Obviously February is an auspicious month for us. Not only is it Julian’s birthday today, but it is two years since the first Postcard from Provence and a year since the New York Times article appeared and turned our lives inside out.
On Thursday evening I was out playing trio sonatas and Julian was supposed to write his letter of motivation for the adoption dossier. When I returned he was exactly where I had left him, at the computer at the kitchen table, his eyes straining from behind his ten euro imitation tortoiseshell glasses.
“Did you do it?” I asked as I scraped up the rest of the delicious pasta sauce he had made for himself.
“No. But I resized all my thumbnails.”
“My wife and I are very much in love..;” he dictated the next morning. My appointment with Mme Ferrer and her collection of plastic bottles was at 2pm. “Perhaps they don’t want to know that. Let’s start again. What have I said so far? Family is very important to me. I have eleven nephews and nieces. I feel I have a lot to offer a child. My wife and I are very much in love….”
A few tears and a lot of James Taylor songs later, and with the help of a dear bilingual friend, herself adopted, a long passionate missive from me, and a short touching one from him clicked through the printer. We had the doctor’s reports, the copies of birth and marriage certificates, the bulletins no 3 thingies (whatever they are) and it was time to take the photographs.
“That orange shirt of yours. You have to wear that.”
“But I thought you liked this shirt? I wore it specially…” I fingered the buttons of my Galeries Lafayette long sleeved vest.
“But you have to look smart, a bit more tailored, that one’s a bit hippy and floppy.”
I rummaged around in the wardrobe and found the crumpled CP Shades shirt in burnt umber of which Julian was particularly fond and which I bought when I was pregnant as part of my Big Belly Preparation Shopping Spree six years ago.
“That’s lovely. Relax. Say Mum.”
Julian, his corkscrew curls flying out every which way from behind the Nikon, touched the button on his camera thirty times in quick succession, capturing a streak of sunlight across my left breast as if to highlight my mothering instincts. The images were transferred to Photoshop. All of them looked like I had some strange skin rash, but hey, I thought. Most people just stick in a passport photo done during the weekly shop at Intermarché. Whatever. One was chosen and I was done, Next came Julian’s session. Just as there has been in his recent paintings, there was a light in his eyes I haven’t seen for many years. He was laughing just as he did all night in a small tent in Devon the night we met.
“You look beautiful, darling.” I said fumbling for the right button on the camera.
Closing the envelope of the dossier I realised I hadn’t seen Julian for about an hour.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Taking more pictures” I heard the click of the self-timer coming from the living room. “I want to look young and I’ve got chicken skin on my neck. I’ve got to look like a young father so they choose me.”
“And now?” I asked half an hour later.
“Airbrushing the chicken skin out of my neck.”
“Don’t forget the paper bag!” Julian called after me as I left for Avignon.
“What for?” I asked.
“To bring baby back in”
Mme Ferrer, her plastic bottles standing behind her, an allegorical display of all the discarded children waiting to be filled up with love, read our letters. Her eyebrows rose at the mention of our successful careers, lower lids squinted at our medical history, and eyes clouded at our obvious desire to share our lives and our love with a child.
“You have written a very beautiful letter” she said.“I admire you.”
Nine months (and a gruelling home study) from now we will hopefully have permission from the French authorities to be parents. February, it seems, is also the month where we became symbolically pregnant.