I’ve been struck several times lately, not by how strange it is that I’m here, but by how very, VERY strange it is that I forget that it’s weird a lot of the time. This life just seems normal.  This Okie from Maryland has spent the last 3 and a half months living alone in french-speaking Saguenay. And now, this just seems like where I belong, as little as I fit in. It’s hard to think about being anywhere else right now.

Yesterday, I had to return some windshield wipers. I had apparently gone retarded with glee on my previous trip to buy wipers when I found there was a little computer, with an option for english, to help me find the right sizes. I was so gleetarded that I plugged in Explorer, even though I drive an Es-cop-ay. (I spell it like that to make sure you read it right). So anyhow, I returned those wipers, and since I couldn’t get my ancient wipers off myself, I got them to put the new ones on. It took every ounce of french I have and a little I don’t, haha. It was a challenge to do that one thing, but it was my big afternoon errand, and it went well, i.e. I got the job done.

That’s weird, right? Amping yourself up for a simple return at a store. But that’s just life. I practice saying things to myself in the car when I head to a store, kind of taking inventory of what I can say that I might need to use “J’ai besoin d’aide,” (I need help) is always useful in retail settings, as is “return” and “wrong ones” (which I said as “These not correct for my car,” because that’s what I know how to say, haha).  But what struck me wasn’t the oddness of doing that mental dance to prep myself for these formerly simple interactions. What struck me was how normal it is to inventory my limited french, to rehearse short conversations in the car alone, to drive around sounding like I’m hawking a loogie trying to learn to make that french “r” sound that rolls kind of in the rear of the mouth. How normal it is to miss my husband, and to know that if something needs to be done, I just have to do it myself.

The days are getting a bit colder, and I don’t think we’ll be without any snow at all on the ground again until spring. I’m a bit afraid of winter. I don’t know what to expect except lots of cold and lots of snow, and I haven’t lived intimately with either. This is going to be a big adjustment. But then…so was moving to Saguenay. Even if I know I’m not ready for winter and dread it a little, I’m not terrified of it. I realize now that it’ll come right along at its own pace, regardless of my wishes, but that it will come just one day at a time. There will be those scary early days of driving in the snow, and those painful cold days when it hurts to take that first breath or two outside. But I’ll get used to that, too, I’m sure. And I’ll be used to wearing tights under my pants, and three shirts, and a scarf. And I’ll learn to NOT lose my hat when I take it off inside (I had to duck back into a restaurant today after leaving to get the hat I’d left). And I already KNOW (per the dire warnings of all three Oliviero men) not to sick my hand into our snowblower. At at some point, the dark Saguenay winter will be normal, too. Amazing what the brain just accepts when you give it no other choice.

I did notice something a few days ago when we got the first snow of the year that actually touched the roads at all.  It’s going to be VERY white and gray here in the winter. Snowy landscape against ashen skies. I bought a black coat. The next winter coat I buy may be the brightest one I can find. I think I’m going to crave color this winter. But who knows? I actually kind of like living in this strange place, working at acquiring a new language, having the weird interactions I have.. Maybe I’ll come to appreciate the winter, too. I’m crossing my fingers that I like skiing or snowboarding enough to make the approach of winter exciting next year.

And in case you lost count, it’s six sleeps, including the one I’m about to fall into…

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