With the decision to move to France now official and sealed with four Lufthansa airline tickets from Los Angeles to Marseille, the excitement that comes with a life-changing decision is being elbowed aside by the mind-numbing reality of all the work that lies ahead.
We have just over a month to prepare our house to go on the market, and less than four months before we climb aboard a plane, squeeze into four economy seats, and bid California au revoir. An all-hands-on-deck attack on 17 years of clutter is underway. I'm flying home from NY nearly every weekend for the next six weeks to pack boxes and excess furnishings into storage. It's 48 hours of non-stop roll-up-your-sleves hard work, then a red-eye back to NY Sunday night.
I know that every person who has ever moved says the same thing, but mon dieu, "I cannot believe how much stuff we've accumulated." On our first weekend of packing we carted off boxes of books, bins of DVDs, cases of photo albums, and enough random sports equipment to host a summer olympics (did we really think we would have time to learn to play tennis?).
We are thinking of this as a first culling. The goal is to be quick and get the stuff into storage so that we can prep the house for the real estate agent to sell it. Once the house is sold we will begin the process of selling, donating, or tossing everything that isn't going to France, staying in long-term storage, or being burned. My primary goal is that the storage unit not look like the final scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Besides preparing to sell our house there are dozens of petit details in France to think about. A house, utilities, bank accounts, a car, visas, the best sources for wine, cheese and bread. But the most urgent problem was to figure out where we could send our kids to school. Our kids were petitioning for a French school that taught classes in english. Alor, we had to break it to them that for the most part the French like to teach their students in, well, french.
In California, our children attend a Rudolph Steiner Waldorf School. It's an artistic environment that puts hands-on learning above technology and standardized testing. Science, math, art, language, music and drama are given relatively equal weight in the curriculum. It was our hope to find a Steiner school in France so that our children could continue in the same learning environment, albeit in la langue française. After researching our options we were very happy to find the Avignon Steiner School. After sending copies of the kids' records, letters of recommendation and a few Skype video calls with the instructors we were thrilled that they agreed to accept our kids for the 2014/15 school year.
Our next item of concern was housing. The initial ill-conceived notion was to move into the house we already own in France. But four people and a dog in an 800 square foot house with no yard seemed like a plan that had the potential to end badly. Like The Shining.
We decided that it might make sense to search for a house that we could rent, ideally one with enough room that our kids could shout at each other from separate bedrooms. We searched out homes on Sabbatical.com and the other popular rental property sites, but they all were either too small, too expensive, or required that we move out during the summer months when the owners either used them or rented them short term at much higher premium vacation rates.
Luckily for us, a very nice couple that our property manager knows had just gotten a divorce. Their four bedroom villa with a pool, olive trees and a wood-fired pizza oven in the kitchen was sitting empty and they wanted to rent it. It is perfectly situated just outside the village, and big enough that everyone gets their own little piece of Provence.
And that, readers and friends, is where were are on our path. We don't know exactly where the path leads, but that is part of this experiment called life. We want to plan, of course, but we also want to be open to a new ideas, new experiences, and change. And through it all hopefully create a new vision of our future together as a family.
With our own bedrooms.