Who doesn’t love squeezing a big fat zit? Earlier this year I read Ross Gay’s amazing book on delights and when I came to Toulouse I tried to keep track of delights as well. I have this recurring image in my head of a golden zit. It’s out there somewhere, growing, slowly getting bigger, forming a sparkly iridescent head. It’s not yet time. If we poke it now it will just get red and angry. I know many of you are waiting for a big prize: retirement, true love, a happy child, tenure, vacation, the fruits of your labors. But we all know that some of these things take years of effort and practice. Deep in your spiritual or material sebum, the little seeds have been planted but it will take a little more time before they come up to the surface.
So let’s think back on some golden zits that were happily popped.
In 1999 I was in Paris with my boyfriend, the British art historian. He had little money but liked nice shirts and paintings by David. We were walking along the rue Daguerre (home of Agnès Varda) and when we passed La Maison de l’Accordéon I told him how I had wanted an accordion since I was a young child. I love accordions. He stopped me right there, reminded me that I had landed an academic job, would soon be getting regular paychecks and that I could just go buy myself an accordion. And so I did. A little red Hohner and I paid the man in the shop to teach me the basics. All summer I practiced and I was so happy.
When my child was three years old and I was a very exhausted single mother, my own mother sent me money to hire a babysitter so that I could go out and do something I’d always wanted to do. Since I already had to hire a babysitter to do anything, like work, go to meetings, leave the house at all, this was a rare treat. I had always wanted to dance tango because I love the music and so I signed up for tango lessons with a lovely local teacher in a beautiful space once a week. Sometimes I forget to scratch that zit and it goes deep under my skin but it is always there. You know those ones that just keep coming back in the same spot even though you are too old for that nonsense? Enjoy the consistency.
While I wait for the golden sparkles to grow under the cosmic skin, let me share a few immediate delights from our time in France.
A few days ago, I stopped at the butcher to buy some ham for my child to have a sandwich on the train. But then I saw a pork roast sitting on a tray and knew he would prefer that. I asked for two slices and the butcher commended my choice, they had just taken the roast out of the oven. He sliced off the crispy salty herby end and then two more slices. I said, oh, it’s okay, you can give us the end piece. And he said no, the end piece is for the butchers. I laughed and protested and he said no, we need to check the flavoring and just like that, he ate it! Good on him. Perks of the work.
Yesterday we went snowboarding. It was so easy to get on a bus, get equipment and ride all day. Most of the people on the bus were college age and just going on their own to enjoy a day of snow.
I can go to the market almost every day. Produce is cheap and varied. Here’s my most recent haul plus a few free books.
The holiday season is here! Toulouse has lights on so many streets and Christmas markets all over town. The center of town smells of roasting chestnuts and sugary waffles.
I am waiting for my son to be fluent in French, for my own clarity, for my Spanish to get better, for 2020 to shift the US from its path, for retirement, for enlightenment, but in the mean time I am trying to be patient. Let that zit grow. I came here with two very simple goals which I mostly accomplish. I made them very doable. And yet, after all of these years of achieving and working and living on a regimented school schedule, it is hard to not fill my day with projects and deadlines. Deep within my child is a grown man, slowly, slowly forming to eventually emerge and probably astonish us all. My future self lies within me as well and I cannot squeeze her into being and still be fully present here. One of the lovely things about displacement is noticing all of the little joys.
Here are 9 more:
- Everyone says thank you and goodbye to the bus driver when they get off of the bus. We are in a big city.
- Baguettes! Warm baguettes!
- A long, long canal path right outside of my door. I love the sycamores, the ducks, and the absence of cars.
- Waiting for my son to catch up with me when we go snowboarding and then, by the end of the day, seeing him wait for me to catch up.
- A piano!
- Wonderful yoga teachers and classes.
- An incredible library.
- I hardly ever see angry people here. I saw two guys arguing on the bike path but it was so damn polite. Mais monsieur…mais monsieur.
- Beautiful parks right down the street.