[Aside: If you checked the blog in the 24 hours prior to this post, you may have been greeted with an expired webpage notification. Thankfully, I did not check it during that time period or I may well have panicked that all was lost and plummeted into despair. A huge thank you goes to Chris who is hosting the page and renewed it, my friend Madonna (yes, the real one, as far as I am concerned) who sent me a pre-emptive message about the site's status (during which she also informed me that she is now sewing her own kids clothing line -very cool! check it out at ohaikids.com) and also thank you to Nik for remotely backing up the blog in some magical and very comforting fashion. Nik, I think you would get along nicely with Chris.]
It really didn’t seem like we had accumulated that much stuff until we started to concentrate the booty strewn about the house into a smaller surface area. At this point, it became rather alarming. Marc had already made one trip home to Canada with a full duffle bag and returned with an empty one. Another whole duffle bag was sent with Marie and Gildas to be re-united with us in Toronto. The day before our flight, we headed out in desperate search of a cardboard box. Marc returned with a wine box which was extremely helpful until it was full and then it was decidedly less helpful. A huge suitcase, two duffle bags, an army size tump-sack, a guitar and a card-board box, three carry-on backpacks, a carry-on suitcase and a picnic basket. Oh, and a pile of stuff still on the bed looking for a home.
Marc implemented extreme triage measures. “Marbles, Graeme? You have two pounds of marbles here! Surely you can find someone to give them to?” No!! I NEED them! I won them! I love them! Marc moves on to other victims. “No sunscreen! No shampoo and for the love of God, no toothpaste!” I concede that he has a point about the toothpaste. Early on in our year, we lamented about the lack of availability in France of our favourite kind of toothpaste (Arm and Hammer baking soda in case you are wondering – we much prefer the paste to the gel kind but either are acceptable over other brands). With the arrival of our first visitors came five boxes of the stuff and a further five arrived with the next wave. Somehow, through various children’s overnight trips, three bathrooms in use and general toothpaste mismanagement, we ended up with five partially used tubes and two full ones. These, we have left as a legacy to our stay and a house-warming gift to our soon-to-arrive Canadian stunt-double replacements who have rented the same house, purchased our car and bikes and walked into expectations of goodness-knows-what sort of stereotypical traps we have laid for them…
Leaving Aniane was one of the hardest things we have done. One last look around the too-tidy living room and all of my new-found emotional resolve left me. It also had the somewhat unsettling effect of dissolving the resolve of everyone within a 10 foot radius. Marc pulled the front door closed for the last time and hesitated with the key in his hand. “Ready? Sure we have everything?” Through a haze of tears I see the luggage piled high in the back of Bastien’s truck. I nod although the finality of the throwing the key through the mail slot panics me. Clink. That’s it. “Scenic route or highway?” Bastien asks, and we agree on scenic without thinking that this means driving all the way through town for the last time instead of taking a quick exit to the highway. “Bye, tabac” the boys call out. “Bye, salle des fetes. Bye, pizza place.” We drive past the school. “Bye school!” and then from Graeme to his beloved teacher although she is long gone: “Bye, Meat-dress!” At least this makes me laugh a little. Bastien checks the rearview mirror every few seconds sending sympathetic looks.
I begin to compile a mental list to remind myself of the the pros of living in Vancouver but my sneaky subconscious battles back after each new entry: sushi! (duck confit, foie gras, saucisse seche…), bagels! (baguette, croissant, pain au chocolat..), my own oven! (pre-rolled puff pastry…), mountains! (vineyards, plane-tree lined avenues…), huge drug stores where I can sniff shampoos and purchase items anonymously without having to discuss specifics with the clerk before having a remedy selected on my behalf! (sprawling street markets with farm fresh produce….), cheddar cheese! (oh, who am I kidding? This is a losing battle….) Arm & Hammer toothpaste! Dental floss! [This could be the turning point] Family! Friends! Maple syrup! The cottage!
I relax into my seat and begin to enjoy the blur of lavender and grapevines. I feel Graeme clench his muscles in excitement beside me and look into his smiling face. “We’re going on a train! and a plane! and I get to see my cousins, and nana and nanny and Auntie Moniqu-eeee!” Keep going kid, I think. I could use some help beefing up my list.