Another thing. What am I going to do with another thing?
The bottle stopper stayed in it's cardboard packaging for months after it bringing it back to Paris. I looked at it, I admired it, but I would not, could not, take it out of it's wrapping.
Flash forward four months later, I was invited to a 100% expat dinner. All of the women there were at some stage of being an American expat abroad - one guest was married with two kids, 20 years into her life in France; two others were between 3 and 8 years along, married to Frenchmen ; another was awaiting French nationality, single; another had arrived only a year ago, in a relationship; and then there was me: 7.5 years in France, Franco-American, domestic partners (PACSed) with Copain.
We spoke Franglais all evening, bonded over common complaints, drank lots of wine and ate a dinner in a way that only expats could: potluck style - we each brought a dish to share.
After our aperitif (we do live in France after all), we sat down to the dinner table (a commodity that I have not had in years due to my tiny Parisian apartment). Immediately, I was taken with how homey the apartment felt - there was a rug, a comfy couch, picture frames, vases, and the table was set with beautiful plates, glasses and cutlery. All I could think was, wow - this girl is 100% here. She is committed to this place and she's (as far as I can tell), okay with it.
And I can't even take a bottle stopper out of its packaging.
You see, I'm deathly afraid of committing 100% to this place, and I guess I feel like the accumulation of things makes it that much harder to leave. What if one day, I want to leave and I have all these things. What will I do then?
As a child, I was a collector of things. I collected shoes (just to put on display!), lovely miniature perfume bottles, interesting photos from magazines that would decorate my wall, coins, rings, old ID cards, pointe shoes...and made a room that was 100% me. (It drove my dad nuts, but he still loves me).
I miss that me.
To be completely honest, I'm tired of being scared. I'm tired of not committing. I'm tired of this horrible limbo of being an expat. When do I throw in the towel and be 100% here? When do I stop being afraid of making here my home - with all of the things that I love around me?
At the dinner party, we all talked about "going home" - home being the US. The guest who had been in France the longest said that it doesn't feel like home anymore; when she takes her family there, they visit like tourists. It felt sad to hear that - how could home ever be anything but just that? But that is the expats lament, I guess...the never-ending feeling that you are never 100% home.