Return to Paris

This is an epilogue to my previous post about retiring half of the year to Berkeley, California.grandma and computer

I’m now back permanently in Paris, although I expect I’ll return to Berkeley from time to time during the summers. Even though I felt very comfortable living in California after many years of living abroad, there was something missing, something that drew me back to my adopted country, France.

What was it? It certainly wasn’t the grey and dismal skies of Paris winters. And, it wasn’t the cultural life of the French capital and the possibility of traveling easily throughout Europe, although I greatly enjoy these opportunities and take advantage of them whenever I can. Nor was it the various clubs and associations I belong to in Paris or the group of old and new friends I have made here over several decades.

No, it was something else, something I never really understood until I experienced it personally. I have come back because I very much missed my four grandchildren, aged 1 ½ to 7. Friends are mobile. Friends understand if you travel far and wide or live in another country. Grandchildren don’t always.grandma shopping

I decided that now was the time to see my two granddaughters and my two grandsons on a weekly basis, to help care for them when my sons and daughters-in-law need me to, to play and bond with them as often as possible. When I was in California, we spoke on the phone and Skyped, of course, but nothing really replaces proximity and physical contact. Besides, and other grandparents have confirmed this, I reasoned that when they are older, their main centers of interest will be their friends, their sports and activities, their play stations. Now is the time to be with them.

So, even though I haven’t baked in years, I’m now making brownies and cornbread; I’m playing dominoes and “teacher”; I’m taking them to the park and reading them bedtime stories. grandma telling stories Not having had a role model for this-–my mother’s mother, my only grandparent, was never present for my brother and me—I’m learning as I go. It’s sometimes hard, but fun, and I’m very much enjoying it.

Although they all prefer to speak French with me at the moment, I’ve started giving English lessons to my eldest granddaughter and a little friend of hers, and I hope to pursue this with the other grandchildren in the near future.  I also try to share with them aspects of my American culture and my love of travel.

I am the mother of three sons, so caring for my two little grandsons brings back memories of how my sons were at their ages. Dealing with my two granddaughters, however, is a completely new experience. Their French mothers are bright and independent young women and are bringing up their daughters to be so, too.  I’m realizing more and more how much these little girls will have the world in the palms of their hands as they grow into mature human beings. They’re loquacious, playful, athletic, intelligent, and hard-working in school; they have minds of their own but are also thoughtful towards their little brothers and their friends. They’re gorgeous, too, with beautiful blond hair and long dark eyelashes that I’m terribly jealous of!

I never thought I’d want to be called Grandma. To my mind, it’s an old-fashioned and “unsophisticated” name. But I love the way my grandchildren call me “GrandeMa” with their French accents. In our family, it’s unique, too. They have other grand-mères (their mothers’ mothers and my ex-husband’s second wife) but they only have one GrandeMa, whom I’m very proud to be.

Published in: on December 20, 2017 at 3:48 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. In answer to the question about why I don’t speak English all the time to my grandchildren. Believe me, I tried in the beginning, but in our case–and every case is different, I believe– it just didn’t work. It became a bit of a punishment (“GrandeMa’s coming. Now you can speak English.”), and they rejected that (and me). Their fathers also tried, but they received the same reaction. A solution would, of course, be sending them to a bilingual nursery school. Unfortunately, however, they live in the far Parisian suburbs where there are no bilingual schools, and they are too young yet to “commute” to one. Nevertheless, I’m sure their speaking and understanding English will come. with time. They know my native tongue is English; they hear me speaking it with their fathers and their uncle in Oregon, as well as with my friends; they ask me questions about America and hope to go there on holiday when they’re a bit older; they know that they, too, have American citizenship in addition to French, and they are proud of this.

  2. Bravo Hilary! You’re doing the right thing, I’m sure. Tessa

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