This is the end
This is the end
My only friend, the end
Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
I’ll never look into your eyes…again
“The End” by The Doors
This coming week marks one year from the date I last posted on An Alien Parisienne. This month marks the fifth anniversary from my very first visit to Paris, France in 2008. Today marks the end of An Alien Parisienne.
On August 1, 2012, I arrived at Denver International Airport at about one in the morning. Disoriented, and arriving late having been placed on an alternate flight because the customs line in Detroit, Michigan was too slow and several on route to Denver missed their plane, including me, my first ex-husband (“UnEx”) picked me up and drove me to the place that had been my home from 1995 to 2000 and which has since become my home again, temporarily, until I get on my feet again. (No, UnEx does not live here now, but it is a three-bedroom condo we owned together and which he still owns, renting out a room to a guy who has lived here for 10 years as well as the place where our son — my oldest — lives since it is only a short distance from his high school.)
It’s taking me a while to find my feet. They have gone somewhat comfortably numb. I’m figuring it out, though.
I had decided in February after a couple of months of rumination that at last I would need to write a closing post for this blog, and I started composing in my head what such a post would say. I still get quite a few subscribers to the blog and also quite a bit of daily traffic to the blog — I don’t want to entirely shut it down as it still seems to have a readership. But it was realizing the significance that the month of March has played in my Paris Journey that made me think, “Hey, I need to bring some closure to this thing” and do so at this meaningful time. Interestingly, this March also marks other endings as well, and it is now wholly appropriate to write this post.
Please read on if you are interested in knowing the rest of the story, and also find out about a new blog I am starting: Do-Overs in Denver.
I’m having to work a little from memory as most of my journals and pocket calenders chronicling this time are still in Paris, but I can reconstruct most of it. I don’t know if any of this stuff is what you care to read, but I know I need to write it.
Besides the Charles de Gaulle Airport, the RER B, Métro Line 5 and Paul’s apartment, the first place I saw in Paris was Père Lachaise Cemetery. It was on my “must-see” list. This was in part because of Mr. James Douglas Morrison’s grave-site, but also because in 2007 I had seen the film “Paris, je t’aime” in a Dallas movie theater, and I loved the segment entitled “Père Lachaise” with Emily Mortimer and Rufus Sewell and directed by Wes Craven, who also plays the ghost of Oscar Wilde in the film short.
Easter Week 2008, Paul and I were due to visit our mutual friend (and my best friend) Janet in Antibes — in southern France on the Côte d’Azur — on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. I had arrived on Easter Sunday, the 23rd, with a flight back to Denver on Saturday the 29th as I had to be ready to jump back into the classroom on Monday morning, March 31st. I was on my Spring Break.
This left only Monday and Friday to “see Paris sights” and therefore I could only choose just a few. Besides Père Lachaise, I picked the Sacré Coeur Basilica and Shakespeare and Company. I chose the Sacré Coeur because I think it is so funny-looking that it is beautiful — I admire the fact that it looks not only like a wedding cake but also like a set of three breasts pointing high into the Parisian sky up on the hill of Montmartre. In addition, some of the coolest bands have filmed videos or set their music to videos where the Basilica is featured, but it is also the site around which the movie “Amélie” (Le fabuleaux déstin d’Amélie Poulain) takes place. Shakespeare and Company seemed like a natural place to visit because it is so fabled in the literary world, and I had heard of it long before I ever thought I might see Paris. I am a book lover, and going there was a no-brainer for me.
I remember quite clearly I did not want to see the Eiffel Tower because I thought it a little trite and clichéd. It was not until much later in May of 2009 that I at last saw the Iron Lady in all her glory, and laughed at my own silliness facing that magnificent and beautiful structure.
But it is true that my main goal was to visit Paul, confirm the love that I already felt for him in letters via email, and see the home of my best friend in the South of France.
I remember thinking that the blue of the sea was so remarkable.
My last day in Paris, Paul took me to the Sacré Coeur, Shakespeare and Company, and many places I did not know the names of until much, much later.
At the end of my visit, we parted reluctantly, and in the next two months we made plans for me to have another visit during the summer of 2008. (You can re-read this post if you would like another variation of this story.)
Fast-forward four years.
It is May 24, 2012, five days after my 44th birthday, and I had gotten a phone call a couple of days earlier from the US Consulate in Paris, saying that they needed to see me in person at the Consulate regarding my passport.
I figured perhaps there was something I had forgotten to fill out or something along those lines.
When I arrived, the head passport officer asked me to pick up the interphone so we could speak privately through the security glass separating us.
He said, “Are you aware you owe child support in the State of Colorado?”
I nodded and said yes.
He proceeded to tell me that not only could my name change to “Prescott” not be processed, but that the State Department was keeping my passport until I had resolved the child support arrearage in full, and that I had a limited time to do so. The passport would be denied and deactivated/revoked after 90 days without payment. If I could not resolve the debt, I would be issued a temporary passport for direct return to the United States, and then would have no passport until the debt was paid.
(If you would like to know more about this Federal Law, you can read about it here. I sure wish I would have seen this information back in 2008. I had no idea.)
And now for the missing bits of the story…
There are many things to which I have referred obliquely in this blog in part because of privacy and in part because I was worried about being direct about them (with legal repercussions and so on).
Now that I am back in the U.S., and permanently (more on that in a moment), I can now open up about those issues.
First, one of the reasons I came to Paris to stay with Paul was because my second-ex (“DeuxEx”) had removed our then almost-two year old son from our home on Sunday, October 7, 2007 after he saw me once again reading Paul’s blog (I had not been in contact with Paul since a year prior on October 6, 2006). I knew in that moment that I needed to tell DeuxEx the truth that I had been keeping from him: I was not in love with him anymore, at least that was how I felt in that moment, after months of trying to be fully back in a relationship with him. There were many things he had done that provoked my falling out of love with him and things that had happened inside of me as well, and I realized that I needed to speak the truth.
His reaction was to state, “Well then I am taking our son and going to my mother’s [more than an hour by car outside of Denver].”
I did not argue with him at the time because I was afraid of him. I was afraid of what he would do, and I thought, “I will deal with this later.”
About two weeks later, I was served with divorce papers.
The winter months of 2007-2008 were an increasingly entrenched legal tennis match, my lawyer was not really helpful to me except to say, “This guy seems really angry,” and I was so upset at the entire situation (plus working full-time in a school that later imploded with personnel and leadership divisions) that I was not able to take adequate care of myself. I was disintegrating with inner conflict, not knowing what my life held next, and feeling increasingly confused, disempowered, and afraid. In addition, my job was at risk. I was teaching at school where the reading ability of many of the freshman and sophomores was at about the 6th grade level and where gang activity (often with the parents of the students) and low family incomes made for a challenging school atmosphere. I did the best that I could in that teaching setting with these other stresses happening, but at last when there was a conflict between the school principal and vice principal who hired me and other staff and the board of directors, I was caught up in the middle of the mess.
On the wonderful side, there must have been something I did right, as I have a couple of dozen former students with whom I am in touch on Facebook, and we still comment on one another’s posts and lives. I have letters of recommendation from them and we still communicate quite a lot. I really did love the students there, and they loved me back. It was a difficult but rewarding time, and I am grateful because those students made the entire situation not only bearable but enjoyable.
However, because of the conflict among the school leadership, when that leadership resigned I knew by April of that year I would no longer have a job in Denver. I was barely affording rent and food as it was, and legal fees made a huge dent in my income. Plus, I felt my youngest son was being kept from me, purposely and in retribution, for my not wanting to be with my second husband any longer. I felt demoralized and mentally beaten down by the entire situation.
In June of 2008, when the school year was finished, I went to Paris for the summer, and thought I would try to get a job while I was there, pay child support if required (the divorce still was not final at that time), and get a hold of myself. I also felt deeply in love with Paul in that time.
I discovered after I had been in France a couple of months after returning from a trip to Canada with Paul in August that it was not possible for Americans without a special visa to live and work in France to have a job. Getting precious permission to legally live and work in France is notoriously difficult — many of the “Paris Bloggers” have written of their difficulties in doing to. This was very unfortunate as my Master’s degree is in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, and I could have had my pick of jobs if I had had paperwork to do so!
So, for the next four years, I lived illegally in France (NOW do you understand an “alien parisienne”?? 😉 ), supported by Paul, who was — still is — legal to live and work there, and has been doing so for 20+ years. He did not make enough income to help me pay the child support (we barely paid the rent, in fact), and I could not work. Because I did not have a job, I could not afford to save money to re-establish myself in the U.S. either. There were many, many other complicating factors, as there often are in life, and one of them was this increasing child support debt.
Paul and I married in September 2011 not only because we wanted to keep our relationship going, but also it would have given me the right to work as of September 9, 2012. I was changing my name on my passport so I could begin the process of getting my Carte de Séjour, and at long last get a legal job in France and begin to pay off the child support as required.
And then I lost my passport.
The Past Seven Months
I guess I can sum up the past seven-and-a-half months as complicated but empowering.
I have had to represent myself pro se in a courtroom hearing, stand up for my rights as a mother in a mediation session (which was successfully negotiated!), try to reintegrate into American culture by going through reverse culture shock, and meanwhile search for jobs in a really strange hiring climate (one where no one human seems to take a résumé anymore — it is all processed through online third-party agencies who screen for “key words” and assess based only on those features). Not to mention that the U.S. economy is still a recovering one.
On the wonderful side, on February 22, 2013, I was at last reunited with my youngest son in his therapist’s office — we are undergoing court-ordered reunification therapy because I have been away from my son for so long. The one silver lining in all of this is that he is an amazing young boy, there is still a mother-son connection (which I fostered as best I could while I was away, and which has helped a lot in the reunification), and I look forward to a normalized relationship with him in the coming months.
March 11, 2013
The clouds have gathered around my relationship with Paul, however.
Because of the conditions around the amount of child support owed, I do not have a hope of having a passport again for a very long time. In addition, if I ever chose to leave Colorado and the relationship with my youngest son again, I would certainly be charged with child abandonment and my parental rights would be stripped.
I have to stay here in Colorado.
Not wanting to make any premature decisions, Paul and I have waited to have conversations about what to do until the dust settled. At last, however, I asked the question.
Paul let me know this past Monday that he does not want to live in Denver. His life is in Paris.
And so, along with this blog, five years after my initial visit to Paris and one year after my previous post, my marriage (for all intents and purposes) also ends.
The story of Paris, Paul, and myself has come to an end.
This is the end
This is the end
My only friend, the end
It hurts to set you free
But you’ll never follow me
The end of laughter and soft lies
The end of nights we tried to die
This is the end.
(Thank you, Mr. Mojo Risin’.)
Do-Overs in Denver
But, life goes on. Still jobless in Denver (and I don’t exactly know if this blog post will help me, either, haha. But you know what? Either someone is going to appreciate my authenticity and writing ability or they are not. And I think that not only this post, but this entire blog is replete with both. If someone cannot recognize these two amazing qualities I have, then I don’t need to be working for that person/those people anyway).
Just like the creation of this blog happened because I needed to find a life in Paris, I now need to re-discover myself in Denver. I need to grieve my losses and then move on to better things.
I have decided to start a blog on just what this means to me, and how it is that I will have Do-Overs in Denver.
I invite you to follow me there to see just how I plan to do it.
Over and out.
An Alien Parisienne, now trying to do things over in Denver
Brave, empowered Karin! Thank you for sharing your story, and for filling in some blank spots that your friends wondered about but didn’t want to probe, lest they be painful for you to discuss. There’s a hopefulness I feel here that’s exciting. You deserve good things and a happy, healthy life, wherever you are in the world. I miss you and look forward to following your on your new path with Do-Overs in Denver! Gros bisous. xoxo