In France I spoke with a chef who had worked abroad for twenty years before returning to his native country. It was obvious that, like his cuisine, his heart belonged to France, yet he was torn and wondered if he would have better opportunities somewhere else. Perhaps he meant being happier away from France.
A few days later, at a Parisian hotel, I spotted a family of Americans. A sudden affection for them burst inside me. These total strangers were closer to me than the French were. It was the first time since I left France that my allegiance was shifting so distinctively.
Yet my last lunch in the 12th arrondissement, home until I moved to the United States, left me sad and homesick.  I dreaded the definite moment when I would be back in the US for good.
A few hours after I landed, I attended my son’s music camp’s summer concert. I was jet lagged and still under the French influence.  Several times over the night, I was aware of disconnect between the audience and me. Parents spoke to each other, laughed and exchanged news related to their kids. For many, like myself, this camp is a place where older siblings came as well. Memories create bonds between people who otherwise wouldn’t know each other. But last night, I was observing, unable to share anything or even to talk to anyone.
Over a piece of tiramisu that my husband and I spilt, we spoke about our two worlds and how shockingly different they were.
We thought of the valets parking and concierges at our Parisian hotel, the café waiters, the bakers, and the merchants at the fresh street market and imagined them in this room, surrounded by American parents and kids, in this Maine small lake town. They would, we were sure, believe they had landed in an alien world.
We decided that it would a shock for them to be here with us tonight.
Then, we finished our tiramisu in silence.
We were as foreign tonight as these French characters would be, but we would eventually blend again within a few days.
Until another trip to France would make us aliens in our native land.
Like the chef, I will forever be this woman whose heart is divided in two.
An alien.

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