The New Year, 2010, brought major changes for myself and my family, and major implications for the direction of our lives. We (mon homme and I) decided to leave the rocky Atlantic shores of Ireland for the tranquility of his native France. I’ve recounted some of the whys and wherefores in the two previous posts (The lakes of Connemara part one and part deux). It became clear very quickly that this wasn’t a whimsical “what if….” daydream. There were so many factors in play and we knew it wouldn’t be easy. Nothing prepared us for how hard it would be to say goodbye to mon homme’s son- the young man I am proud to call my stepson. He was to stay in Ireland and finish out school. Thankfully he has been able to spend a good deal of time with us here since.
Mon homme is very close to his grandmother and she had taken ill the previous year. She bounced back (as she always does- they’re made of strong stuff those grannies!) However it had been a close enough call to make us realise that we really hadn’t spent much quality time with her in her golden years, or as they call it here “le troisième âge” (I think I prefer the term “troisième âge”. It literally means “third age”, which gives me an image of grannies and grandads gettin’ their groove on in a futuristic club).
This, together with the fact that it seemed more and more unlikely that we would ever own our own home in Ireland or have a financially secure future, prompted the think-in. Then the fact that mon homme was almost finished his studies to facilitate a career change and I had recently discovered I was pregnant, urged us to really consider the future. Neither of us were getting any younger and if a move was on the cards then it needed to be sooner rather than later.
So all paths converged and led one way- France. Now when you share your life with someone who is not from your country or culture, you are in effect choosing the unknown. There may well come a day where it’s time to explore their country. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that their culture pulls at the heart-strings. And it’s not a completely foreign notion (ahem- excuse the pun!) that you may want to learn their language. For all counts immersion would seem the obvious track.
Before I left for France, two of my oldest friends told me they knew I would always go one day- it was simply a matter of when! This possibility of a life in France was always hanging around, floating in the air above us like one of those cartoon thought bubbles. There are some (and I envy them) who have always known what they want from their lives. They will travel, or live in a foreign country, or have a definite career plan, or choose to stay near their family, or never have any desire to up sticks and move and appreciate everything about their situation. I envy those who have plans and know what they want.
I never had a plan. But I did fall in love with someone who opened up France. Sure- I had ideas in college that I might travel the world. These schemes were more of the boho-wandering ilk rather than a “let’s get a pen and paper out and really make a plan” type of plan! So needless to say I stayed put! I do have a yearning to explore that has become stronger over the years and so the decision to finally make the move was scary but it felt right.
So now it was just a matter of whittling down the details. A game-plan would have to be devised. Out came the pen and paper and the lists upon lists began.
Obvious thing # 1 A baby would be born in September.
Not so obvious # 1 Would we move before or after the birth?
Obvious thing # 2 We would have to give notice to the people who owned the house we lived in.
Not so obvious # 2 How in cripes would we pack up all our stuff?
Obvious thing # 3 I would have to learn French.
Not so obvious # 3 How in the name of all that’s holy would I manage that?
So first off we decided to move after the baby was born.
Second off we did a complete 360 turnaround on that decision realising how ridiculous that first decision was! I would become a crazed hormonal bag of bizarreness if I tried to move with a newborn baby in tow. There are some who would cope admirably (but I am not one of those!). Amazing the enlightenment that age can bring! So- now the moving date would be a smidge closer. We settled on mid- July. That would give us time to settle in a bit before our eldest girl would start school and we could try to get an ol’ headstart on the French language (excusez-moi while I splutter through the laughter at the memory of “the great plan”!)
Once we had decided on a date, it was time to give notice to the owners of the house that we lived in. Right before I phoned them I felt so nervous. We had gotten along very well, and now, I felt like a teenager who was essentially dumping her boyfriend. It’s not you, it’s me- right! However, they were very understanding and proved to be a big support while we were moving out.
The next step for me was to inform my work. This was a bit trickier for me emotionally. I worked for a well respected theatre company and I was proud of the fact that I was part of that team. I’m not the most academic person in the world but I do know how to knuckle down and work. It was the perfect environment for me at the time to graft and still learn whilst doing so.
I’ve always loved theatre and while I was growing up, acting and dancing were very important outlets for me. When I was 18 or so I watched a t.v. documentary about this particular theatre company, and I remember thinking to myself, ” one day I would love to work for a company like that”. Nobody could have been more surprised than me when “one day” came and I landed a job on their administration team (I had long abandoned the dream of being an actress!)
Because of my pregnancy, I would have been taking maternity leave anyway. But to leave indefinitely….? I knew that I would help interview candidates for my maternity leave replacement and I felt that my colleagues should know as soon as possible about my plans. Whoever my replacement was, they would be staying for more than a few months as foreign horizons had called me. Everyone was very excited for me and supportive. I didn’t receive one negative comment. Everyone’s opinion was “go for it!”
So d-day was there marked on the calendar. Everyone was told. The huge de-cluttering task began. We started to get our paper-work in order (but believe me- for France it will NEVER be enough- you have been warned!). Tick-tock- time began flying!