Saturday, August 24, 2013

Brave New World

Paris feels like a dream.  I find myself thinking, "Was that really my life? Did we really live there? Did we really do those things, go to those places, speak French every day?"  I can't spend too much time contemplating this transition because it makes me tear up a bit - and I simply haven't had the time to reflect. 

Since landing in the US, we have found and moved into an apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn.  We bought a car.  We have bought a lot of Ikea furniture.  We have unpacked many boxes.  We acquired US cell phones.  I have reveled in the ability to strike up conversations with strangers, and to eavesdrop on the subway.  Today I had my first playdate with a new friend (I mean, of course, that Nava had a playdate, with another baby we met in the playground) and the mom asked, "So what was Paris like?" 

It was a difficult question to answer.  What was it like?  The things that were hard have already melted away into a layer of nostalgia. In my memory, it was gorgeous and sunny and smelled like rotisserie chicken and fresh baguettes.  I miss the bread. And Parc Monceau. And my friends, and Max's friends, and our routine.  I miss that my husband actually came home from work (hey, guess what, turns out the private sector lifestyle kinda stinks). 

New York is an incredible city.  We are going to have a lot of adventures exploring this place.  It's just a different beast - I interviewed a part-time nanny candidate this week, and she asked whether I had particular flashcards or alphabet games that I preferred she use with my kids.  I replied, "What are you talking about?! My oldest child is 2!"  And her response was, "Wow, you really are different."

It is strange to no longer be unusual.  I'm not the American-living-in-a-foreign-country, smiling broadly to make up for my ability to effectively communicate.  It is no longer the case that any other mom speaking English in the playground is a potential friend.  Okay, technically I suppose that is the case, but we are no longer guaranteed the commonality of expat status. 

We have American television again, but it turns out there's really nothing good on.  Something called "Honey Boo-Boo" happened in our absence, and I really don't want to know about it.  I have to force myself to remember that I'm in the same time zone as friends and family, and that I can actually call people in the morning.

For the last two years, my identity was completely wrapped up in being an expat in Paris.  I am not quite sure who I am now - I'm the same person, but I'm different.  Our Paris has ended - it was a moment in time that will never exist in the same way again.  The lasting impact it will have on our life is still unclear.  Max already won't let us read or speak to him in French.  We have sampled three baguettes here - two from "French" bakeries - and all were inedible. 

I feel mournful for our Paris life in a way I hadn't anticipated.  The magnitude of this transition caught us off guard.  These two weeks in New York have felt so long.  I feel grateful for the small things - that my kids are happy and healthy, that my in-laws came to help us move in, that friends are welcoming us to our new city, that it turns out that most people in New York are actually quite friendly, that Graeter's ice cream is available at the Fairway in Red Hook.  Paris feels like a dream, and our new life is as yet unsettled.