The day has come when my son is homesick. I give him credit, he made it 3 weeks but he does now miss home, his friends and being able to easily understand words people are saying. Like all 10 year olds, he says that he is fine but when I ask him follow-up questions, it is clear he is anything but fine. (the key is to avoid the question, how are you and is anything bothering you..they don't get very elaborate responses) There are so many reasons I wanted this experience in Bordeaux but one of them was to broaden his 10 year old horizons.
I haven’t talked much about Birmingham on this blog even though the city is in the title. Birmingham is now home for us. In fact, in one year Birmingham will officially become the place I have lived longest in my life. Before Birmingham, I lived in Atlanta, Texas, Wisconsin, and my birth state of Michigan (Great Lakes, Great Times). Three very different cities in Michigan hosted me in the first two decades of my life. They geographically ranged from nearly the Indiana border to as far north as you can go (Houghton, MI) and one spot in between. If only you were here with me, I would show you all 3 spots on my hand. My drive from my house in Southwest Michigan to college in the Upper Peninsula was nearly as far as the drive from Michigan to Alabama. I never much felt like putting down roots so imagine my surprise when I realized I am not leaving Birmingham any time soon.
That realization, coupled with my love of French life, drove me to find a temporary relief from the stability of living in the same place for the foreseeable future. I love change and seek it out regularly. My son asked if I would be rearranging the furniture in our extremely tiny one bedroom AirBNB apartment in the city. Though a bit outrageous (why would I do that?) this question makes sense because I regularly rearrange furniture at our house in Birmingham and at times it drives him crazy. With time, he generally sees the value in the changes I make.
One day he will even come to see the value in the changes we have made to be here in Bordeaux. But right now, I can tell he does not see it. He is picking up so much French though he won’t admit it. It is almost a point of control for him to be able to tell me he isn’t learning any French. Maybe he wants to get my goat but it is not working. I too moved when I was his age and I remember how mad I was at my parents. How I use to say and do things just to annoy them and to prove that they might be able to move me but they could not make me like it.
Funny thing is, I knew this would happen. Before I left I was chatting with my sister and parents over the holiday about how tough the first 6-8 weeks would be for him. Though 30 years have passed, I remember my own move, crying in my room in our new apartment. Bon Jovi’s Never Say Goodbye was popular then and I would just sob when Jon would croon “You and me and our old friends, hoping it would never end”. I know, laughable today but the emotions were real then. So I try to embrace those formerly sad emotions while laughing hysterically at the memory and picturing all that hair from the 80s!
He’s generally a very happy kid so he is not walking around moping or feeling sorry for himself but there just isn’t as much pep in his step. Back to the present and helping my son deal with those same but a little less dramatic emotions. To prepare and incentivize him, I told him that if he would give our new life “the college try” he could have a dog when we get back to Birmingham. This was meant to both give him permission to be sad and help him see the light at the end of the emotional tunnel. Preparing him seems to have worked. When he gets sad, he says he thinks about the dog he wants to get. Preparing myself for the inevitable sadness that would befall him, hasn’t made it any easier for me. It still hurts to see him sad especially when I am so happy here. I have a new respect for my parents resilience during and after the move we did all those years ago. There are moments when I want to turn around and run back to Birmingham so that he doesn’t have to feel sadness anymore. They are fleeting but I’d be lying if I said I haven’t thought about it. It's tough to have my happiness come at the expense of his.
So we keep going with one foot in front of the other and try to find ways to enjoy this new life a bit more. This weekend we are off to London because tickets on European discount airlines are so amazingly cheap (yet another plus in my opinion). We are heading up to the West End to see Aladdin which should lift his spirits. And just to make sure, I booked a hotel with an indoor pool. Nothing makes a kid happier than a Disney musical on stage, hotel beds (read trampolines), and an indoor pool in the winter time. Though he probably wishes for a genie in a bottle or his friends back home, he ain’t never had a friend like me. (Corny but I just can’t bring myself to delete it).