France Dress Style
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
Not a single person encouraged me to move to France immediately after my husband’s death and shortly before I turned eighty.
Indeed, it sounded like an insane idea to some. Others simply listened to my plans in silence. A few were unable to hide their disdain. Some doubtless thought I was suffering from dementia.
They quizzed me.
Did I speak French? No.
Would I be able to find medical care? I hoped so.
Would I miss my beautiful home? Not the house, but I would miss the sugar pines and white firs that surrounded it. At the same time, I’d leave the constant threat of fire behind.
Would I miss my friends? Greatly, but I’d try to make new friends and stay in touch with the old ones via the marvels of technology.
What would I take with me? Not much. No furniture. I’d ship a few boxes of sentimental items and take whatever clothes I could pack in suitcases.
Where would I live? I’d live close to my son and his family in Montpellier, near the Mediterranean Sea. And no, I didn’t have an apartment or house yet.
Had I considered storing my belongings so I had an escape plan? Never. I was 100 percent committed to my new life.
I was not discouraged by the questions or the vagueness of my answers. I’d decided to join my French family and reinvent myself for my final act. That was that!
In mid-July, I flew to France. The characters who greeted and then sustained me during the initial, sometimes painfully difficult, transition are introduced here:
- My son, Expresso, who’s never seemed to want for words in French or English, was eager to share his adopted country—his home for the last twenty years.
- His wife, Attenderella, could not be a more thoughtful daughter-in-law and often made sure my needs were met before I was even aware of them. She found a furnished apartment nearby where I would be comfortable until I settled into more permanent housing. Because I was so close by, I could join the family for delicious French meals.
- My seventeen-year-old grandson, who I named the Wizard, became my in-house IT guy. Having learned to type on a manual typewriter in high school, I’ve had to force myself to become functional on a computer—but that’s as far as my learning extends.
The Wizard got everything working, from assembling office furniture purchased at IKEA to setting up my new computer (like me, the computer I brought from the US was old and slow). He also designed this blog and is teaching me computer skills.
Even after spending time helping me, however, the Wizard is still able to keep up with his studies, bike, and socialize with friends.
- My thirteen-year-old grandson’s name is Hugbug because he never loses an opportunity to give me a hug when greeting me in the morning, when he stops by my apartment on his way home from school, or when we say goodnight. He’s also a passionate soccer player and an excellent student.
- The last member of the family is Poochi, the Japanese word for “spot.” Poochi, who often acts as my comfort animal, is a purebred Shiba Inu and a real mischief maker. When he visits, I keep my shoes and socks out of his reach.
- My neighbor and French tutor is the Prof, short for professeure, the French word for a female teacher. She’s encouraged me to think I can become fluent, or at least fluent enough to get by.
My one-bedroom apartment, the Cave, is dark unless I open the shades. During the heat of the late summer, I had to keep them closed to keep the sun out, which made the space dim day and night. Even though it’s small and dark, I’m quite comfortable in the Cave.
La Petite Cheersville is the gated community where my son’s family lives and is no more than sixty feet from my apartment. The weekly Friday night get-togethers in the courtyard—come heat, rain, or cold—remind me of the television show Cheers. Everyone knows each other’s names—even mine—and I’m beginning to learn theirs.
The cast of characters and places in this blog may expand over time, but these are the main actors, actresses, animal, and locations in my life as I begin my new adventure.
Cover photo by Léonard Cottee on Unsplash
“Apéro time” photo by Celine Yimz on Unsplash