Friday, October 3, 2014

Limbo vertigo



The color of the roses is making me dizzy. Leonard, my Mom's former fiancé and now husband, buys them for her every week. It is a habit that hasn't changed just because they have said, "I do." They are grocery store roses but that doesn't make the meaning behind them any less beautiful nor the curves of their petals any less fluid. My Mom lets me arrange them. "You are good at that...You get roses a lot don't you?" I look at her for a moment and then reach into the drawer for the big scissors.

Air France was on strike. When I mention it to people here in Michigan, I am met with an "Oh, really?" for it has barely bounced on the American news. And yet tens of thousands of people (according to Air France, the New York Times went for the more dramatic hundreds of thousands) have been stranded. I am one of them.

Of course, we knew about the impending strike before it happened, Remi and I. But still I had no choice but to take the plane for my Mom's wedding to Leonard, just as Remi had no choice but to stay behind. We couldn't afford to be two. And yes, it is France so there were jokes about the frequency of les grêves and the greediness of French workers, depending on who was doing the joking but in the end, the strike went on for fourteen days. No solutions were reached between the two parties.

Two weeks may not sound like much but I wonder about the many stories of what happened for others like myself. How many lives were somehow utterly changed because of not being able to get back to a place called "Home." I have been lucky, of course, in that I have the guest room to inhabit, not the blank walls of a hotel to shut me down and in. "This is your second home," Leonard often says. It is as generous as he is and he means it. Their love and kindness - along with that of my Sister, Robin, who lives a half hour away - is as profuse as the perfume from a technicolor bouquet. I lean in instinctively to catch the ghost scent in remembrance.

I prick my thumb while cutting the stems. A grimace and a swear escape. I should know better for I do love roses. My mind must be wandering. Back to Provence I suppose, back to Remi and the dogs and that other Home, the first one, that I was only just beginning to know three weeks ago.

On my cell phone are little pictures that I return to, something like memory paintings. Olive trees, tails wagging. Instagram talismans. I realize that it isn't the color nor the thorns prick that are making me dizzy, it is the pull. Of limbo vertigo. If Air France behaves, tonight I will take the plane. And I will cry to leave this part of my family (age doesn't shame me into doing otherwise) just as I will crumble with relief into Remi's arms at the other end.

This is just how it is within an expat's life. It is full and complex and confusing and I chose it. But for me, this aspect of it doesn't ever get any easier. There are parts of my heart in many places and I can feel them beating boom, boom, boom.

25 comments:

vicki archer said...

I hope you get away tonight Heather... and I understand so well that feeling of being pulled from one side of the world to the other...

It has been 15 years now... but it is still a confusion I choose not to dwell on... for there is no easy answer or solution.

The best that I can come up with is that I have two fabulous lives and for that I am truly grateful... Europe and Aus... Safe travels... xv

Heather Robinson said...

Thank you Vicki. I imagine that only fellow expats might understand what I am feeling but I still really wanted to write this. As you have said, there is no easy answer but it is something important that we live with...13 years now for me...
Gros Bisous,
H

angiemanzi said...

I remember those days very well. The turn at Newfoundland was the favorite part of my returns home and home.

Heather Robinson said...

Mine too Angie. :)

Suze said...

Hi Heather,

I don't often comment, but I was in Entrevaux, just about to finish a solo bicycle ride from Paris to Nice when my husband (at home, in the US) emailed me about the impending strike. I immediafely bought a TGV ticket from Nice to Paris, thinking it would be better to be stranded needing one flight than two. Sure, enough, my flight from Nice to Paris was cancelled by the strike. And then two flights from Paris to Boston were cancelled.

Happily I could find a hotel room not too expensive. Happily, my boss, coworkers and husband all understood,. Happily, I was able to relax and had 4 lovely, unscheduled and unanticipated days in Paris. Then I gave up on Air France and bought an Icelandair ticket home. I think about the Seine, the sun, the little parks, the evening concerts,, the gracious, kind people I met. I remember my amazing ride in the Seine/Yonne, Bourgogne, Rhone, Provence, Haute Alpes, PACA, ... Mont Ventoux! I don't think about the aded expense. And I certainly don't think about the futue of Air Frsnce, Transavia, or who might be "right"

La Contessa said...

Your right a lot of people stranded in hotels that they canNOT afford.And your right about the AMERICANS NOT being INFORMED.My husband who drives around a lot for work always listens to the NEWS radio and he was unaware of it!Which totally shocked me.I can only imagine what this has done to AIR FRANCE.I doubt many people will be booking in the future.At least those affected by the strike.So SORRY you got stuck................your new-old house awaits!

edgar said...

One of those swerves from the groove (paraphrasing Emily Dickinson).

Can it be blessing in disguise? You were able to stay longer with your family after you were away for a long while. It's hard to divide a heart.

Who can refuse roses?

Have a wonderful weekend Heather.

Maywyn Studio said...

Glad you are getting back to the Home of Your roses
:)

D A Wolf said...

"Full and complex and confusing." That describes it perfectly.

Wishing you a wonderful homecoming in France. And many sweet scents to await you.

xo

Silke Bauer said...

Should I say, 'I hope you are on the plane, now' ? Yes and no, but yes. A divided heart, as Edgar has already put it, is in fact what I fear. (though in my situation the distance would be ridiculous...)

Not only you, also your family seems to be very strong to let you go in a positive way. I admire this a lot.

Olive trees and tails wagging.... (: I wish you a "débarquement en douceur"

Loree said...

That was beautiful Heather and oh-so-true. I trust you are back in your other Home.

Jessica Pasa said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jessica Pasa said...

Hi Heather, I know exactly how you feel. I have lived in France twice, once in the North in Paris and once in the South in Toulouse. Ever since these experiences I have had one foot in France and one foot in the U.S. I can't help it when there are things I can't live without in both countries. I'm sure you understand. I agree that it doesn't get easier; you just learn to deal with it. I think you wrote beautifully about that push and pull. Bravo!

Heather Robinson said...

Suze, I am happy to hear that you had a good experience at the end of such an amazing bike ride! It was perhaps more challenging for those of us who couldn't buy another ticket (we had used Remi's points) or, as La Contessa points out below, those who were stuck in hotels that they couldn't afford. Your bike ride must have been so beautiful...especially at this time of year.

Heather Robinson said...

I was so grateful to be "stuck" in a loving home where I was spoiled with kindness and good eats...I miss them though...

Heather Robinson said...

I always appreciate your perspective, Edgar. Thank you.

Heather Robinson said...

Made me smile.

Heather Robinson said...

Merci, amie...

Heather Robinson said...

Yes, they were positive right to dropping me off at the airport, assuring me that they will be sending me love wherever I am.

Heather Robinson said...

Back since Saturday night but still in a fog...

Heather Robinson said...

Thank you Jessica and yes I do understand. And I completely with you...sometimes it is surprising what those things are that I can't live without too...

Mumbai said...

home is where your heart is...and that can be everywhere. Welcome back.

silkannthreades said...

Having just made a family visit to Australia, I am feeling much the same. I am as conflicted as the pushmi-pullyu, although perhaps I am wrong to think that creature was conflicted. I don't know my Dolittle well enough. :(

Heather Robinson said...

Thank you, R.

Heather Robinson said...

What can I do but send back a warm hug, virtually, to you? It is hard, hard, hard.