The brilliant writer Rachel Cusk wrote a beautiful memoir about her family's bold move of living in rural Italy for a summer. Bill gave me the book, The Last Supper, inscribed with his promise that we too would get to Italy sometime this year. Thus far, we have only had the courage to visit the two towns closest to our house (three, if you count the foray to buy bread in Sillans de la Cascade. I'm not sure I would.)
Another of her books, A Life's Work, takes place in Gerton, England, coincidentally the town where Bill's family lived for a year when he was Abigail's age, the year of his life that has inspired at least the timing of our own trip. This memoir of her pregnancy and the first year of having her first child was the only book I ever read to truly articulate the power, terror, boredom, confusion and love I felt as a new mother. For this reason, I have always liked to imagine that Rachel Cusk and I have lots in common. Except she's a real writer, and she does things like have her girls do their summer math homework when they are in Italy. She reads aloud to them rather than letting them watch iCarly. Also, she actually prepares for her trip by learning the language.
Of course, my buddy Rachel only moved from England to Italy, and only for three months, which is basically like a Park Slope writer relocating her kids to Northern Vermont for the summer, except with lots more frescoes.
At any rate, back to The Last Supper. Reading it this afternoon, I was struck by a paragraph that managed to articulate the experience we are also having:
"At this time of day the house makes a black shape on its lonely hilltop. Its silhouette is imposing, and far from friendly. We look at it from down below: we seem, all of a sudden, so far from home, so self-willed and rootless. And yet it is this feeling that is the decisive stroke in the process of our liberation. As we look at those dark, distant windows our bounds are cut, our anchors weighed."
So here we are in Provence, so self-willed and rootless, bounds cut as all heck aside from an internet connection that switches off randomly and frequently.
It turns out that the iphone that Bill got me today in Draguinan gets either one bar or no bars here in the house where we are staying this first month before relocating to another house closer to the kids' school. I am incredibly grateful to Bill for the iphone, if only because he vanquished the cell phone lady. Still, it's a pretty big letdown that I can't actually call, text, or email anyone with it, much less send them adorable snapshots of the kids whenever they look cute. In town it works fine, but here at the house it's just an awfully expensive ipod, which makes me feel foolish.
Only Bill and I are daft enough to drag our kids this far away from home for a full year on what ultimately amounts to a whim. No job brought us here. No family. No real connections. It's absolutely lovely, and we are all learning something -- I guess mostly about how to be here -- but today I can't quite get my head around the fact that this is not a vacation that will end soon. I will not be going back to school this September, only the second year I have not done so since I was three years old.
I am speaking almost no French, have not yet met anyone remotely like a friend. The French people we see do not smile when we walk past.
Self-willed and rootless. Tonight that is more than a tiny bit scary.
All this, plus I lost my best black bathing suit somewhere in the house.
Thus I am missing all those of you back home. I am missing having a beer on the stoop with you, or running into you on Seventh Avenue, or having dinner with you and the kids.
It also occurs to me that if the potatoes you made for dinner, let's just imagine, were as raw as the ones I served tonight, you could probably call a pizza store right now, in English, and someone would bring you a whole hot pie. Count this simple blessing, if you would, then send me a virtual slice.