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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

I see France

Once you have children, traveling becomes either very difficult or extremely difficult. I have seen families on planes, and the only thing I can think is that they must be hired by the airlines. A model family traveling, behaving well to show other people that traveling with kids is possible, and we should spend $15,000 to fly our entire family to Europe.  Well, I'm on to them.

So we end up driving everywhere. Which admittedly isn't easier but, at least, we can pull over the car, step outside and scream, or cry depending on the situation. On a plane, you just can't do that. 
I received an invitation to spend a week in France with my brother. Two days before I was supposed to go. So naturally I said, maybe, then no, then yes.

I explained to the boys that I was going to France and their reaction was unenthusiastic, to say the least. I mean who would make their beloved lunches?  They said that they too wanted to go to France, and my response was, that there was no way on Earth that was going to happen, at least not this trip.
When Oscar burst into tears, I reminded him that his birthday was coming up, (in a month) and that seemed to distract him long enough for me to pack.

What do you pack for a place you have never been? Apparently a lot of black clothing, black pants that will be uncomfortably snug upon your return home, along with a few white unassuming shirts, and only the most uncomfortable shoes I could find in my closet.   Along with a chunky necklace that will cause panic and delay at the airport security line, and after wearing it for 20 plus hours will feel like a Heretic's Fork.

I don't sleep on planes because I want to know if we are in eminent danger by watching the flight attendants expressions at all times.  It is a thankless job, especially to the French man with delicate hands who sat next to me on the plane. He must be part camel because despite drinking a lot, the man never got up once.  He also slept so soundly thanks to the warm resting place his elbow had in my rib cage.

When I did arrive, I was met by a driver that my brother hired to pick me up. He spoke about as much English as I spoke French, so it was a lively confusing conversation to our destination. I ended up falling asleep in the car and woke up just as we were passing a McDonalds.  I had to wonder if they were as insulted by French fries as I was.

When we pulled up to the place I was staying, I was in awe of it's beauty.  It was in a small village called Seine-Port where the streets are tiny, and the homes are old and charming.  For someone who had never been to France, this was more beautiful than  I could have imagined. Structures that have been around for hundreds of years, and people who care enough to keep the integrity and history of each home alive and well. 

I was greeted with fantastic fresh food and wine and conversation. Thankfully, the person's house we were staying is Canadian, so we spoke English most of the time.  They had local friends over for dinner, and I love listening to them speak, and kicked myself for not trying harder in my grade school French class.

We went to an antique market the next day, and if I had more money and a freight ship, I would have taken all of it home with me.   I could have purchased the entire market and decorated my house better than the faux French decor Pottery Barn tries to sell you.

I found French people to be extremely friendly. With that said, I only had two experiences that were negative.  A French countryman was trying to explain a book I was holding at the market when I looked at him and had no idea how to respond, other than say, "I don't speak French" to which he put his hand on his hip and mimicked me and said in a very poor and high pitched shrill English dialect " I don't speak French."

The other time is when a woman at a bakery wouldn't take my money, but took my friend's money.  It took all I had not to return to her bakery holding several baguettes from her competitor and holding them up like Julie Robert's did in Pretty Woman when she returned to the snobby store that wouldn't let her shop there. "Big mistake, Huge!". But since I couldn't say it in French I didn't.

We went to Paris one day and wandered the streets and ate escargot and oysters, coffee and chocolate crepes.  My brother insisted that I at least try and speak French when ordering. He quickly changed his mind when I began answering questions in Spanish. My only reasoning for this is that the foreign language ignited a part of my brain that hadn't been used since high school. Since the only language in that part of my brain is Spanish, that is what came out. Leaving the waiter confused as well as everyone else in my company.
I found the women in France to be unbelievably tall.  Not to mention unimaginably beautiful.   Like they just rolled out of bed, wandered into the street and look like they belonged in Vogue. Then there was me.  The only thing French about me is my name. I'm a short mother of four whose hair exploded in the rain and wore the wrong shoes hobbling around the street with her brother. Trying to take a selfie with the Eifel tower that doesn't make my cheese chins show. I didn't have cheese chins before going to France,  but after consuming massive amounts of cheese I now have an extra chin as a souvenir.

Strangely however, people asked me for directions.   I must look like I know where I'm going and I clearly don't. This is the case even in my home town.  In fact, I almost died in Paris, but thanks to my brother throwing his arm in front of me I didn't get hit by the speeding bus. 

The week was filled with creativity and beauty and my claim to fame was that I had four children, all of which were boys. This seemed to be a hot party discussion and quickly became my identity. Kind of like a freak show. I wanted so much to be noticed for other things, like my writing or my classic American beauty.  I quickly learned the words maman and quatre because it meant they were talking about me.

The more I was away from the boys, the more I missed them.  And my husband. Nothing like being in the most romantic city in the world with your brother.

The benefit of being with my brother was that he still treats me like his little sister.  There was a little decorative marionette that I found particularly spooky. So my brother made sure to place it in various places in my bedroom. Like, under the pillow, or behind the curtain or in my suitcase.

Despite sleeping with one eye open, it was an incredible trip.  I was able to have a little time to myself without others needing me. This is a really weird sensation. I felt like I had double of the amount of time do every day tasks, like take a shower or walk out the door. It allowed me to   explore without hesitation and to be in the presence of rampant creativity and loveliness.

I was sad to go.  The week away reminded me of what it felt like before I had the title of mommy or wife.  And back to my roots, of just a little sister. 

Upon the 9.5-hour return flight home, as I devoured the chocolate I had gotten my family for souvenirs that they will never receive,  I let the word Maman roll off my tongue and float around in my head.  

I may have wanted the people I met to perceive me as a writer, or at least pretty, and something other than just a mom. But no matter how hard I tried, my motherly aura just followed me across the ocean.  And people saw it and thought that it was beautiful, it made me instinctively trustworthy, warm and approachable. 

That isn't something to be ashamed of.

The excitement I felt upon returning home was a reflection of that.  My friends told me that I would come back feeling recharged were wrong because I'm more tired than ever.

It also reminded me that life before I received the title of Mommy or wife wasn't nearly as fun.

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