11 July 2011

Est-ce que tu es prête, Anne?

In preparation for our grand French adventure, I've been reviewing my high school French by listening to a Radiolingua language podcast for the past 9 months (see: http://radiolingua.com/members/coffee-break-french/). In the 15-20 minute, coffee break-length episodes, Marc the teacher often begins the lessons by asking his student, Est-ce que tu es prête, Anna? (Are you ready, Anna?) Anna is invariably always ready to learn French, and I try to be ready with her.

We have much to do, to get 'ready' for our departure to France. People have been commiserating with us about all we must be trying to do, to get ready. A military wife friend who moves her family every two to three years sent an email many months ago wishing me well as I began the onerous task of sorting through (and discarding) the accumulated stuff of our lives. Just yesterday we sold one of our cars, and the buyers pointed out that we could check that off our list, of things we have to do to get ready. The more I've done to get us ready though, the more I realize how relative a concept readiness is, and how sociological it is.

For example, my family has the distinct privilege of having time and money to get ready to move. Our upper middle class social position gives us the luxury of choosing when we have to be ready, how we will go about it, and the conditions surrounding our readiness. We have a lot of choices and time. For months, I've been able to sort through our things slowly, deciding what to pass on to charity, what to discard, what to store, what to take along. I've had the time to find a good family to rent our home, and the time to find a good home to rent for our family in France. I have time to schedule our utilities and subscriptions to end or transfer seamlessly so that our family's credit remains intact and we won't have to pay extra for later installations. I think about the working class woman in our apartment complex in Concord, California, back in the early 1990s, who was being evicted and had to get rid of her dining room furniture in a hurry (lucky us) and who no doubt had trouble the next time she tried setting up utilities, or I imagine the migrant agricultural workers who have to follow the crop cycles for work, uprooting their families and parsing their spare belongings quickly each time (if they are lucky enough to have their families and any significant belongings with them). These folks are not always fully ready to move on; they often have to get rid of necessities, and their few belongings go with them in bags or single carloads. Setting up new housekeeping ends up costing them all over again because of their limited choices and timing. Those are very different experiences from how ours is shaping up.

Even the things that I'm parsing through reflect my privilege. That I have so many things that make my current space a home and that I can choose which items will go along in our new home is luxurious. (Such riches can also feel a little oppressive, as I noticed how liberated and spacious my newly-sparse family room looked last week, but that feeling too is a a middle class privilege. I am able to make the choice of whether or not I wish to consume or acquire things; things are of course the marker of 'making it' in U.S. society.) On the other hand, this accumulation of stuff also seems to reflect age or generational status, particularly when I compare the paltry one box of mementos each of my children are storing, (in addition to a few boxes of elementary school papers and artwork and some musical paraphernalia), and the items they are bringing. Some of their efficiency is clearly related to their generational position, as their music and personal contacts' information are all stored (and have always been stored) on little electronic devices, while I struggle with deciding what to do with old address books full of old family names and addresses, and notebooks of course materials that I won't take with me, but that I can't relegate to the trash or recycling heap (nor that I would take the time or have the inclination to scan electronically). I am clearly old-school and they are the 'it' generation.

Am I ready? Will we be ready when it's time to move? My middle class audacity says we will be ready enough, even if there is some scrambling in the last few days. And, will we be ready to learn French, when we arrive? On that score, we may have a lot more in common with the less privileged, as we won't have a choice!


Jane said...

You are ready, my friend! Or at least you've prepared yourself as much as any amazing person can for this big adventure. Now it's time to enjoy the ride... ;-)

Unknown said...

Quel joli article :-) Je regrette tellement de ne pas avoir pu te revoir à Aix !