Everyone keeps asking us when will we be back. Jeez, we haven't even left yet! But maybe it's their way of saying that we will be missed. The truth is that we don't know when we will be back, but it probably won't be for 4 1/2 months again. Unless (1) the French Consulate opens an office in Moab; (2) the dollar ends its downward spiral and begins a 'surge'; (3) Ryanair or some other airline begins a Moab-Carcassonne route; and (4) we could figure out how to operate Mr. O's Place guest house on an "on-your-honor" basis. Likely? J'ne sais pas.
We don't intentionally keep our friends in suspense with vague answers. We just can't commit. So then they pry deeper. What will you miss the most? Knowing that Doug crafted a well thought-out list, I felt compelled to do some soul-searching. I can't find fault with any of his items, but what will I miss the most?
I find it hard to put into words, but I will miss life on the street. Right now, I sit in a chair pecking away at the computer and am inches from the front window that is inches from Rue du Four. Our curtains are never closed, and we only close our shutters when we go to bed (OK we do go to bed early). We watch everyone go by, and whether we admit it or not, everybody looks in open windows. I'm guilty. Eye contact from house to street always elicits a 'bon jour'.
I don't know all my neighbors names, but I know their habits, who and what times they go to the boulangerie, their garden plots, walk their strollers or just sit in their doorways. I never grow tired of the "Screamer" (real name: Benjamen) and his endless motorcycle and race car sound effects from the seat of his bicycle up and down Rue du Four. I know when Marc is home by the sound of his toilet flushing. I know when Jake is going to school by someone calling Roy and Thor for their walk. Camille opening his shutters every morning and straighting his bug curtain is almost a religious ritual. Doug once asked the handsome beret-wearing bicycle-riding neighbor with two garden plots what his name was, but couldn't understand it; we watch him pedal by several times a day hauling produce, cuttings, or firewood kindling. We joke that he'll live to be 110, or maybe he is already. Every evening he sits with his lady friend or wife in the doorway down the street. A few of our fellow LeranCestralers, Pascaline and Berte (whom we have called Betty), live down the street or around the corner, so they are regular passers-by. And there are new-comers. The other night, a friend's parents were visiting, and as his Polish father was strolling by he saw Old Smokey and exclaimed through our open window, "Where did you get a tank like that?" He then came in and chatted for awhile before heading further down the street.
I have never had "life on the street" in the States. The closest I came is living in an old brownstone in Chicago. But I was in college at the time and the building was chopped into apartments...it wasn't even close. I'm sure at one time things were different in Chicago, because my dad used to talk about everyone sitting out on the front porch, the place where life happened. I think suburban architecture in the States has put an end to the front porch, and replaced it with a remote-controlled 3-car garage so you can enter your house without leaving your vehicle. And then go immediately into your privacy-fenced backyard without interacting with anyone.
Life on the street in Leran has, admittedly, at times been a great source of irritation and frustration (remember Le Fumers...). Now I find it rather ironic that it is the memory I will treasure most.