When we first arrived in Paris last September, friends and family may have noticed radio silence for the first few weeks we were here. I wasn’t in contact with a lot of people and barely checking in on Facebook. We had just arrived in a new country with no cell phone service set up and very little internet access. We were also at the tail end of an intense 3-month period of transition and upheaval. Let me back up a bit and explain.
When we decided to move to France we knew we were going to have to make some big decisions. We considered renting out our house in Southern California for a year and storing our furniture, but realized it would be tricky to manage a property from France with the 9-hour time difference. We also discovered that putting all of our stuff in storage was going to be really expensive. Storing everything for a year would cost more than what our furniture was worth. At this point it made sense to sell our things and start fresh. We decided to go all in. We repainted the interior and exterior of the house, fixed up the backyard, put our home on the market in early June and began the process of selling and giving away almost everything we owned.
We purged our closets and drawers and got rid of stuff we’d been holding onto for years. Jonas even threw away some of his yearbooks and trophies! I couldn’t go that far. Trophies, yes, but yearbooks? NO WAY. Those are the gifts that keep on giving.
We posted items like furniture, bikes, baby stuff and toys for sale on Craigslist and parents’ groups on Facebook. The toys our kids barely cared about suddenly became the most precious and desired things ever. We explained to Rhône and Rocky that we couldn’t fit everything in our suitcases and that we would buy new toys in Paris but it still felt wrong. Each time they cried over the loss of an item, it felt like a punch in the stomach. I often asked myself if we were making the right decision. We were about to completely uproot our children!
Despite moments of uncertainty, we kept moving forward. Every spare moment was spent assessing, filing, boxing, saving, organizing, trashing, donating or relocating every single thing in our possession. Oh, and around the same time this was all happening my brother gently reminded me that I agreed to clear some boxes out of his attic to make room for his family’s stuff. He bought my parents’ house a few years ago and there are still a lot of things from our childhood up there. (Cabbage Patch Kids, anyone?) I was basically going back and forth between his house and mine, sifting through 40 years’ worth of memories and objects. My brain felt like it was going to explode!
I ended up taking lots of photos of sentimental items like my favorite Red Hot Chili Peppers t-shirt (which I sold to Buffalo Exchange in Fullerton and you can now own for $38!), hilarious poems about my love for whales, my diary from when I was 10 years old, a series of Rick Astley sketches and my dad’s Dolfin shorts. These photos now reside in an album on Facebook entitled “Things I Found While Cleaning Out My Parents’ Attic.”
Cleansing is good; and as you might guess, exhausting and time-consuming. We were trying to do all this with a 2- and 5-year-old around, which, let’s face it, is counterintuitive. Rocky, a.k.a. my little tornado, needed a lot of attention and supervision, so we had a really hard time getting anything done! Add to this the fact that our house was staged and we might have to leave at a moment’s notice so it could be shown by the real estate agent and you can see why this was a particularly difficult task.
None of our family or friends were in a position to watch our kids for the amount of hours that we needed to get everything done so we resorted to hiring lots of babysitters who took Rhône and Rock to parks and playgrounds while we dug in at home. I’m so grateful that these young ladies were able to take care of our boys during such a chaotic time and grateful to the family, neighbors and friends that did watch the boys for an hour here and there. Every minute helped!
While we were waiting to get offers on our house and wondering if it would sell in time for us to get to Paris before the next school year started, there was one other pesky little thing that we had to deal with: our visas for France. I had been to the LA French Consulate’s website and scanned the list of things we needed for our visas and thought we’d have no problem putting everything together once we were ready to apply. (Dumb move #1.) We had so much going on that I decided to compartmentalize things and hold off on making the Consulate appointment until our house was in escrow. (Dumb move #2.) We were in for some big surprises, which I’ll share in Part 2. Or shall I say Part Deux?