Over two years

We arrived in Semur-en-Auxois in December 2019. Winter in this region is gray, damp, and can feel unending, but that first spring was magnificent. Gale and Thomas came to visit as they were teaching, or at least going to teach, in Geneva. Then covid struck. They went home after canceling the class, and we, in Semur, like everyone else in the world, went through a series of lockdowns, curfews, shots, and worries. I think Robert and I were not out after dark for almost 18 months. It was a strange time.

Now, though covid is still an issue, we have finally dropped wearing masks, except for some high-risk places, and people have begun to have dinners and aperos, and get-togethers once again. Semur is a social place and despite the isolation, we have made some pretty wonderful friends. And had a few adventures along the way. But there is one that stands out at the moment.

Last week I went to Paris to pick up my German naturalization papers. This was a process that began before we left the states. I think it was my brother who mentioned to me that Germany was restoring citizenship to those people displaced as a result of World War II. Which was true for my family. I am the only one born in the states. Gary was born in Garmische – a pretty spectacular place that he has not yet seen. Me, in a prosaic American hospital in The Bronx. That said, I think both of us, and perhaps me more than Gary, were brought up with certain sensibilities that were distinctly not American – though my mother – in her post-war trauma state was insistent that we be brought up as American, and speak English. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I studied French (not very successfully, I might add).

Getting the paperwork together was the usual process of tracking down original documents, sending them off, waiting to hear that your request was lost, requesting them again, sending in your fee, waiting, and so on. But finally, I got a notice in February that my papers were ready in Paris and I could pick them up and apply for a German passport on the same day. Thus last week.

While getting naturalization was a practical move at first – with an EU passport our visa process is different -only every five years and far less costly – I found myself feeling emotional as the lovely Eva explained things to me. And in typical bureaucratic fashion, the German government insisted on using my birth name on the paperwork – a name I haven’t used since I was 17 years old. It was an interesting moment for me. Had I been younger, much younger, I might have objected and asked for the papers to be rewritten but instead, I felt a sense of landing, as if I was back in familiar territory. Not unlike how I feel living in France.

We continue the adventure of living in France – and while there are some challenges – it has mostly been the best idea we’ve ever had.

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