November 23, 2016
Autumn is this tree's season - top to bottom. In the morning, when it is often misty and foggy here, the sunlight hits it just right. We wake up, get the girls ready for school and open the shutters to eyeball it. Stop every day to take it in.
My own reaction to the US election has caught me off guard. I've been impaired. Sluggish. Depressed. My brain and my chest feel thick. I was heartened to read that Merkel will seek a fourth term as chancellor and that Sarkozy, with his anti-immigration/too-right-wing rhetoric, didn't make it past the first round in the primaries here in France. The world feels like it is turning inward and nationalistic in disturbing ways, so any sign of movement to the contrary feels heartening.
The one thing that does feel like a salve for my political ennui is going outside - the colors around here. And not listening to NPR or looking online at news sources. I don’t know any Americans here, so I can sort of put blinders on and pretend the whole thing is not happening.
Back to the colors.
Being with the girls is also a good way of forgetting.
I was experiencing some parenting blues when we first arrived this summer. It was so overwhelming to go from a full-time job in New York, racing home to get as much time with them as possible - to an entirely new and heavy dose of them. It was too much for me at first. I had whiplash. In my New York life I made to-do lists on my phone as I walked from the subway (trying to organize the bits of free time I had to fit in friends, children, Xavier, a house, exercise, errands, plans, on and on…), using an earpiece to have a phone conversation at the same time. When riding my bike to commute, I would listen to podcasts on 2x speed, to get in more information - faster.
Now I get whole days with the girls - and my to-do lists are entirely different. Almost just conceptual. Things I would like to do, not things to check off when a short-lived spare minute appears. I gladly let Xavier put them to bed (something I could never not feel guilty about in NYC). We get babysitters and I relish it all. Feels pretty good.
I don’t have it down just right all the time though. The other day, for instance, Colette and Romy were in the bath and I heard what sounded like a bucket of water being dumped on the floor. I entered wearing an angry face. Colette looked at me and pleaded, “Mama, please! Don’t get mad. This time control yourself! Please!” I started cracking up. She made it sound so dramatic. Control yourself!
She walked into my closet recently and took a big inhale. “It smells like New York City in here,” looking wistful. She still talks about her friends and school in New York with longing, but it is more balanced now. She has good friends at school here and her French is officially moving into bilingual territory. I am stunned at how much progress she makes every week. Colette and Romy are both at prime ages for this move.
Romy is a defiant little creature. She doesn’t push back with aggression or tantrums (usually). She simply ignores. Walks in the other direction. Convincingly carries on as if you aren’t there hovering, about to pick her up to physically move her to the next thing. She is sort of tragically cute (at least to us) - her curls and her little pout. She will ask to do something and sometimes the answer is no. Similar technique - she just reposes the question and at the end adds a little, “yes?” and nods her head up an down while gazing right in our eyes.