I need to explain. This post is an excerpt from a little thing I worked on a couple of years ago. I was trying to put together a memoir, a memento of our marriage and France and how the two go together. We had just moved to France when I started this project, an adjunct of my blog that you’ve all been so kind and generous to share with me over these four years.
Lately things have been changing, shifting, and I have been trying to keep up. I continue to spend my time surrounded by words, dreaming up stories and making friends out of thin air; contemplating, reading, piecing bits together and searching, searching, turning the thing around and upside down, looking for the perfect combination. But things happen, time passes. It is important to revisit the past, to read those old words and ideas, to conjure the newness that must be left behind in order to move forward.
Thank you for indulging me. Back we go…
Marriage is one of those things I’d never seen done well. Maybe you’re like me and you haven’t really either. Or then again, maybe you’re one of those lucky people that I pray my children are among who grew up with married love all around you, so thick and rich, such a part of you you never even noticed.
You can’t really see marriage done well in popular culture. They usually stop at the marriage part leaving us to believe that love, real love, the kind that can only be built through years of give and take, excavation and discovery, trial and error and the shared making of a life, is supposed to magically just happen after we’ve seen the credits roll or read ‘The End’.
I confess in all honesty that while I loved Paul when I said yes, I will marry you, and I loved him when I nearly bounded down the Texas hill country aisle to him with a smile plastered a mile wide on my face and a feeling of true bliss and wonder at what we were doing, I wasn’t really ‘in love’ with him until we’d spent some time together as a married couple. A done deal.
And so when I say that we fell in love on our honeymoon, it is true. We are still falling in love, on the good days of this marriage, over fifteen years later. Falling in love is all of the parts that come after. And it’s the crux of our French story too. The honeymoon is never over.
We arrived on a Sunday afternoon, numb from exhaustion, husband and wife for less than 36 hours. Our luggage bumped through the empty streets of Meyrargues; the flutter of a lace curtain, a baby’s cry and the deafening scratch of cicadas our only greeting. I looked over at my new husband and wondered, ‘What in all hell have I done?’
Shutters were drawn, the village locked up tight. A depressingly gray multi-window apartment block at the edge of the village stared blankly. Nothing moved except for a clutch of adolescent boys wheeling around on bikes. One with a scooter zipped around the younger ones, the mosquito whine serrating the quiet of the sleeping Sunday village.
Now I know why. Nothing happens on Sunday afternoons in tiny southern French villages. People repose after a long lunch. Life quietly plays out behind shuttered windows and doors. You are seriously SOL if you happen to arrive in a tiny, French village like say, Meryrargues, jet-lagged, overwhelmed, newly married, over-packed and starving as I did on the first real day of my marriage. It did not bode well.
I can see her, my 26 year-old self, wrestling with that overstuffed suitcase with no fancy wheels or swivel pull handle through that dreary napping village. I want to tell her of the story that will follow. I want to tell her it will be fine.
More than fine, you’ll see. You’ll end up falling even more in love. Not just with Paul, but with a country and its way of life. Its food. You will become one of the people who wouldn’t dream of going out on a Sunday afternoon. Who might even flick the lace curtains to see who it could be passing by, out and about at this hour, and on a Sunday? Eating will become your favorite past time. Reposing behind shutters closed to the afternoon, your favorite time of day.
You will be utterly besotted.
Don’t worry, I want to tell her. It will all be more than okay.
(to be continued…)