I seem to be missing 2019. Where did that go? It looks like I wrote a lot in 2018, and then… crickets. I was still here, slogging away in the kitchen at the restaurant, but 2019 seems to have passed without documentation. Now we’re closed because of the coronavirus and I suddenly have a lot of time to write, but that’s a different story.
2018 was an exciting year. The decision to move to France, the logistics of making the move happen, figuring out how the f*ck to make galettes now that I bought a crêperie, the kids coming and going, our first summer season, renovating the restaurant that fall, our first winter holiday crush. But eventually the excitement of the decision making and endless problem solving passes, the kids come less often, and what is left is the daily reality of getting up at 8:00 a.m., working relentlessly until midnight, and then going to bed so that you can get up the next morning and do it again. In the high season, seven days a week, for weeks on end. So that was 2019.
I have so much to say, it would fill a book. But I guess I will start at the top, with the biggest-picture question there is: Do I regret it? My daughter came to visit in late February and she asked me that. It’s something I think about a lot, or rather thought about a lot until I decided that I couldn’t afford to think about it anymore. But that’s the first time that someone has directly asked it. I have tried hard in my life to tell the truth to my children, especially about important things. When kids are little, you have to think about what to share and how you’ll frame it, but generally speaking, I’m a big fan of calling it like it is. She’s an adult now, married to an awesome guy in the Coast Guard, living in rural North Carolina raising her own menagerie. She deserves the truth. The answer is that if I had known then everything that I know now, I wouldn’t have done it.
As a life philosophy, I used to be remarkably good at avoiding regrets. So to reflect on a major life decision and see anything other than an inevitable course of events is a new, middle-aged, post-menapausal experience for me. But in this case, there has been no avoiding the consequences for my choice. I misjudged a number of critical things, the most important one being how much I would miss my children once we were permanently separated by an ocean. (You were right, Dad!). I’ve missed everything from birthdays and a graduation to innumerable small but important moments that happen when you share someone’s daily life. Almost as important, we underestimated how much this endeavor would cost by an order of magnitude, even though we made the best estimates we could with the information we had at the time. As I’ve mentioned before, there is no Plan B.
Now on the upside, I live in what I, in a completely unbiased way, believe is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. I don’t think my view is baseless — once we had a customer from San Francisco, and his take was that it’s as stunning as Yosemite, but without the crowds and with better food. People pay a lot of money to come here on their vacations, but as Dominik says, we never have to go home. This location was certainly one of the driving factors in making the choice, and it has not disappointed. I never grow tired of looking out the window and seeing that view.
I also made this huge transition from working with my brain to working with my hands. I love making something good and then seeing people’s faces when they tuck in. I don’t get to see it very often because I’m always facing the biligs, but every once in a while I get to catch the expression when someone puts something in their mouth that they’ve never tasted before like barbecue chicken with white sauce or sweet potato pie. My food is not fancy; it’s not even pretty most of the time. But usually it makes people happy, and that’s what makes me happy. I used to derive a more esoteric, attenuated pleasure from my work, believing that I was doing something important and doing it well. But it was rarely as overtly as fun as this can be, when things are going right.
Last but not least, I get to work with my husband. Since I also live with him, that means that I am now privileged to spend 24 hours a day with him. How many of you could do that with your spouse? I am fortunate to have discovered that I love him even more than I did before. Of course sometimes I want to stab him in the back with a kitchen knife, but on the whole we work incredibly well together. He is the most patient, generous, and loving man I have ever known, and honestly he puts up with a lot of shit from me, and carries more than his fare share of the work at the restaurant. And he’s funny. Working with him is a lot of what makes running the restaurant fun, or at least tolerable, most of the time.
So there you have it. Life is complicated, or as the French say about everything complex or that they just don’t want to talk about anymore, “C’est compliqué.”