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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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February 27, 2003

Death and Rebirth

Alice and her partner, Guy, were coming for supper-our first (little) party in Auray. Alice has been so generous and kind, and we wanted this dinner to be special. She is intrigued with the American South, so my plan was to present her with her first Southern meal. I had gotten up and simmered the closest thing to lima beans I could find. They were a dried, pale green, and a bean anyway. I threw together zucchini, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and a red pepper, then sautéed them in olive oil and dotted the mélange with capers, which is my cross-cultural version of a Southern summer garden, French ratatouille, and Italian caponata. It isn't summer, but what's a girl to do? I also sautéed fresh spinach in olive oil, chopped marinated artichoke hearts, and mixed it all up with a little mayonnaise, cheese, and cayenne pepper-some version of this is in all the Southern cookbooks of a certain era-and would be the hors d'oeuvre to spread on crackers or toasted baguette. Alice is a vegetarian, so she wouldn't eat any meat, but I would buy a chicken to roast for the rest of us, and actually make biscuits (which I never do at home). Dessert would either be Banana Pudding or Strawberry Shortcake depending what I could find at the store.

Jim and I were driving to the LeClerc to complete our shopping after we'd finished working. We got to the parking lot, and it was empty. Horrors! Monsieur Bubbah and Madame Bubbette had struck again. We were in a small town, and it was late Sunday afternoon. Even in Paris, most of the boulangeries, butchers, and other grocery-type stores were closed after 2:00 P.M. What were we thinking?? Could we find anything open? We raced into Auray, and the boulangerie saved our day. Thank God, though my Southern menu was no more. At least, we could buy bread, a dessert, and chocolates. I had turkey legs and thighs in the freezer. We could thaw those out and roast them. The spinach/artichoke gratin would now be served with the close-to-lima beans and Somewhere Southern mélange. I had hummus and aubergine caviar in the refrigerator that would have to be hors d'oeuvre. Last but not least, we finally found an open bar and bought two bottles of champagne from the couple in charge. Phew!

When Alice and Guy arrived, we confessed. Alice has seen Monsieur Bubbah and Madame Bubbette in action many times. She has also encountered the Joades. We were trying to introduce Jim and Beth, the consummate host and hostess. Oh, well. Guy is French, and we spoke a little Francais. He spoke a little English, and we enjoyed a great evening in our borrowed home.

Two days later our house in Little Rock sold. We wanted and needed this to happen. We'd prayed for months for this event, but we weren't happy with the way it played out. I wish I felt better about it, but I don't. Our family truly loves this wonderful house that has been our home for 13 years. We have lived and loved and cared for it, and this is an unhappy finish. There's just no other way to put this. We were devastated. I cried, and we stayed up late talking about what to do. We considered not selling at all-renting and returning later to live or resolve the situation at that time. With much distress, we finally decided to go ahead with it. It's done. Do people who do the right thing get rewarded? People who don't often do.

Are we following the Pied Piper in France? Have we been following the Pied Piper all along trying to do what we thought was right for us in our lives, hearts, and work? What have we taught our children? What legacy do we leave? We are risk-takers and have bet on ourselves. One of my Wise Women friends once told me I was on the hero's journey. It's a classic archetype with suffering and perils involved to reach some holy grail. What grail is at the end of our search?

I emailed Blair and Bret a note and told them of the house sale and said I felt I'd let them down. For whatever reasons-logical or not-it's how I felt. I'm currently reading Georgiana, The Duchess of Devonshire, and throughout Georgiana's passionate, celebrity life, she and her women friends tried to secure their legitimate and illegitimate daughters' futures. I believe this is a natural impulse of mothers-whether in the 1700's or now. Liane de Pougy felt guilty her whole life about a child she abandoned along with her first husband. They had made some amends before he was killed in World War I, but she was tortured by (what she later came to believe as) this selfish act. Both girls sweetly wrote back assuring me I hadn't let them down at all. I was grateful for their support and love which is endearingly returned.

We always knew the sale of the house would be emotional and hard, even though it was what we'd chosen to do in starting our new lives. But this is thornier than I thought. I think that even though it's what we intended, as long as the house was still ours, we had a home whether we lived in it or not. I haven't been unhappy with our nomadic existence. To the contrary, I've enjoyed every step of the way, but somehow it does feel different now. At least at this moment, I am sad. I feel on the edge. I even feel guilty about our dog and cat being at Grandmother's, who grows tired of their responsibility. She's taken care of all the beings she wants to, and I understand. We have decided to bring Snapp here with us. Jim and I both believe that having him here will be helpful-to us as well as him. I don't yet know about Cleo. Her future is yet to be revealed.

We had all these discussions before we decided to sell. We ardently wanted to take this journey, to start new lives at this juncture in time. The sensation was overpowering to see ourselves and the world in new ways, to open our eyes. We consciously made the choice not to let this house that we loved, that was our family's home, stand in our way. New doors would open (and they have), and our children would have new opportunities. They are adults who are living their own lives, making their own decisions. Their home with us is wherever we are. I feel very fortunate that we all are so close, but I miss them right now. I wish they were here.

I think the house was our safety net, even though we were ready to move on. Homes should be the safest of havens for the families who live in them, joyous and hospitable places for their friends to visit, a reflection of the people who live in them. Ours has been that hands down-a fine place to live and entertain countless parties of friends and strangers who have soaked up its vibrant energy, the force that we filled it with. The family who has bought our honored house is lucky to have it.

In timeless mythology, death has to occur before rebirth can take place. At this point in time, the dying has begun, and rebirth awaits.

Underneath my distress, I realize the tiniest spark of excitement. The real adventure begins.

posted by Beth on February 27, 2003 | View All Diary Entries

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