When I was about 17 and DK was about 21, we were flirting on the phone during a humid summer day in Kansas City (I was in KC; he was in San Francisco, or maybe DC still, I can’t remember). I was sitting on my bed, likely listening to the Cocteau Twins, and feeling the usual stomach knot of excitement I felt every time I talked to this wonderful, cute cute cute, boy I’d met the summer before at Choate. [Gosh, I was so gob-smacked in love with him then. Sometimes now when I look at Eme, I hope someday when she is too young to fake cynicism, she has a boy read her Tennyson late in the night, or open a letter bursting full of spring flowers he gathered on a walk for her. Young love, man, nothing like it.]. ANYWAY, we were talking on the phone and daydreaming about The Future Someday when we could be together. I solemnly promised to support his art habit if he promised to be responsible for balancing the checkbook. And we started talking about how we’d live, how’d it would be when I could come and visit him, once I was in college. “Let’s live abroad together,” he said. “Yes, really, yes, we will.” “Promise?” “Promise.”
So it has always been with us, this idea. Then I went to college, he went to graduate school. I went abroad my junior year while he worked in California. Then San Francisco together before I left for Boston for law school. Then Dallas. Then New York. Then his PhD program and my legal career. Then a cat. Then a mortgage. The older we got, the harder it was to see how it would ever be possible. Maternity leave always beckoned in the future. Maybe? Maybe then? So when I was about four months pregnant, we decided to go for it. When else could it happen? I would have 5 months off, DK could come and work on his thesis abroad, the girly was small enough to be portable. So, after talking to my doctor about whether it was an insane idea or not (he said, “DO IT”), I spent upteen hours searching for the right place. City or country? Europe? South America? Paris? Buenos Aires? We settled on the south of France (pace of life, weather, medical facilities, god forbid, DK’s idyllic memories of visiting his best friend in college at Montpellier) and I made spreadsheets of possible venues, pros/cons of various towns and small cities. And finally found after lots of email correspondence and hand-wringing, a great looking apartment in the center of Avignon.
It all seemed incredibly awesome throughout pregnancy and I was only a little nervous by the “REALLY?!” reaction we got from other, more seasoned parents. One guy I worked for scoffed and told me to make sure we put down money now, before she was born, otherwise we’d never go. “That’s ridiculous,” I frumped, “that will not make a difference in the world.” But I sent in the signed contract and down payment of ½ the rent anyway. And you know what, thank god, because that old curmudgeon co-worker was 100% right. As soon as Emerson was born, we looked at each other dubiously about this grand plan. The Rosetta Stone CDs I was sure I’d listen to in all my free time (“I’ll do it while I’m nursing!”) (HA HA HA!) sat gathering dust. The books on Provence sat unread. We looked at our tiny needy pea who forswore any and all naps except in our arms and frowned.
But she got bigger and we got better. We got her a passport and vaccinations, confirmed the details with the photographer who owned the apartment, and I read a old French grammar book to make sure I could do important things like order food and a glass of wine. And then we just did it, we left, we got on the plane as scheduled with a eleventy billion bags of crap, for two months in Provence. And have not regretted it a single second. The place has high ceilings and a large balcony where we eat lunch everyday. The kitchen is perfectly serviceable and I have cooked up a storm. This produce! Holy smokes. I’ve made calamari and ratatouille and crepes and delicate pink trout. Salads with endive and arugula and frissee and haricot vert and goat cheese and walnuts. Roasted chicken and broiled huge shrimp basted with butter and even half a turkey. We buy a baguette every morning and I mix in a spoonful of cherry preserves into my Greek yogurt and drink a steaming nespresso while I pump in the mornings (after feeding the missy her breakfast). We’ve befriended a grocer and his wife at Les Halles and he always slips us a “petite cadeau” in our bag: half a watermelon, a handful of cherries, a stem of fragrant tomatoes. And the wine is cheaper than water!
I don’t mean to paint this totally idyllic picture (though the FOOD, oh my god). It is sometimes hard being away from friends and family and DK and I can get annoyed with each other over the stupidest things. But I am so so happy we did this. We caught a train to Nimes last week and while we ate overlooking the Maison Carree, Eme snoozing in her pousette, I thought, “I am so lucky, so so lucky in this life.” When else will I get to run along the Rhone in the mornings or have a glass of wine with DK at noon on a Tuesday under a tree in Villeneuve or dance with my daughter in our little kitchen to “Blackbird” while DK laughs, filming us? I mean, probably that last one, yes. But I am so happy to have a slower life right now, a pace that allows for long meandering walks while our baby girl is still so small. She fills our days, that one, and I could not love her silly goose self more.
And 17 year old self? Good call. On both the boy and the promise.
[Coming up: It’s not all wine and roses – in which I have to call LA POLICE twice about the asshole idiot who lives next door.]