They generally tell me how disappointed they are that I am not writing just a few minutes after they have given me a huge hug and told me how glad they are that we are back. But really, I probably was much more interesting when I was 3,000 miles away, and felt like I pretty much had to write in order to communicate anything of consequence. There, I would sit down for a few hours, think it all through, and spill my guts onto a computer screen. I would polish my thought, give it a shape and a sheen, and send it out to you.
But here, I am sitting with you in your kitchen, blathering on incoherently instead of writing something clear.
The talking part of my brain feels all rusty and weird just now, and I can't always find the right words. It's not like I have the ready excuse that French took over my brain and hasn't given it back, as I was even more hopeless searching for the right words in spoken French. Perhaps my gummed up tongue has more to do with the switch from cooking and typing to talking all day long. Until I am proved wrong, I'm choosing for now to believe that this is a great big cultural-temporal-personal adjustment, rather than early-onset dementia.
But whether or not I can always say what I'm thinking, I've been soaking in the incomparable luxury of being back in a place where everybody speaks English, where things make sense without my having to try too hard to "get it" all the time. I can find nearly anything I need in any grocery store. I can drive nearly anywhere without Diesel Liesel's guidance. I can make small talk with nearly anybody without having to trip over myself just to say the simplest things: I was, I am, and someday, I will be.
Sometimes I get the old urge to write about something, to fix it in time and pull out all the meanings that one moment holds folded up inside. This has been particularly true the last few weeks as the girls have suddenly blossomed into nearly unrecognizable new beings. It's like the American parts of them were those little dry compressed sponges, and as I am pouring on the water of home, they are expanding into the shapes of American adolescents. We seem to have left our little girls behind in France, and arrived home with tweens.
Just a few afternoons with their friends, and now they know who Justin Bieber is, and the whole backstory of Lanie, (the American Girl of the Year, of course) and the names of Coldplay songs. Being around them and watching them grow so fast and grin so largely just about makes my head spin. I am guessing that having my girls enter Teen World will make the puzzles of French culture look like fun and games.
I want to write about them, but then the moment passes, or I have made plans to go do something else with some actual person, and the pleasure of living trumps the desire to write. Surrounded by so many people I love, by so many books and magazines and newspapers -- all published in English -- so many stores that sell exactly the things I've wanted to find for five months now, I'm like a kid in a candy store, or a pig at the trough, a gluttonous gorger just stuffing myself with the sweet savor of familiarity.
Here, I can put my face in any old shape it naturally assumes (which these days is kinda old, and somewhat wrinklish, but happy) and I fit right in. I can jibber-jabber with the Pakistani taxi drivers and the sweet-faced Latina ice-cream scooper and the Polish guys fixing the scary old electrical wiring throughout our house. I can wander onto our block and talk to our neighbors about their kids and my kids as though I never left. We catch up on ten months in two minutes and get back to the serious business of talking about the weather or the food co-op, or where somebody's eleventh grader is looking at colleges.
Since returning, I have walked into no fewer than seven different kitchens and felt as comfortable as though I were in my own. (Which is a good thing, since my own is ripped apart and covered in construction dust.) I had built up this tidal wave of longing to be here, to be with my family and my friends, and now I just feel giddy to be swimming around in the warm shallows of things and people I completely understand. Living, rather than writing.
So, if you've wondered what happened to me and whether I will ever write again, please accept this as an apology. I do have more to say, either on this blog or on another one I'm starting to dream into being, but I'll start with this:
I wrote. I write. And someday, I will write again.