Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Back in the NCR

Yes, we've been back three weeks, and yes I haven't written yet. The thing is, for a long time I couldn't think what to write.

When we first got back to Toronto and made our way from the airport by car through the fields of brown and the miles of cookie-cutter houses and lawns, the setting seemed surreal. Just that morning we had left vibrant colours, beautiful flowers, actual architecture, and salty ocean breezes. It was a stark change, and I for one couldn't reconcile the transformation. So, as the brain often does to cope with such adjustments, it made one thing real and the other simply a picture, an idea, an exotic memory. I had spent 3 months in Nice, but suddenly it seemed as important and as familiar as a two week vacation. Inside I wanted to scream, "I was there, I lived it, ate it, drank it, smelled it." But suddenly I didn't really feel it anymore. I knew right away that I could slip back to my own life as easily as putting on an old pair of slippers - pardon the cliche, and that didn't sit well with me. Hadn't this trip changed us? Hadn't we learned from such a different experience? Of course we had. But we were - are still processing it all.

One of the drawbacks of being able to jet-set between continents in less time than it takes to drive across Ontario is that your mind and body do not adapt well to the change. It takes time. For me, and I think for Julie too, it has taken all of the three weeks we've been home to start to recall moments and experiences from our trip with any sort of emotion. Now we're starting to realize that these two worlds, lived very separately, each have significant meaning for us, even though there is little to connect them. What does connect them is us - our little family of four. We all know we were there - thank God, and we're the only ones who really understand each others' attachment to that period of our lives. The importance of shared experience cannot be overstated. Without it, no one else knows and understands pivotal moments and episodes of our lives.

Now that I'm writing this post, I'm struck by the intensity of the response I'm feeling to what I'm writing. It seems as though this post has been waiting for me to be ready to write it.

The hardest part about being back will be watching Chloe's memories of our adventure fade. Already it's begun. If we're finding it hard to recapture experiences from so far away, just imagine how difficult it is for Chloe to make connections to experiences that don't inform her day-to-day life anymore.

When we were in Nice, Chloe used to play a game, virtually everyday, where she would board a city bus for Cannes and Monaco, in whatever order pleased her. "Mommy, first we're going to take the bus to Cannes, and then we're going to go to Monaco." At the time, we laughed about how we hoped she would stop saying this soon after we got home, as it would make our family seem quite pretentious. Now that she doesn't play the game anymore, I wish with all my heart that I could hear her say those words again.

We try to remind Chloe regularly of things we did in France. At some point, it will become impossible for her to tell which memories are real and which memories are simply the result of stories being told over and over. That's o.k. It doesn't really matter, does it? Some part of France will remain part of her experience, and that's what counts.

And some part of our trip will remain part of our experiences too. As with any trip, we've all learned a lot. The trick is to apply what we've learned now that we're back home. After all, we should be cautious of old slippers that fit a little too comfortably.


  1. Hi Sean:

    Very touching! As with your final post from France, the day before your departure, I too can almost feel the nostalgia for that magical 3 months. As I mentioned to you then, in an e-mail,if we didn't experience the lump in our throats, when we have to bid farewell, then we probably did not have such a wonderful experience. They go hand in hand, don't they? So bring on those lumps, as bittersweet as they may be.


  2. Hi Sean,

    I really enjoyed reading this. Thank you for sharing!