What most postcards and Christmas letters won’t say. Day 258: We are trying to get out of the dirty apartment we had to stay in for two days, the hallways smell of dead cat corpses, the sinks and toilet we found filthy. We are in stress mode, it involves cleaning and cooperating, as impossible to accomplish as the Rubix Cube. So Noah is loudly gabbing away about something, Chloe is grumpy it’s before noon and she is up and cleaning and says “NOAH NO-ONE CARES!” Ouch, Noah takes offence and deflates, stomping off. “We’re in an apartment shhh!” I remind them and reprimand Chloe about being KIND and treating each other with respect. We try to get closer to the door, Wayne gives his famous unwanted countdown, ” 6 minutes till we need to go”, shoes on, Chloe can’t find her socks, followed by inept child looking, no luck, I find her socks under backpack sigh, stress building…Wayne counting down 3 minutes to go. Noah plotting his revenge. Wayne conveniently disappearing downstairs. We get to the elevator that can hold only two of us. We are on the sixth floor, Chloe and I are there first, Noah pushes Chloe out of the way with me reprimanding him, “shhhh” I get pushed into the elevator with Noah and Chloe’s backpack. Chloe yelling “Mom, it’s not fair!!!!”, ” shhhh” I hiss, I hear her stomp loudly down the stairs our elevator stops at floor 5. “That was Chloe pressing the button” Noah says. I say “Noah that’s why wars are started people jumping to conclusions. How do you know it was Chloe?” We stop at floor 4, then 3 then 2 it was definitely Chloe, ground floor a proud looking Chloe trying to get her bag out of the elevator. Noah pushes her away and presses a button and sends Chloe’s bag up to floor 2. Chloe gasps “MOM!” ” shhh” I remind again “shhh”, we are like a band of drunk rock stars we are so LOUD, but I can’t help but laugh. Day 265: Chloe is cleaning the frosty freezer scrapping the ice from the sides and she thought it would be hilarious to dump a bucket of ice on Noah while he was relaxing in the bathtub. Noah was so upset that the only resolution they could come up with (Chloe didn’t like the take away her ipad suggestion) was to let Noah throw a bucket of cold water on her. So with a plastic bag on her head, goggles on her eyes and pjs on she stood in the shower while Noah threw a pot full of cold water on her. This was before we knew about the ice bucket challenge. Peace resumed. I’m going to miss this chaos one day.
We often sit around the table saying: remember when the elephant charged Chloe in the dark, or when the fornicating cows almost trampled Noah, or when we almost died in the Tuk Tuk or when dad ran for the train swearing like a crazy man, or when mom thinking she is as perfect as Mother Theresa writes in her blog, how great she is and how terrible we are. These are my favourite moments, simple and un orchestrated, add a delicious baguette, some french cheese, a tomato salad and it can’t get any better.
I hate endings and I hate leaving places, I don’t want to go home yet. Beginnings have such possibility and promise; endings are so final. It’s like the optimism I felt at the beginning of the school year, how organized and smart I’d be, verses the end of the year when I wish I would of been more organized and smart. I get a bit panicked shoulding on myself, ever done it? I should have a thoughtful gift to bring everyone, I should be well versed in French language, cuisine, history, art, I should have changed my children’s mind so they really do like sight seeing, eating vegetables and biking with their parents, I should of tasted every sweet, gone to every bakery, store and art gallery. I should of read more, learned more, enjoyed the children more, had more insights on life and my future, hell throw discovered the secret to world peace, global warming and what to do about poverty, in the shoulding pile. But whether I like it or not our adventure is galloping at a ferocious pace to it’s conclusion. I do feel proud that we had the courage to take off and live a dream.
There are two camps back at the apartment du Kaulbach, the sad… not ready to leave yet parents and the bouncing up and down with excitement yelling “we’re going home, we’re going home, thank God we’re going home”, children. Noah has a new found love of Canada he will kiss everything he sees, he will go to QE park and kiss the ground, he’ll kiss our house, he’ll ride his bike kiss that too and eat at Trillusa’s, have bagels from Solly’s, grilled cheese sandwiches, Frank Red Hot Sauce, he’ll first HUG and then play with his friends. He LOVES CANADA, he loves our home, his friends and hockey. Chloe is having unusual fits of high pitched squealing accompanied with skipping and twirling at the thought of her own bed, pillow, blanket looking at her clothes again. Seeing her friends, having sleepovers CUDDLING LOLA. Wayne and I are dragging our feet, kicking our backpacks, and pouting, thinking of work, bills, and the busyness of home. We are trying not to take the childrens joy personally, they are SOOOO happy that this trip (we have inflicted on them) is about to come to an end. I figure if torturing them gave them a far greater appreciation of home it was a success. Plus there happiness is contagious and great to be around.
Just when the French language and culture were almost familiar. I take one trip to the post office where no one speaks English and there’s a weird machine thing and paper stuff to do and I haven’t a clue how to work it and I am like an infant left alone in a forest, I am a still a foreigner.
We cram sightsee, the Catacombs and a two hour line up one day. We weren’t that impressed sure there are 6 million bones down there but they are all just piled up, row after row. Then Noah and I spent a whole day at Versailles which we loved, the gardens sublime, the castle all gold, tapestry, frescos and decadence for extra value the Kings loved Roman mythology so Noah was happy as a clam. Chloe imerged like a butterfly from her cocoon to see the Tower, eat lemon tarts, the Arc du Triumph, eat raspberry tarts, Moulin Rouge, eat chocolate cake, Tuillers gardens, eat crepes, We kept cramming our mouths and our schedule till the last possible second. We started to say good bye to the last lemon tart, last best baguette ever, last time seeing the Eiffel Tower, last time shopping at the Monoprix or the Bon Marche food store, last time on the Velib biking along the Seine. Last time smelling urine on the street, or choking on cigarette smoke or drinking the chalky tap water.
We are practicing ways to respond to people when they say “How was your trip?” this gives us countless giggles.
” It was good” won’t suffice
Chloe came up with
“It was interesting thank you, I learned a lot about the world, myself and the people I travelled with……….I no longer call them my family.”
“My psychiatrist tells me it’s too soon to talk about it.”
“I enjoyed 9 hours and 10 minutes of the whole trip”
or not wanting to appear bratty or spoiled or rich he wants to say it was good thank you and never talk about it again.
or Wayne’s being the optimist of the group:
“Our nuclear family has been forever altered, for good, for bad, but mostly, I hasten to add, for the good.”
“We had an amazing time”
“Noah is prepubescent, Chloe is a teenager, Wayne has an anxiety disorder and I’m menopausal, need I say more???????”
read Chloe’s upcoming memoirs “The 9 Months of Hell”
and Noah’s “I Don’t Want To Go, Why Are You Forcing Me”
The trip after a recent poll exceeded (optimistic) Wayne’s expectations, was lower than(hard to please) Chloe and Noah’s and my (wishy washy) answer changes dependant on the moment. I know we jammed some interesting experiences into our lives. It has been amazing, frustrating, inspiring, tiring, uncomfortable, and fascinating. I am mournful and intrigued to be able to watch our children as they leave there kid ness behind. Chloe is blooming into a young woman. I realize now it requires a lot of sleep to bloom. Noah still has a toe hold in childhood, but his legs and arms are embracing teenagehood. “Slow down, don’t hurry, be safe, stay young, keep skipping, singing, playing, with abandon.” I tell them, my sermon words are blah blah blah to them. We are packed and boarding our 20th plane for our home and native land, familiar Ontario to see Wayne’s mom and sister. We are greeted with the loving embraces of family. We are staying at Lois’s house which is a country oasis, the night is filled with cricket, and frog serenades. We walk the dogs, pet the cats, catch frogs, find baby snapping turtles, visit sweet nanny, Lois and the cousins. We miss and remember Al, Lois’s amazing husband who died two years ago of a massive heart attack at age 52. Al’s daughter Lindsay just gave birth to a healthy boy and in one moment we felt the joy of a brand new baby and the sorrow of the loss of her father. Wayne and I buy a book for the baby called Guess how much I love you. We both cry in Chapters remembering when we read it to our babies. We remember Nikki, Lois’s daughter who was killed on her nineteenth birthday. We feel Al and Nikki everywhere, but it is not the same as having them here. They ever remind us to LIVE IN THE MOMENT.
We are off to see Litia!!!!!!!!! Waiting at home in Vancouver, she hasn’t seen Chloe and Noah in a year and a half. The excitement is palatable, we are coming home.