This article has been written by Sandy Shroyer for Renestance as a guest blogger. You can find follow her adventures in her blog at https://www.roaminretirement.com/.
Before we moved to France, I read a blog post by Renestance about bringing some of your home country, culture, and personality to your new home in France. That piece helped us decide which items to bring to our new life. We had rid ourselves of almost everything we owned before setting out to “roam” the USA before I retired, and we stored the rest in a 5’ x 5’ storage unit. Back in Texas, we emptied the unit and proceeded to get rid of about half of what we had initially considered essential. We kept some of my artist husband’s art supplies, one box of books each, my china and silver, artwork, and “treasures” that were valuable only to us.
Our shipment was scheduled to arrive in January, the same week as our arrival in France, but of course that didn’t happen. We were thrilled when it finally came in late March, despite some significant breakage (hashtag superglue). We have a furnished apartment, but after living in U.S. Airbnbs for a year and a half, we wanted to make it our home, if only for a year or two. We had purchased a new desk and chair so we’d have a place for our computers, and before our things arrived we’d bought a few things (rug, throw pillows, bed linens) to make the place cozy. As my bestie Beth once said, “A house is just walls. A home is the special people and things inside.”
I wanted something old and French for our home, and on Facebook Marketplace I found it: a lovely old buffet that would fit perfectly in our dining area. Today it houses books and tableware, and on top we have a constantly changing display of special things.
I love to entertain and was delighted to combine the old (my china and silver), the new (a Provencal tablecloth from a recent trip), and the special (Murano glasses from our first trip to Italy) on our table.
We brought family treasures, too. My dad was a philatelist from age nine, and after he died my lovely sister-in-law Leanna used some of his stamps to create a souvenir for each family member. I wondered why she had asked me about some of my favorite writers, but when the gift arrived I saw that she had included stamps with their images.
Another favorite thing came from my brother Larry (the jokester). Once when I had a friend for a sleepover, he put a horny toad in our bed (I think the real name is Horned Toad, and they were ubiquitous in the Oklahoma of our childhood), which of course evoked screams and drama. Over 50 years later, after a visit from him, I turned down the bed to find its doppelganger, who now holds a place of honor on my desk.
My husband Phil is an artist who was selling his paintings through a website and a Texas gallery before we left (our visa does not allow us to work, so now he paints simply for joy, not profit). Of course we needed to have some of his work on our walls.
We kept several treasures from my Grandma, including the travel diary from her wedding trip in 1924. I also have a pair of small china plaques in their original frames. I’ve admired those since I was a toddler, and now they have a home in our bedroom.
When we began roaming the U.S., our son suggested that we take our wedding picture and set it up in each Airbnb (we lived in a different Airbnb every month for two years), so that there would be something that made them feel like home. We took his advice, and of course now that little picture has a place of honor in our French home. We are indeed “chez nous” here in France!
In early 2022, Sandy Shroyer retired from her professional career. Her jobs have included cooking for hired ranch hands, serving as a community mental health center staff psychologist, performing various leadership roles in healthcare firms, managing a lot of highly successful sales executives, and selling technology and services to health systems and health plans. The best part of her career was people—those who became lifelong friends, those who irritated her into learning important lessons, and those who taught her things through their kindness and genius. Her superpower is connecting people, whether it’s professional networking, introducing friends who become friends with each other, or just figuring out who might like to know someone she knows. She tried never to miss an opportunity to have fun at work. Sandy and her husband traveled full-time in the United States during the pandemic, and they are spending their retirement in Montpellier, France.
All articles by: Sandra Shroyer