What a funny thing, returning to France has been. As though four years in Canada never happened. How quickly my senses were awakened and stimulated when we arrived. The smell of cigarette smoke wafting in from the front entrance at the airport, mixed with men's cologne and soft smells of perfume. The rin-nin-nin of the scooters and motorcycles passing us at speed along the centre line of the streets. When I went to the grocery store, the intense smell of fish and how familiar all the labels are, reminding me exactly what it is I used to buy. When at the outdoor market, the sharp smell of various olives in the huge tubs of oil or brine, waiting to be scooped up into a little white bag and placed on the scale; intoxicating smells of chicken roasting in the large rotisserie oven and hot paella being tossed in massive pans. The feeling of the hot sun filtering in through the canopy of tree leaves.
What an intense push into the past. What a satisfying feeling of comfort and familiarity.
Yet so incredibly difficult to savour any of it for longer than a millisecond with one kid who will not stay by my side, and the other tugging on my shirt (or my mental state) asking me if she can buy just one thing... at every vendor. Then, and she is a crafty one this one, when I've said no more times than I wish too, she plays on my guilt and reminds me how much she misses her friends, her school, her family, her books and toys.... all that we've left behind in Canada.
Raphaël being the age he is, simply needs a trip to the park or to be able to push his cars around at will. Being 2 is easy like that. Staying where I ask him to stay, however, is the struggle.
With all of that sensory nostalgia taking me back to the past, and the kids pulling me into the present, I am reminded on how the French play out to their kids' demands: You may choose one treat, a pain au chocolat, chocolate biscuits, some macaroons, and at snack time - le goûter (4pm) - you may indulge. Until then let me close my eyes and breathe it all in, even for just a minute. I am trying to go back in time with the present... is that so hard to understand??
We're trying to encourage Diaz to look past what she might not have right now, and to take in her surroundings, beyond, "Yeah. Cool." And I absolutely struggle trying to make things like history and architecture fun, exciting or even slightly interesting. When I told her how old the Bayonne Cathedral is, she asked if I was alive when it was being built.... and there are some days when I feel like the answer to that is, "Yes, yes I was."
Aside from the deeply nostalgic, borderline romantic experiences I am having with France and the typical struggles as a parent - no matter the country - we are finding ourselves settling in rather easily simply because this time (I think for the most part) we know what to expect. We feel prepared for the hiccups we come across, so we are taking our time enjoying what is pleasurable rather than stressing about what is difficult. I realize as I get older - as old as the cathedral :) - that the difficult never goes away and it can certainly steal away from any opportunity for a sweet spot, a lovely moment, to show itself. If I let it.
Next stop, Spain!