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Matisse, France, Travel, Creativity, Adventure, Expatriates, Dreams, Reinvention


Chasing Matisse: The Book

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Matisse, France, Travel, Creativity, Adventure, Expatriates, Dreams, Reinvention

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January 3, 2003

Summer of Love

There was an underlying layer of sadness during Christmas week, because my chicks were flying-home to Arkansas, from where Bret would drive to Virginia in early January. When we parted in November, even though it was an emotional time for all of us, we knew we'd see each other in two and a half weeks. What we were doing was momentous-closing down 501 Holly in Little Rock-their childhoods, our lives together as a family, our home, where they could walk in the door and their mama would cook them a meal, and their stepfather would act silly, be "bad" with them. They could sleep in their own beds. Their dog and cat would greet them with affection. Their clothes hung in the closet. They felt safe (or, at least, their mother would like to think so).

This time they were flying away, and there was no meeting planned. I have chosen to be a nomad, but Bret has been forced. Blair, at least, has an apartment that doesn't close down for holidays.

We missed the empty nest syndrome. When we took Bret to college in August, we saw her again a few weeks later at her brother Matt's wedding in California. She already loved Hollins and Roanoke, so all was well with the Freshman. And because we were leaving, we had lots of friends come stay with us. Parties were given. Goodbyes were said. We were busy-beyond busy, really stretched about as far as we could go-packing up our lives. Oh, the night we returned home from taking Bret to Virginia Jim went upstairs and told me not to go. It was too sad, and he couldn't believe he was locking the front door, that she wasn't coming in. But we saw a lot of Blair, who was dealing/not dealing with all of this. Her boyfriend, Josh, was helping.

It was the summer of love for us. Since we knew we were leaving, parting, changing our lives irrevocably, and it was Bret's last summer at home, we spent lots of time together, ate many meals, enjoyed ourselves. We had time to ooh and ah and appreciate each other. As human beings, we often take relationships for granted. This is one time we did not (nor with our friends either).

One of Jim's great pains in his life was that he couldn't raise his sons. A divorce, geography, circumstances (whatever the reasons) wouldn't permit it. He buried himself in work and built walls around himself, and that hurt. We married, and he raised my girls instead. He is proud of that and should be. We took a while to jell as a family, and he and they stuck with it. As for the boys during our summer of love, it was Matt Morgan's, too. He and his (now) wife, Sam, were planning their September wedding and in a fanciful state of bliss. David and Erin Morgan were slaving at their new company in Chicago. Grownup lives, grownup issues. They had already made these breaks.

Anyway, December 26th was a sad day, a working day, a packing day. We had to move the next morning, when Blair and Bret were leaving. Michel had been kind enough to offer us another apartment of his, Sante Croix, for a reduced rate. We hadn't been able to find another place and decided a tiny hotel room wouldn't do. We'd been to Sante Croix and thought it more charming though not as much space as Perche (which Michel had given us for three weeks). We were to meet Ruben at 6 o'clock to retrieve a key and take some bags so the move wouldn't be quite so hard the next day. It was only a few blocks away, so Jim, Blair, Bret, and I walked down the rue Vielle du Temple pulling a suitcase each-sometimes in the street, sometimes on the sidewalk-and I'm not talking about little ones.

It was hilarious. I was laughing as we paraded down the street thinking of the sight we must look. "The Joads of Paris," I called to Jim. The "Joieds," he called back, pronouncing it the French way. Bret, who can become terribly embarrassed at such things, didn't seem to care. Blair, who is a generous person, swift of mind, was going along without groaning as well. (Blair has the most educated palate of all of us, and I have counted on her to choose our cheeses and make other decisions about foods and wines while she has been here.)

After that, we trekked to Montparnasse and La Closerie des Lilas, which has been restored to its glory, and is a classic, classy, and not fou-fou place. We had drinks at the bar, me sitting on Hemingway's stool (which I loved), while the expert bartender, dressed in white jacket and black tie, shook his cocktails. We decided to dine there for our last supper together and woofed down more briny oysters.

Ode to the French oyster-Oh oysters, oysters so divine and full of brine. Plump crustaceans, it is you we toast, before you slide down our throats (with good champagne we really hope). We'll meet your pals on the Brittany Coast and have some more!

Bret woke up vomiting the day she was to leave. I called and wrangled, and I do mean wrangled, with Delta Airlines and finally got her put on a flight the following day. (Would they really want a passenger throwing up while boarding?) It turned out later it was a freight flight. Guess that agent didn't like it when I asked to speak to her supervisor, but what is one to do, when there is no intelligent bending of rules?

Jacques picked up Blair, and we said teary goodbyes. She left without her sister, and we moved, bag by bag-Bret's pot of flowers, our Christmas tree, the food in the refrigerator. It was hard and exhausting, up and down flights of stairs. But we got it done.

Bret slept. I reorganized and wrote. Jim went out into the rainy day to try and take care of business and came home wet and beaten. Then I went out to hunt and gather chicken soup and crackers for my girl. We watched bad French TV (which often is bad American reruns).

The next morning Jacques picked up Bret. By noon, I felt her illness and crawled in her bed, took medication, and slept. Jim, again, had to deal with money issues. He talked to Lloyd, who, as usual, brightened Jim's day with a belief that things would work out.

posted by Beth on January 3, 2003 | View All Diary Entries

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