My daughter likes to know the odds. "On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely is this move to France?" she asked. A few weeks ago, I'd say it was a "6." It was an idea that seemed to have legs. This week it has moved to a strong "9." We've met with realtors, told most of our friends and family, and started serious research into visas, shipping, pet transportation and schools.
It is rather frightening how quickly an idea transforms itself into a reality. It really does look like we will be moving to France this summer, which is at the same time exciting and terrifying. There is so much to do, and much of it to be dealt with from afar while I am working in NY. My brain is overflowing with to-do lists that wake me up at 2am demanding attention.
The biggest challenge will be the selling of our home in Los Angeles. It is full of 17 years of memories, and even more full of the stuff that a family gathers and saves over the course of nearly two decades. What do we sell, give away, ship or store? There are certain to be things we can't bear to part with, yet can't take with us to France.
I see some stormy times ahead, but I see an amazing opportunity as well.
My wife goes through cycle of excitement and uncertainty. She is excited to see new places and experience another culture, but most of all to be together as our children approach the ages that will soon see them leaving home. She is uncertain about cutting ties with what is safe and familiar, and with what feels like home. We've been fortunate to live in a part of southern California that is truly a community. We are close to our neighbors, who are loving friends, and can always be relied upon when we need them. For the most part our families are not near us, so the impact is slightly less immediate, but we both have aging family and being far from them will make it even more difficult to stay connected.
Opinions amongst friends and family range from envy to surprise to bewilderment. Most are supportive and make promises to visit us in Provence "one day." Of course some will, and most won't, but for those who make the adventure we can promise a warm "bonjour" and a glass of local wine.
One of my most important tasks is to locate a school for my children to attend in the Fall. They are at a tricky age--old enough that learning a new language will require effort and will no doubt be frustrating for them at first. In California they attend a Steiner School, and luckily there is one in Avignon, not too far from where we will be living.
I cannot imagine how people made moves like this before the age of the internet. The resources that are at our fingertips is truly astounding. While searching for information about the Steiner School I stumbled upon a blog from an American woman whose children had attended the school. We exchanged emails and then talked on the phone, and she reassured me that it is a wonderful school with a multi-cultural student body that would embrace foreign students and ease the transition. Many of the high school children have even spent the last year abroad studying in the US, and have come back fluent in English.
Of course, while it is our goal to assimilate into French culture and learn the language, we also realize that major life changes come with major emotional challenges as well. When you are a kid, it helps to cope with change when people can understand you.
There's no question that no matter what happens, this is going to be a great adventure that can only make our family stronger. If it doesn't kills us.