Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Romantic, The Pragmatist

While riding rickety bikes on the boardwalk in St. Aubin sur Mer, I see yet another French cottage, another mini chateau for sale. This one is a little villa with stone walls surrounded by a garden, facing the sea, a little run down, but I can already picture its radiance. In my mind's eye, I am painting its doors a calming blue, its shutters a bright contrasting shade a la Monet. I see a truck dumping rich black soil, so I can grow vines and flowers by the sea. Inside, the old wood floors are stripped and polished to their original shine. I rip out the walls to reveal the original stone, and I purchase mid-century watercolors picked up at a Paris flea market, to hang on the walls. The simple bedrooms have fluffy beds and white linens.

"Wouldn't it be fun to buy a house in France and fix it up?"

He's heard this question so many times, in Chicago, in California, in Southern France, in Mexico,...but I never carry it further because Tony has reminded me so often of the impracticality of a fixer-upper in a remote location we rarely visit.

"I could come over and live in the house for a year--really learn French and have it all fixed up." And then the inevitable, "You could come with me and we could buy some power tools and you could help."

He gives me the look, and I cannot deny my dreams are ludicrous. Tony isn't much of a handyman, and though I love the idea, the execution just isn't me either. I laugh--and keep laughing over the next few days in St. Aubin Sur Mer, each time I see a For Sale sign on the fence of a run down beach chateau--because the initial desire never leaves.

 For the first time in our life, I see I am a romantic. If I'm the romantic then Tony is the pragmatist. The revelation is stunning. How did I not realize this sooner?

For the most part, this is a good balance, but every once in a while my romantic notions are stronger than his practicality. The ying and yang has brought novelty and excitement to our lives, yet in an organized, do-able way.

For instance, the lovely village of St. Aubin Sur Mer. This all started because I had this romantic notion of living in Paris. Tony filled in with the pragmatics: flights, rental correspondence, bike rentals etc. Eventually this brought us to St. Aubin Sur Mer. How I love this village of Normandy architecture and a boardwalk for riding bikes. Quiet. Quaint. Only one village boulangerie. One fruit vendor, one cathedral and a beach with a distinct history. It is here the Canadians landed on June 6, 1944. It is here the French pay homage to the men who gave everything they had. The story is told on a bronze memorial that stands on the boardwalk. The story ends with the words, "They came to liberate us."

This is not only a place of beauty, but a place of remembrance and sacrifice. When the French could not save themselves in 1944, thousands of selfless Americans, English, Canadians, Norwegians, Scots, and so many other volunteers did it for them. To greater and lesser degrees, people always have and always will sacrifice for others' freedoms and quality of life when they cannot do it for themselves.  Mothers sacrifice for babies, teachers for students, soldiers for strangers. Sacrifice for others is a constant circle within the bigger circle of life. Sacrifice is a turning wheel that moves the cart forward. Sacrifice is a necessary life force.

And so, in one of those lesser degrees, because there is no comparison to the great sacrifice of D-Day 1944, we still have the simple joy of staying in a beautiful stone cottage--renovated by someone who did for us what we will never do for ourselves.