Catherine Texier | Longreads | October 2019 | 22 minutes (5,425 words)
“I don’t believe in aging. I believe in forever altering one’s aspect to the sun.” — Virginia Woolf
One day, around 20 years ago, towards the end of my marriage, we were walking through Central Park and sat for a moment on a knoll overlooking the lake. I don’t know what we had been talking about but I clearly remember saying: “I don’t see myself growing old in the States.” I was in my late 40s at the time. Perhaps the approach of 50 felt like a milestone, the beginning of “old.” Or perhaps what I meant was that I didn’t see myself growing old with him — which turned out to be the case, since we broke up not long after that.
Perhaps, after almost 20 years in the US, I still saw myself as just passing by — forever a green card holder, resident alien, with one foot on each continent, never really settling down, ready to flee back to France, like these expats from the old European empires who retire home after they’ve put in their time in the colonies.I only had a vague notion of what I meant by “old,” and when I would want to pack up. I figured life would send me signals when the time came.
Since then, I have stayed put — notwithstanding a few half-hearted attempts to cross the Atlantic, looking for international schools for my daughters in Paris when the divorce was final, or briefly putting my New York apartment on the market while fantasizing about quaint seven-story walk-ups near Bastille, when I had a boyfriend who lived in Europe.
Now, as the years pass, I have less and less desire to leave New York, where my roots have pushed down through the cracks of its broken sidewalks, even though, technically, at past 70, I suppose I am truly getting old. But the idea of going back to France would seem alarming, a tolling of a bell of sorts. Of course, staying in New York, the city I fell in love with at 22, might seem like waving a garlic branch in front of the grim reaper, a kind of vade retro satana, a vain attempt to stay forever young, or at least delay the inevitable.