poop on a piece of real estate so prime and so coveted that for most of my life I could only dream of visiting it, let alone owning it, is daunting in a way that I don’t yet understand but have begun to feel, like a nagging suspicion or the scent of an as yet unidentified olefactory memory.
So why leave?
And where? Where to?
As it happens, France. First Luxembourg, Alice’s place of birth and, unmistakeably, and forever, no matter what, even after the long struggle to gain American citizenship, her home.
It started, this notion of leaving, a year ago. It started with an incident, and I’ll get to that.
To be sure, it is less of a leaving than a going, an attraction rather than a repulsion, the yearning for something not here becoming more insistent than the gravitational pull of those things, however attractive they may be– that are here, which is to say, the ocean.
Alice yearned to connect with, to reconnect with, her oldest friends. The ones who know her best and who have her back, even from a distance, real friends upon whom it has actually been proven, in the past, it is safe to rely, recent experience having provided instruction in the danger of a misread in this regard, and a reminder that ”friend” can be a person, yes, and a phsyiogamy recalled or a specific history shared, but also a notion, a vaguery like “home” that is both a place and a feeling.
If it is really home, it is safe. So too with a friend. If not… not. A place and a concept, this home business; a person and an idea, this friend business, and the lines get indistinct, blurred and moving, until we reach for the kind of certainty that is elusive and ultimately unpromised, reasonable to hope for but unreasonable to expect.
When my mother died, during her last few days, she wanted only to go “home”, even though she knew it would never happen again. I’ve heard that this is common amongst the terminally hosptitalized. Home is not a place; it’s a an idea that is freighted with more longing than it can hold, an idea that is unique to each of us but sharing common characteristics. For those who, most assuredly, won’t be going home, it embodies, this notion of home does, a reversal born of hope and disconnect: Rather than, “If I can get better I can go home”, it’s, “If I can go home I will be better.”
All will be well. “If only I can be home and not here. I can only go home if I am well, and, therefore, if you take me home– I will be, ipso facto, well. Please let me go home, just let me go home…”
For us, this opposite, this leaving of home is much more simple and not involving sickness or peril or anything dramatic: Simply the thought that Alice would like to reconnect with her friends; that’s how it started. But she and I both realized that after seventeen years in these United States of America, it was more than that. She needed some small time to wrap herself in the familiarity of the culture she grew up in, to have cafe au lait with her oldest and dearest and most trusted friends. Anywhere but Les Deux Magots, or, maybe, even there: We’ll make a game of counting the copies of The Sun Also Rises or Death in the Afternoon tucked in the rucksacks of ernest American English majors.
I like it when people ask me if English is Alice’s second language because I can say, “No, it’s her fifth.”We’ll go first to Luxembourg and then maybe Brussels and for sure Paris and finally the south, Provence. Home. For Alice.
Who goes to Provence in the winter?
We leave in 28 days.
With the dogs.
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N E X T : Getting Ready