Tomorrow morning, Clive and I leave Paris for New York, to spend a few weeks, including that most wonderful of U.S. holidays, Thanksgiving, with my family.
By the time we end this trip in early December, we will have spent close to a total of six weeks in Paris. I’m still posting about our time in England a few weeks ago; it’s only thanks to Anne in Oxfordshire, who is still posting about her trip to Paris, that I haven’t despaired completely. We both find it amusing that I am here and she is there but I’m posting about there and she is posting about here.
As has happened for the past fifteen years, ever since I first moved to Australia, I feel more and more stress the closer I get to returning to New Jersey. I haven’t quite learned how to remain a grown-up when I return to the place of my childhood. The slightest query from either of my parents along the lines of ‘Do you think you’ll ever move back to the United States?’ fills me instantly with sadness and guilt. If I were in their shoes I’d ask the same question. What aging parent wouldn’t want to know what their child/ren are thinking in terms of life plans?
On this trip to Paris I happened to read two books in which the author and/or lead character has a mother in a nursing home. I wondered if the Universe was trying to tell me something. In Patricia Hampl’s memoir, ‘The Florist’s Daughter‘, the author writes about visiting her mother every day, even after her mother’s Alzheimer’s progressed to the point where she was unaware how often she saw her daughter. In Susan Breen’s novel ‘The Fiction Class’, the lead character visits her mother once a week.
I cannot do this from Sydney, Australia. Yes, when I visit my mother, I see her every day, but that’s only for a few weeks at a time. Last year we spent a total of three months in New Jersey, but that was an exceptional situation due to her move to assisted living and the need to empty and sell her house. I’m still wrestling with how often and how long to spend there and I’ve come to realise there is no pat answer other than, ‘It depends’ and will change every time based on everyone’s health and circumstances.
So. We have just spent a little more than three weeks here and I have written some, read some, walked quite a bit, and cherished the time Clive and I have had together, just living a daily life in Paris. For me, this is heaven, dog doo and occasionally crazy French service people notwithstanding.
But I found I was repeatedly questioning myself, in a critical, judgmental tone, ‘So, Carolyn, why aren’t you in New Jersey?’ Sometimes I answered myself rather bluntly, saying, ‘If you wait until elderly parents die before you [insert something that’s been a dream of yours forever], then you may never get there because these days people can live a long time.’
‘Well,’ I challenge myself again, ‘that’s all well and good but we are talking about your mother, the woman who raised you and your brother Rob after your father left, the one person on this earth who has always been there for you, the person you always called first, when you were over the moon with happiness (such as when you found out you were pregnant), or when you thought you couldn’t cope (such as when your husband died). And there you sit in Paris while you could be visiting her in New Jersey?’
And this is where I reply — perhaps lamely, although I have given it a lot of thought — ‘Yes. I have spent the past three weeks in Paris. Tomorrow I’m going to see my mother.’
I try to be positive on this blog and in my mind. I tell myself: some people spend months or years travelling the world. They leave family behind in order to — finally, after years of working for others — pursue lifelong dreams and goals.
Spending time in Paris does not make me a criminal. I know this. I know about family globalisation and that this is part of being an ex-pat, loving people and countries in addition to those of my origin.
Don’t you just wish sometimes that life was easy and you could do everything? Wouldn’t it be great if we could physically be with everyone we loved at the same time, while pursuing hobbies and interests and travelling, too?
Ahhhhh well. That wouldn’t be real life, would it? We have to make choices. But there’s no harm in dreaming once in a while.
Cheers and au revoir, Paris. We will be back.
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