The house is quiet and smells of cleaning agents. In the background, machines hum busily—washing machine, dryer, dishwasher. All doing for me what I no longer need to do for myself, although just between you and me I find rinsing dishes and loading and unloading a dishwasher to be just as much work as simply plunging my hands in some warm sudsy water and washing them myself.

Outside are leaves, still green and shapely but tinged with yellow at their edges, outlined against a grey sky. Already it is fall and the air is cold. We’ve had days of rain, and I’ve cursed my glittery sandals, so lovely and summery in their season, so inadequate against a suddenly-formed puddle. My boots are in the container, a giant tin box still riding the waves somewhere in the Atlantic. ON the Atlantic, I mean. I have caught a truly impressive cold, and have managed to lose most of my voice, and catch sharp daggers in my throat with every swallow.

The kids are in school. It took some time. First we realized we couldn’t get that house I mentioned, and I had to give up my dream of certain specific schools and settle for other specific schools, although still in the same generally-excellent school district. But there are strict neighbourhood zones and we couldn’t find a house to match nor prove that we were living where we needed to be.

Their new schools are fine. Elliot had to start a day late because he had to see an academic counselor before he could get his schedule. He has college level history, which does not make sense to me since he is a sophomore. He is peer-tutoring a beginning French class, and tells me with amusement how his classmates pronounce “et toi” as it is spelled in English.

He tells me how the principal told them, in a class assembly, that as sophomores, they’re like middle children, overlooked, neither the “new baby” freshmen or the attention-garnering seniors. “But he’s going to change this—so everyone can feel successful!” Elliot reports. I roll my eyes. So American!

The twins come home their first day excited, chattering. Ilsa has 2 new friends. Abel loves his homeroom teacher. She is so different from a French teacher, he tells me. If you forget a pen or pencil, you can either buy one off her special supply, or you can borrow one—you leave a shoe at the front of the classroom so you remember to return it. We all laugh about this, as French teachers scold you pretty hard if you show up without any writing utensils. In fact, all 3 expressed varying degrees of shock at how nice and friendly the American teachers were. (This is not to put down French teachers. I think their goal in a classroom is to educate children, and they feel being nice and friendly distracts from this) Ilsa was unimpressed with one of her teachers, and said she needed to yell at her classroom to restore order. Elliot said, “I was hoping the French teacher would yell. That would have relaxed me, made me feel at home.” He added, “She’s English, you know, not French after all.”

Their list of school supplies is much smaller and less specific. No fountain pens are needed, although Ilsa takes an old one in her trousse (pencil case). Everyone is excited to have a locker.

We’ve found a different house. I believe most people would feel this house to be better than the other—it’s bigger, newer, and cheaper. We’re excited about it, but both Donn and I love older houses, with hardwood floors and funky bits of personality that are theirs alone. This one doesn’t really have much personality. It’s a blank slate, and we’ll add our own to it soon enough I’m sure. Which do you prefer?