When you’re six years old and homesick, you lie face down on the couch and suck your thumb. When you’re forty some old years old and homesick, you lie whichever direction you fell onto the couch and mentally review that gratitude journal you promised yourself you’d write. But first … you’ll eat a sleeve of cookies - those thin crisp, graham-like butter cookies that disappear faster than your cup of tea. And then you’ll spend the rest of the day gearing up for the cold run/power walk (walk/stroll in this mental state) if only you had a pair of comfortable snow boots. And another sleeve of cookies.
I’ve been a little blue. For the last several days, I’ve been perpetually in that state between laughter and tears. I’m reading a novel called “The Dog Stars” by Peter Heller right now, and he talks about how there needs to be a word for that state between laughter and tears. Isn’t that true?! But then his protagonist is living in a world where a flu virus has wiped out 99% of the population, so our situations are slightly different.
It’s probably natural to hit a bump in the road after such a strong start. And I’d rather be hitting the bump instead of my kids. On balance, of course, everything is going swimmingly but waves of missing home and the familiar have been pushing me down. As I told a friend – everything is new and wonderful, but sometimes you just want mediocre and easy. Like wanting to find something in an electronics store without having to “talk” to five people in hand gestures (which by the way, don’t work in any electronics store.) It especially doesn’t work when the fourth person you’ve just assaulted goes to find his “colleague” which turns out to first person you started this whole mess with. By this point, you just want to go home and check the Amazon UK site for the eighth time for said electronic and curse that it really isn’t the biggest superstore on earth. Except before you can go home to start that rant, you discover a parking ticket you can’t read or understand on your windshield and the tears just start flowing. (The protagonist in my book cried too.)
It’s not just missing family and friends. I knew to expect that part. And I knew that new friends would come. And they have. The people at the school and Brett’s office have been incredibly warm and welcoming. I had four coffee invitations this week! But it’s in the day to day, those impromptu non-appointment interactions with people – where I’m not just missing what they’re saying, but I’m missing the ability to connect. I recognize that it’s sacrilege to be depressed while walking on cobblestone streets, but it would be way more fun if I could walk (in comfortable boots) and eavesdrop on some conversations. I have my two euros to add to many conversations.
Speaking of comfortable boots, I got some. In the wrong size. I noticed it when I got back to the car, but at that point I was too flustered to go back to the woman who worked in the shop and answered my “Est-ce que vous parlex anglais?” with a definitive “No. FRANCAIS.” She’s got a valid point but I wasn’t about to gesture about needing a bigger size – especially after dropping a dozen “Wei, merci, biens” during the transaction. So instead I drove 10 kilometers to their second store in the City Centre – parked in a thorny parking garage – and made the size exchange (in a different, perhaps even better color.)
Since the boot acquisition, I have done more power walks – including a new routine where Brett and I walk the kids to their school bus and then into the City Center for a morning cup of coffee before he heads to work. We’ve got the ordering system for cappuccinos at The Coffee Lounge down. In fact, today a local sitting next to us didn’t know that he was supposed to go downstairs when he was ready to pay. I knew that. And, more importantly, that morning time to catch up has been a connection point I was missing last week with all Brett’s travel.
The natural next question is what I plan to do about
learning the language. Well …
currently that plan is filed away with the gratitude journal. For now, I’ve got to schedule a sports
physical, take another expired Benadryl, and do some travel planning for our
mid Feb trip to Rome. If I feel “woe is
me” on those cobblestone streets, you are free to give me a virtual kick in the
Thanks to my friend Josie Wilson who included this great song called “Home” by GABRIELLE APLIN on my farewell playlist:
'Cause they say home is where your heart is set in stone
where you go when you’re alone
Is where you go to rest your bones
It’s not just where you lay your head
It's not just where you make your bed
As long as we’re together, does it matter where we go?