Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Why Did You Move To France?

So, why did you move to France?

All of us, the confederate of expats, immigrants, aliens (!) if you will, have been asked that question more times than we can count.

For me, the more interesting question is, “Why did you stay?”

Mine is a classic saga of how best laid plans can turn out to be better than one expects.

Here’s my story – why I came to France and why I stayed:

The job. It was a dream job, Style Editor of the International Herald Tribune.

The risky part was that it was on a contractual basis; I was not an employee with benefits and security. At the same time I was a correspondent for the Chicago Tribune and had freelance assignments from the States, particularly during the periods of the couture and ready-to-wear collections.

The decision was made, I quit my job in New York, announced the decision to my eight-year-old daughter (who was clearly too young to absorb the ramifications), had a container packed with some furniture, and commissioned three large crates to be built to transport our very big dogs from the Bedford, New York, SPCA.

Because of the dogs we couldn’t live in Paris. Thankfully, by some miracle, I found a thatched-roofed cottage in the country outside Paris, bought an ancient Renault 4L, drove to the station, took the train into la gare Montparnasse and then the Metro to the paper when we were putting out a style section.

It was a rented house and along with the deal came two ponies and a magnificent horse named Déesse (Goddess) and indeed she was. She, Andrea, I and the dogs became so friendly with her that she often came into the kitchen – or as far in as she could get her body -- to see if there were apples or carrots waiting for her. Her fare was always included on my market lists. The ponies were biters, cute as can be, but we needed to be wary.

This was the plan: Two years, max. In two years I figured I could parlay my experience into a fantastic job in New York, Andrea would speak perfect French, thus giving her an edge for the future and we would be looking at a win-win all around.

Then fate stepped in. At a dinner party – out here in the country -- I was sitting across the table from an extremely attractive bachelor who was invited to the soirée not solely because he was unmarried, but also because he spoke English, a distinct advantage when the American guest spoke, for all practical purposes, not a word of French.

At table he asked for everyone’s telephone numbers, explaining he would like to invite the group chez lui for cocktails. When we left the dinner, he held my hand for just a few seconds too long. I thought, “Oh, no, a French man, how obnoxious. Well, I suppose he’ll be calling in the near future.”

He didn’t call! I couldn’t believe it. (I learned later he was in the middle of extricating himself from a complicated relationship and didn't want to call me before it was over.) 

Four months later: another dinner party, same routine. At this point my resolve to keep to my two-year deadline was firmer than ever.

He hadn’t lost my telephone number because he called the next day and every-single-day thereafter – often several times a day – until we married.

Between the beginning and the culmination, Andrea learned to speak decent French in three months and perfectly in six. She attended the village school where we lived and every afternoon was tutored by a retired French teacher who had a dog named Dog.

Andrea didn’t care about learning another language; she wanted friends. When we would shop together I would say to her, for example, “Drea, where’s the milk?” When I turned around she was nowhere to be found. My speaking English to an eight or nine-year-old in public was apparently hugely embarrassing.

Let’s see what else? Andrea asked me if she could please have a cat. I thought, “What’s one more animal at this point?” Enter Mimi one of the most exquisite creatures to ever walk upon this earth and completely bi-lingual. He (yes he) quickly trained the dogs to obey him and all was well.

On another occasion while we were tranquilly living in our thatched-roofed cottage, a gendarmerie van drove up, three gendarmes jumped out and explained – Andrea translated – that they were terribly sorry, but they had to deport us.

We were illegal aliens. It’s true. Since I didn’t speak French and all that paperwork was so complicated, I never bothered.

Fortunately, we were saved by the fast-talking silver tongue of my future Reason-For-Living-In-France. While we were at the police station, the gendarme said to him: “Wait a minute! Let me get this straight. You speak three languages, French, English and American?”

MRFLIF said, “Oui.” I said, “Let me get this straight; he’s allowed to carry a gun?” Whereupon my future husband said something like, “I think you should probably be quiet.”

My two-year plan has now grown into more than 20 and we’ve all lived happily ever after.


Marsi said...

Such fun to read, Tish. You know I'm such a fan of your droll conversational style, and it's a delight to hear it when you talk about your life.

xoxoxo --

P.S. I love the snap of yourself!

BonjourRomance said...

Dear Tish,
A lovely dream come true come tru for you and your RFLIF. I'm sure you had no idea what was ahead as you packed up those three crates! Thank you for sharing your sweet fairytale with us.
I'm always in the mood for a good love story!
P.S. What a beauty you are with pad and pencil in hand!

Northmoon said...

What a delightful tale!

BigLittleWolf said...

I adore these glimpses into your life. Je doute que le "reve" existe ; on reconnait la vie autrement. Mais il y a des moments de bonheur. Il faut y croire. Il faut les garder. Meme si on désespère parfois.

Sara Louise said...

Your story has made me smile. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful tale and letting us in :-)

Anonymous said...

Oh, so that's what I did wrong after my divorce! I stayed where I was. Why oh why....

I loved reading your story and it is a good reminder that if I want to, at some point, actually have another relationship, I may have to shake things up.

You sound like a woman full of great ideas and courage.

sharon said...

So glad you could join in our French Settler Week with your story Tish. Everyone has loved reading your tale.

My French Country Home

Wildernesschic said...

I loved this post so much, I just realised that you were a guest blogger, so now I have discovered two new blogs thanks to Dash xx

concretenprimroses said...

How wonderful! Congratulations

Bombshellicious said...

Lovely story xx

tish jett said...

Gosh, Thank you all so much. There's lots more where that came from, but don't want to give you an overdose.

Yes, Anonymous, I recommend that not long after a divorce, a trip to Paris is definitely an excellent idea. Surly you agree with me Big Little Wolf!?!?!

How lovely to meet so many new people. I shall pop right over to visit you.

Merci mille fois, especially to you dear Sharon.

Morgane said...

Nice and fun story ! I'm really impressed by your journalism experience!
Thanks for sharing ...
( i keep wonder why i write in english as we can communicate in French - it must be my part de snobisme lol)

Deja Pseu said...

What a delightful and charming story! The universe wanted you to be in France, I think.

BTW, we're talking May 2011 now for our next trip, will e-mail you once we've worked out the dates.

Cathi said...

What a fabulous story, Tish! It makes me think of my fave quote by Robert Louis Stevenson - " The most beautiful adventures are not those we go to seek" Have a wonderful day! xxoo :)

Golla said...

Thank you for sharing, what a great story!

Rubiatonta said...

What a lovely story!

I'm a big fan of jumping into a new life without worrying too much about the "what ifs" -- went off to Spain at 23 with two suitcases, $500, and a one-way ticket, and stayed for six years! Am now contemplating a similar leap, although I may splurge on a round-trip. (Older and a wee bit wiser, I suppose.)


Jeanne-Aelia Desparmet-Hart said...

aha! We find out the details of the trip to France in the first place!very brave ! and BTW did you know Ed Rohrbach? The bureau chief of the Chicago tribune? 70's? what fun! great post and glamorous picture; it brings back memories of the million fashion shows I attended. Even a Kenzo show with Steve when we had just met and a Jean Paul Gauthier with Mikael- who was 6 0r 7- my oldest who said he loved the circus when we got out. Bravo.

Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

Wonderful story and glad that it had a happy ending. Diane

Beadboard UpCountry said...

Never knew the whole story....I am so glad you shared it and that it had a happy ending!!!!!!!!Merci Tish! Maryanne xo

kimberly at mimicharmante said...

LOVE (love love love) this story!

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