Friday, August 3, 2012

Life Away from Home

You walk in your front door again.

It is a week since you last locked it, a taxi in front of the house idling, ready to take you to the airport. For the first ten minutes of that drive – while there was still time to turn around if you had to – you had mentally reviewed the rooms you just left. You had rested your hand on different places on your body where a wallet or a passport or an e-ticket was stored. Reassured, you had finally smiled and settled yourself into the upcoming stretch of life away from home.

This stretch of life away from home was what I had earned by working thirty years for the same non-profit institution. In recognition of the years I had aligned myself with the goals and mission of an organization, I was invited to stand at an annual gathering of hundreds of people a few months back. An announcement was made that I would be travelling to Paris this summer – a gesture of distinct but accustomed generosity on the part of supervisors and trustees.

For a week, then, I got a life away from home.

For months ahead of that week I had gotten to plan with others accommodations and meals and itineraries. I had even gotten to plan which parts of the week I might leave unplanned, which afternoons I could suddenly, almost capriciously take a place at a table on a sidewalk in Paris and order my refreshment of choice. And just sit.

Familiar with Paris, I had the opportunity to leave it one day during that week, take a train north and participate in a day-long tour of World War I battlefields in the Somme valley. From very urban Paris I switched to a very rural France. I took on a history that is now almost exactly a hundred years old. I listened to the silences that have settled over those locales.

Life away from home is – by definition – a kind of public life. You sleep in a place available at other times to other people. You eat in places available to the next guest who darkens the doorway after you leave. You travel with a subway ticket that could just as easily have ended up in someone else’s hand for the length of a trip beneath Paris neighborhoods.

In time you get through all these novelties and familiarities, though.

In time you pay another taxi driver and roll your luggage down the walk leading to your front door.

In time you face the home spaces you thought you knew.

You just need time to live there again.


Anonymous said...

I'm sure that you enjoyed your travelling to France.A week is enough,but more time is better!!
The weather is very hot in the south of France and we stay at home with the "clim".It's time to read and watch tv.

Jo d'Avignon.

John said...

Reading in airconditioning -- I do it too but enjoy the ease of open windows and a box fan aimed at me.