Back and forth, hither and yon – whether on my habitual trajectory between Touraine and Paris or further afield… destinations, encounters, events and observations I can’t resist sharing.

Motherhood Act 2

March 1, 2013

Turning 18 is a big event here.  You fall asleep a dependent, and awaken with the right to vote, enlist in the army, take the driver’s permit test and order a Remy with your espress.

The concept of ‘sweet 16’ smacks of commercial seduction to the French, and 21 is just an odd number.  20 is celebrated as the start of a new decade, but 18 signifies emancipation.  Ta fille has become une femme, and ton garcon… un homme.

Our youngest celebrated her 18th birthday yesterday – far away with new friends at university in London. As Emma crossed the threshold of adulthood, the curtain closed on Act 1 of my life as a mother.  It’s a period that spans the entirety of my time in France – soon to be 25 years.  To add insult to injury, my carte familles nobreuses (which entitled me to 30% discounts on trains and museums) also expires.  Official notice that it’s TIME TO MOVE ON.

When we landed at Charles de Gaulle airport in April 1988, I was pushing a stroller and carrying a diaper bag. Devin was nine months old.  What were we thinking?  Parenting is already a grueling apprenticeship, but somehow we assumed we were up to the challenge without a safety net of family and good friends.

The choice to stay on (and on) embraced challenge and isolation, but ultimately solidified the nuclear family.  Our three children, now 25, 22 and 18, didn’t grow up outsiders, but sensed they were different.  It was a status they attempted to camouflage or ignore but eventually came to embrace with gratitude.

We did more learning together than many families.  We taught them English, and we absorbed French grammar, history and geography overseeing homework. By round three I finally mastered the subjunctive.

As they grew up in the country, we gradually figured out how to garden, tend vegetables, restore a ruin, care for and train dogs and horses.  I’m not certain Devin, Sarah and Emma were as keen about our choices as we were, but as Jeffrey likes to remind me, we planted the seeds of nostalgia – memories infused with pungent odors, the fury and glory of nature.

Last autumn they left us behind for schools in Philadelphia, New York and London. The French phase of their education is over, and they’re exploring life in familiar, but ultimately foreign cultures.

This morning it hit me that I’m the age my mother was in 1988, when her only daughter and first grandchild moved an ocean away.  At least I have the consolation of what’s app and skype.





Harriet said

March 3, 2013 at 5:30 pm

As I mentioned to you before, I think that there is a book waiting to be written about all of this!

Joyeux Anniversaire à Emma!

Casey replied

March 7, 2013 at 7:12 pm

Counting on you to buy it Harriet 🙂

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