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


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

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March 4, 2003

Letting Go

The movers were coming to our house in Little Rock to give us a bid. The whole idea threw me into a tailspin that left me scrubbing the oven in this borrowed house, while tears dripped from my nose into the toxic foam. Can you imagine how much I hate cleaning an oven? I was reduced to this horror, the most onerous domestic bore, to find some relief from worry over my furniture and other belongings.

Frida was purring, "But sweetie, we're in France! Nothing else matters." Yes, Frida. It is wonderful! I love it here in our brave new world, my dream becoming fulfilled, and I couldn't ask for a better traveling companion than you. But what I find fault with is there-over the ocean-all those ties that aren't tied up, leaving us open to further emotional entanglement. Intellectually knowing something is the easy part, it's getting your head and heart in the same alignment that's difficult. (She knew what I was talking about.) I believe that if we'd had the closure of the house selling before we left it would've been hard but easier than this-over and done. Now every action brings us closer to homelessness and the nomadic lifestyle our ancestors thousands of years before practiced-hunting and fishing, gathering berries, roots, and shellfish to live on. I prefer hunting and gathering at the BHV or Bon Marché, cute boulangeries, and weekly markets. I won't even throw a lobster in a pot or cook a fish with its head on. I can't stand to bait a hook with a live worm. It's one of those things like having a baby-you can never really tell someone what it's like. There are stars in their eyes and they don't get it. Diego thinks you are silly, she said.

At least, I can say this out loud, I muttered. I know many people who cover their feelings (often with booze or pills, food or meanness), so they can't feel them or be hurt again by someone else. I have done the same at times in my life, but I'd rather not now. Frida asked for a drink. But I frankly admit I felt sadness and grief-more lessons in letting go. This is what I wanted. I was ready to move onto and into a new chapter of my life. What was I clinging to? Several people told me they could never do what we were doing, because they would freak out without having a home. The idea of being homeless actually excited me and still does, though making a wonderful home was very important to me, and probably will be again. If we're anywhere as long as a few days, we change furniture around to fit us. We make things comfy and homey. Am I freaking out? Of course, Frida retorted.

If you didn't have children, would you feel the same, she asked, with some attitude. I don't know. I definitely feel guilt because we don't have a "home" for them to come to. I wanted my children to be part of a strong family and to live in a solid home filled with beauty. Beauty is important in life-whether it's a moment or a sunrise, a fabric or a color, a piece of art or a piece of furniture, or a kind and generous heart. Beauty is essential to all of us, and my children had all that-though not now. Now they have to make their own homes in and outside of themselves, take responsibility for where they're going and where they are. It is vital that they find their own beauty. They are smart conchitas and stubborn like me, Frida added. They will make their own splendor. But as their mother, I still want to give them that as well. They have you and Jeem and your love for them no matter where we are in the world. (She was right, and I knew she was waiting for me to say that.) I support them no matter where we all are, but they no longer have a "home" with their parents because their parents don't have one. I've never had to do that. I come from a family of packrats. My mother still has my room with my stuff (which I went through this past summer as part of my clearing things out). I mean she still has my "Mystery Date" game, so what can you expect? And I guess this speaks to the power of motherhood as well as the difficulty of letting go. I'm letting go of my children so they can become real adults, whether they want to or not. Who wants to grow up? Frida wanted to know.

For months before we left, we were getting the house ready to sell. We put in a wonderful new bathroom upstairs-bright and airy, the color was the same as our serene guest bedroom. "Dreamland," it's called. It was as pretty as it sounds, a turquoise of sorts, and we even included a bench in the shower, because we thought that was a nice touch and we would've liked that ourselves. (Why didn't I do that earlier for the kids to enjoy?) We spruced and fixed, making sure that everything in and out of the house was superb. We wanted to get the best price for our big house and lot in the best neighborhood and school district in town (not just according to us). We worked long and hard every day getting all this done with workmen in and out. Of course, it took weeks more than it was supposed to, but it finally was finished just before we were taking Bret to college in Virginia.

We spent eight days driving and depositing her and her belongings there, settling her in, so she'd feel good about where she was. After months of work on the house and trying to also take care of business before leaving the country for who knows how long, this was like a vacation for us-even though we were leaving our youngest child, unloading my sister-in-law's Suburban that was packed full, and made ever so many trips to the Wal-Mart to buy more. (We spent some time with cousins Joy and Tom and Jim and Frances along the way. It was extra fun and rewarding to connect with, as we say in the South, "blood" kin.) This was like Disneyland compared to all the stuff we had been doing, and still had to do, at home.

Two weeks later we were off to Matt and Samantha's wedding in Mendocino, California, which was our final "must" before leaving the country, an important reason to still be in the States. We all met there for the wonderful occasion and had a glorious long weekend together.

We'd been exhausted for months and thought the house would sell right away. It didn't. A few weeks after the wedding, we decided to start packing things up. When we left in November, we'd packed and stored almost 300 boxes. (We may not have a house, but we have a lot of stuff to go in one.) Box No. 1 is the dining room chandelier that Jim and I bought in Montecito and shipped home 12 years ago. We replaced it in July, because we wanted to keep it. Earlier this week the inventive buyers of the house complained that we'd changed this chandelier in the last two weeks. I mean I'm flattered that they understand how faboo it is, and they certainly endow us with much more energy than we can even think about, and they might've seen a picture-but never the actual fixture. Letting go of our house and closing it would feel better and be easier if we had been shown more good will all along. Other people we've talked to have found consolation in letting go of homes when that has been the case.

Hopefully, our dog, Snapp, will be coming to France soon. Grandmother is weary, and Jim and I want to have him with us. It will make us happy. It will make Snapp happy. It will make Grandmother happy. (Poor Cleo left alone.) We called Mother and told her. I think she was doing a cheer as we hung up. And I got the sweetest email from Matt Morgan which made me feel good. While this diary is letting me process what is going on within and outside of me on this great adventure of ours, it's also allowing other people to read along and do the same for themselves. That's the point.

That night Jim beautifully prepared a small pork roast for dinner, with salt, pepper, garlic, and sprigs of rosemary. He peeled and chopped turnips, apples, celery, onion, pumpkin and mixed it with olive oil, poiré, salt, paprika, and cayenne. The pork roast went in first, and the vegetables were added later. The aroma seeping out of the oven was fragrant, savory, and as sweet as the glazed and golden picture when we opened up the roaster. What a beautiful meal!

It smelled like home. What is it we're grasping for after we've let go?

posted by Beth on March 4, 2003 | View All Diary Entries

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