“Honey, you should really get a boob job!” The middle-aged, blonde woman in the red bathing suit is supporting her own generous bosom as she wads through the pool towards me. She’s all smiles.

I can’t believe what I just heard. Only five minutes ago, I felt like I owned the W Scottsdale pool. Okay, not exactly like I owned it. But I did think I fit in nicely with the crowd populating it, even though I am not tanned nor physically enhanced in any way. The cocktail I was nursing might have helped my self-confidence a tiny bit. So might the warm welcome of our friends into their pool cabana. They hadn’t looked shocked at all when I retrieved my cover-up to reveal my body clad in a new bikini with padded top. Following their example, I had lowered myself into the lukewarm pool, holding my mojito just above water level, right in front of my modest chest. As I had returned my husband’s encouraging smile, I had even rolled back my shoulders and straightened my back.

In a flash, my self-confidence disappears. As if they had a mind of their own, my shoulders roll forward, trying to hide my A-cup.

Blondie doesn’t seem to notice. She’s clearly on a mission, addressing my husband now, who’s seated on the pool border.
“You should really pay her a boob job. She’d be so much happier,” she tells him, flashing me a conspiratorial smile.
My husband looks surprised.
“I’m not sure if she wants to get a boob job,” he says apologetically.
I decide to come to his rescue. “No, I assure you, I don’t. My breasts might be small, but they serve me just fine,” I say, pushing back my shoulders again. I’m not going to let a not-so-young Barbie bring me down, right?
“Oh, but honey, you just don’t know how good it is to have big boobs,” Barbie grabs her own rack more firmly to mark her words. “My mom paid for these babies last year, after my divorce. Well, I tell you, I have never been so happy in my life. I should have done this much sooner!”
I smile now, understanding that Barbie only wants to spread her happiness. This whole conversation is in fact nothing but an altruistic move. That, and maybe a slight attempt at attracting some attention to the lady’s own, lonely womanhood. If the latter is the intent, it works.
“Oh, I love your boobs!” my friend Christine exclaims, cupping her own grapefruit-sized breasts, “I’ve had mine for four years now, courtesy of that guy there!” she winks at her husband, who raises his glass to her — or is it to her grapefruits?
“I must tell you a funny story though,” she continues, “One day, we were having fun in the bedroom, when suddenly Eric exclaimed, “Turn around, I don’t wanna see you like that!”. I glanced down and what do you know? One of my boobs had popped! Just like that!”
“Oh no,” Barbie says, “What did you do?” I’m interested to know too, so I step closer to the ladies, bravely fighting the urge to cross my arms in front of my chest.
“Well, I was so lucky! Turned out it was still under warranty, so I just got it fixed. But boy, was that a sore sight!” We all laugh. I briefly wonder about health issues ensuing from leaking breast implants, but decide not to voice my concerns. No need to put the focus back on me, is there?

At night, we go up to our room to change for the night. Christine and Eric have invited us to join them and a few of their friends for sushi, followed by some dancing. I’ve been made to understand that a slightly revealing dress would not be inappropriate.
I hoist my body into a short dress with a high neckline and deeply plunging back, feeling grateful to have packed the garment. A deeply cut-out neckline would have put me to shame in big-boob-Scottsdale, but nobody’s going to comment on my legs and back, I’m sure. I top off my outfit with black, patent-leather stilettos and off we go, down to the hotel restaurant.

We quickly find our crowd, nursing martinis at the bar. The straps of Christine’s silk top seem to be under heavy strain to hold up her bosom. As she readjusts her breasts, Christine leans forward to whisper something to us, the ladies.
“This top hardly covers my nipples. If you notice one of them peeking out, please let me know,” she says.
I nod, always happy to oblige. Shirley nods too, her own gigantic hooters moving up and down in her black stretch top.

“How is Donna doing?” Christine asks once we’re seated. I am installed at the corner of the table, surrounded by three women.
“Well, she’s doing pretty well. Considering …,” Amanda replies. She turns to me, “Donna just had a breast reduction. She’d gone up to an F-cup, but found it a bit too heavy. So she had them reduced to a double D-cup.”
“Oh,” I say, refraining from saying I’ve never heard of a double D-cup.
“Double D is nice,” Christine says, “Do you think I should have mine upped to a double D too?” she eyes us, three women. I’m not sure if she expects me to give any advice. Christine’s pair looks pretty large to me. Bigger would be inconvenient I’d think. Then again, who am I to tell?
“Yours are nice.” Shirley turns to Amanda. “What size are they?” I glance at Amanda’s assets. They looks nice, indeed. Slightly smaller than Christine’s. I bet Amanda is a natural C-cup.
“I chose to have a C,” Amanda replies. I congratulate myself on my guessing work. I had the size right, even though I was wrong about the natural aspect.
“Only a C?” Shirley exclaims, “They look bigger. Must be because you’re so tiny.”
I longingly look over at the male side of the table, wondering what topics are being discussed there … I’m glad at least the women have the decency not to question me about my breast size. They probably think I’m one of those health freaks who wants to keep everything natural. And they might be right … Not even a bra enhances my little A-cup tonight, since bra straps would show in the back of my dress. Not that anyone would notice. Focus in Scottsdale is clearly not on backs. Breasts is what life is all about!

“Aureole alert!” Shirley calls out, just as a waiter hovers over Christine’s shoulder to refill her water glass.
“What?” Christine, slightly dazed, doesn’t get it. I try to gesture discreetly that it’s time to readjust one of her babies, but she doesn’t get the hint. The waiter does however. The young boy’s cheeks turn dark red as he quickly abandons the process of refilling Christine’s glass and returns to the bar.
“I said aureole alert!” Shirley calls out louder, making the four guests seated at the table next to us turn around. I smile apologetically, while Christine pushes the rebellious breast back into its silk pocket.

The remaining of the dinner is spent discussing various women’s chest enhancements or reductions. I decide to focus on the delicious sushi, trying to nod and to laugh at the right time. Until suddenly a young woman wearing a short skirt and a revealing top stops at our table. Her crowd, consisting of about ten people, all stop behind her.
“Can I ask you something?” She’s addressing me.
“Sure,” I say, slightly surprised. I just hope she’s not going to suggest I get a boob job.
“Could you please get up and turn around? I saw you come in and was telling my friends about your lovely dress, but we can’t see the back while you’re seated.”
Me?” I ask, “You want me to get up and turn around?”
“Yes, you look so lovely in that dress! I would love to show it to my friends.” Her friends all nod encouragingly.
“Oh, okay,” I say as I get up and make a little pirouette.
“Oh, wow!” someone in my audience exclaims. “Nice,” says another. “That is so sexy!” I hear a third voice.
“I told you, right?” the young brunette turns to her group. “Thank you so much. You really look gorgeous.” Upon that, she leaves, followed by her crowd.
Slightly dazzled and blushing heavily, I sit down again. My table companions — and about half of the other restaurant patrons — stare at me. That’s right. At small-breasted me! After a brief moment of silence, I hear Shirley say, a hint of jealousy lining her voice,
“Well, that must have made your evening.”

Shirley’s right. It did make my evening. In fact, it made my whole day!
Who needs a boob job when she’s got a sexy back?
I square my shoulders as we get up to move on to the dance club.
Watch out, dancing Scottsdalers; here I come!

Helene Toye is the author of ‘Go West, A Belgian Attempts American Motherhood’, available on Amazon :


On the road to ‘Les Mirandes’

mirandes house mirandes table


“Where did you book a room?” Jürgen asked a few hours ago, while we sat on the deck  
overlooking his yard in Belgium. I was nursing an espresso that would help me
stay alert for our nighttime drive into France.
“We didn’t book one yet,” Hubbie replied, “We want to be flexible and stop when we’re tired. It’s not as if we need anything fancy. Just two double beds and a clean shower will do.”
“Oh, okay…,” Jürgen said, “I guess that could work.”
His slight hesitation should have warned us. In a previous life, Jürgen had worked in the  European hotel business after all … .

Four hours later, at 12.30 AM, we feel satisfied, having left a relatively uncluttered Parisian périphérique behind us. The effects of my espresso slowly wearing out, I am ready to break for the night.

Hubbie flips on his I-phone. Some ten minutes later, after first realizing that France has not yet embraced our last-minute-hotel-booking-app, then realizing that the big hotel chains in France don’t seem to take last-minute online reservations, he dials the number for a hotel some thirty minutes away.
 “Oui, we are a family of four,” he says in his best, friendly French. “Ah bon? No rooms for four? Oui, two rooms for two, alors. Ca va. Et c’est combien au total? … 200 Euro?” he glances over at me.
“No way!” I mouth. We only want to crash for a few hours. A simple, clean room is all we need. $280 is vastly overrated. Besides, what happened to last-minute discounts at this hour of the night?
“Okay, merci Monsieur,” Hubbie says, “I will first check a few other options.”

He decides to call a cheaper hotel chain, but hangs up after a while.
“Maybe they don’t staff the desk after midnight?” he wonders out loud.
He tries another hotel, only to get informed that no rooms are available. His next phone call goes unanswered again.

“Okay, maybe we should go for the 200 Euro deal after all,” I say after forty minutes.
“Well, we’ve passed that hotel,” Hubbie says, “It would be stupid to retrace our steps now, wouldn’t it?” I guess it would.
“I’ll just book another room, further down the road,” he offers.
I nod, feeling tired now. My body yearns so much for the touch of crispy, white hotel sheets that I would swear my nostrils are picking up their faint vinegar scent.

Another thirty minutes pass. Oh, what I would give for the sight of a grubby American highway motel sign! Now I understand why Jürgen was surprised we hadn’t booked a room yet. Having lived five years in America, we’ve come to expect around-the-clock customer service. Of course, that’s not the way things work in Europe! How could we have forgotten so fast?

“Maybe we should just sleep in the car?” I offer.
My 6’6” Hubbie’s eyes scan the interior of our modest Renault Megane, then rest on me in slight disbelief.
Okay, maybe not.
We briefly debate about driving on to our final destination, but decide against it. True, our friends would welcome us at their newly opened ‘Chambres d’hôtes’ once they awake. But skipping a night so soon after having just recovered from our jet lag doesn’t appeal to either of us.  

There’s movement in the back of the car.
“Eloise is pushing me,” 8-year-old Thibaut whines.
“Well, you’re taking up all the space!” 15-year-old Eloise retorts.
I sigh, my eyes fixed on the road ahead of me. Hubbie sighs too, his fingers glued to his touch screen. Driving four more hours is definitely not an option. We need a bed and we need it soon!

“Bonsoir,” Hubbie says yet again, still using his best French, but sounding far less enthusiastic, “Vous avez une chambre pour quatre pour cette nuit?” Silence. Then, suddenly sounding upbeat, he says, “Ah oui? Super, we will arrive in thirty minutes.”
Yes! That’s not too bad. If check-out is at 11.00 AM, that gives us plenty of sleep.

“Oh…,” hubbie says, after punching the address into the GPS, “it’s actually going to be
more like an hour drive. Want to stop at a rest area so I can take over the wheel?”
“No, I’m fine,” I reply, feeling energized again at the prospect of a welcoming bed, “I can handle one more hour.”

At last, at 2.45 AM, the GPS instructs us to leave the highway.
“Yes!” I exclaim, “We made it! I’m sooo looking forward to a good night’s rest!”
I slow down at the toll area and select the lane that reads ‘Cartes’. Hubbie hands me the toll ticket and his Visa card.
‘Paiement refusé,’ the display on the toll machine reads. I look at my husband, who promptly hands me an American Express card, which I slide into the slot.
“Paiement refusé.’ Again… Hubbie grabs my purse and fishes out my wallet. He hands me my Visa card, which I slide into the slot. Marking its disagreement with American cards, the machine now aggressively spits out my credit card AND our ticket. I catch both before they hit the pavement. I insert the ticket again, and then try to pay with my Belgian card, which gets rejected as well.
What? Does this chauvinist machine only accept French cards?

I back out of the ‘cartes’ line and drive into the unmarked line, glad that we stopped to pick up cash before leaving Belgium. A big sticker on the machine informs me that it will gladly accept our 5, 10 and 20 Euro bills. Too bad we only have 50 Euro bills … !
I ask Eloise, who’s blinking her eyes against the bright overhead light, to search her wallet. Unfortunately, she can only produce dollar bills.

Noticing a ‘cartes’ slot, I try to insert our credit cards yet again, hoping this machine will be less patriotic and welcome foreign cards. No such luck. The aggravated machine forcefully spits out card after card. Just when the machine decides to also eject our ticket, a sudden gust of wind materializes out of nowhere. Our precious ticket rides the gust, floating up above us, before landing softly … beneath our car.
“Oh SHIT!” I exclaim, backing up, getting out of the car, picking up the ticket, getting in the car and then driving up again.
“Okay,” I declare, ”Time to wake up the toll machine people! Somebody must be able to open the highway gates for us.”

I reach for the ‘help’ button, expecting to hear a soft, helpful voice.
Instead, as soon as my finger hits the button, loud electronic music blasts out of the tiny holes in the machine. Really loud, really electronic music.
My jaw drops as I turn to face my husband. What kind of customer service is this? We’re exhausted, paying – or trying to pay – highway customers in desperate need for some help and all we get is loud, lousy music?
Oh, how I long for the kind toll booth operators in the US, who always politely wave me through with a smile; whatever the time of day or night!
Here we are, stuck on the French ‘autoroute’, just minutes from our four-guest bedroom with crispy white sheets! My body aches at the thought of it.

“Okay, we’ll just park here and sleep in the car,” I announce to my fellow travelers as I back up the car and park on the shoulder of the highway.
The three of them stare at me in disbelief.
“In that case, we’d better drive on,” Hubbie decides, “Let’s switch seats. I’ll do the driving.” Obediently, I get out of the car, ready to move to the passenger side.
Suddenly the awful music stops.

“Allô?” a female voice reaches us out of the darkness. I sprint to the machine.
“Allô? Allô?” I yell hysterically when I get there. No reply. I grab the sturdy machine and try to shake it. It doesn’t bulge. “Allô? Allô?” I yell again into the silent night. No reply. The voice has disappeared!
I look at my husband, who pulled up in the car.
“Press the button again,” he says.
I do as I am told and promptly get treated to the loud, electronic racket again.
This time I stay next to the car, however, glued to the toll machine, while bravely undergoing five more minutes of auditory torture. At last the voice materializes again.

“Allô?” it says.
“Oui, allô!” I yell into the white holes of the machine, “Look, your machine doesn’t accept any of our credit cards. We’d love to pay cash, but we only have 50 Euro bills and the note says —”
“Madame,” the voice tries to interrupt me. But I am beyond getting interrupted. The owner of the voice will listen to what I have to say, weather it wants to or not!
“ — but you see, we don’t have 20 Euro or 10 Euro or 5 Euro bills,” I continue.
“Madame,” the voice repeats.
I stop my rant. “Oui?”
“You can just use a 50 Euro bill.”
“You can just use a 50 Euro bill,” the voice repeats.
What? Now you tell me? After we’ve been sitting here for 30 minutes?
“Then why doesn’t your machine state that it accepts 50 Euro bills?” I ask, bewildered.
“Well,” a hint of a smile seems to line the voice, “That’s just because no bills can be returned. So if you insert 50 Euros, you’ll get a lot of change in 2 Euro coins. Most people don’t like that.”
Who cares? At this point I wouldn’t even mind getting 500 Euro in change.
I thank the voice as calmly and politely as I can, then insert a 50 Euro bill. Loads of 2 Euro coins clatter into the metal change receptacle. As I try to catch them with both hands, out of the corner of my eye I see the gates open onto the promise of a relaxing night. I grab as many coins as I can and hand them to Hubbie, then grab more.
Eureka! This feels like winning the jackpot. A very, very hard to handle jackpot. But, oh, how happy I feel to have won it!

The next day, nicely rested after a seven-hour-sleep in a bed with crispy white sheets, we set off for our last stretch to ‘Les Mirandes’.

Upon our arrival, our hosts welcome us with a fresh glass of champagne. From the deck of the old manor, we enjoy the enchanting view of the valley of Montmoreau-Saint-Cybard. It instantly makes us forget last night’s hassle.

The ensuing week we recharge our batteries in the luxury of a cosy bed, covered in refined, soft sheets wafting subtle perfumes of fresh air and the big outdoors. We discover the meadows and the vineyard surrounding the centuries-old precious manor. We visit tiny towns harboring small medieval churches and larger cities named after renowned wines (or is it the other way around?). We lounge around the pool, every so often taking a refreshing dive into the water. We savor luscious dinners at the ‘table d’hôte’. And we catch up with our friends who prove to be perfect hosts. In short, we spend one week in heaven!  

As we leave, fully rested and our suitcases packed with lovely memories, we promise we’ll be back to ‘Les Mirandes’.
I just make a mental note to book our midway hotel room well in advance and to stock up on Euro coins before hitting the French Autoroute! When traveling in France, better be prepared!

Les Mirandes’ website :

Helene Toye is the author of ‘Go West, A Belgian Attempts American Motherhood’, available on Amazon :


Happy New … House?


“Are you sure that you want to make an offer so close to the holidays? Aren’t you leaving for a road trip to Florida tomorrow? Maybe you’d like to wait until you get back?”

“Susan’s words,” I will tell Hubbie a few days from now, “really should have warned us.” Only right now, even though her questions slightly surprise us, they do not alarm us in the least. Because, let’s face it. Approaching holiday travels have nothing to do with making an offer on a house, do they? It’s not as if we’re buying the place. Chances are the seller won’t even bother to reply to our offer.

“Well,” Hubbie tells Susan over the speaker phone, “we are indeed leaving tomorrow, but we’d just like to get the whole process started before.”
“Okay,” Susan replies, “There are two ways we can do this; the written way, but that might be hard to follow up on during your trip. Or we can do it electronically.”
What about doing it over the phone? It’s just an offer we’re talking about. Hubbie looks at me. I shrug my shoulders.
“Let’s do it electronically,” he says at last.
“Okay. Just send me an e-mail containing your and your wife’s full names, your current address and the amount you’d like to offer.”
“Will do that in a minute,” my husband replies.
“Oh, also add the date you’d like to settle the sale, will you? And the coordinates of the bank that’s lending you money. And a scan of a check for 5% of the bidding amount. And are you going to take a loan for the full amount minus 10% or minus 20%? Also, please mention the interest rate. And …”
What? Why does she need all that information?
“Wow …,” Hubbie suddenly sounds much less relaxed and cheerful than just five minutes ago, when he lazily suggested the offer-making to me. “You need all that now?”
“I do. Once I have it all, I can prepare the paperwork and send it to you.”
The paperwork? What is she talking about?
“You mean you’re not just going to send an e-mail to the seller to inform him about our offer?” Hubbie asks.
“Oh no, we need official trace of this. Know what? To make it easier on you, you can call the bank and ask them to forward the loan information to me directly.”
“Okay,” Hubbie says, sounding a bit wary, “I’ll do that now. Talk to you later Susan.” He sighs as he hangs up.
I understand why. Just listening to the conversation made me tired.

Where we come from, when you like a house, you just pick up the phone and tell the owner how much you’re willing to pay for it. He thinks it over for a few days, then usually comes back with a counter-offer, which you usually counter-offer again and so on. Sometimes a real estate agent is involved in the game, but only as the oral relayer of all offers. After a week — or maybe even two — everyone agrees on a price. That’s when the potential buyer realizes he’d better start looking for some money to hand over when the ‘compromis’ or the contract is signed. A few days later, in the cosiness of the house that is the object of the buyer’s desire, a certified bank check covering a 10% downpayment gets exchanged. Rather ceremoniously — and often using a nice and heavy pen — each party signs a contract of some three pages, committing the seller not to accept any other offer and the buyer to finding a loan within three months. More often than not a bottle of bubbles is produced and both parties toast to a successful business deal, stoically ignoring the clause that states that should the buyer fail to find a loan, the 10% down payment will be returned to him and the sale will be cancelled.
It is a rather slow process as you can see. Hence why we want to get our offer out  before leaving for Florida.

In America however, things seem to be done differently. Luckily my husband already contacted the bank last week, just to get an idea of our purchasing capacity. He promptly calls Sandra at the bank, who works Saturdays and Sundays, as if that is the most natural thing in the world. No single Belgian bank would even think of assigning an employee for weekend loan negotiations. Sandra kindly agrees to send all necessary information to Susan within the next hour. We look into our finances to find ways to get enough money in our checking account for the 5% down payment, knowing that writing an uncovered check is a big felony in the US. Then we prepare a mail for Susan containing our offer amount and preferred closing date, four months from now. As I am putting on my coat to leave for some last-minute errands with Eloise, the phone rings.
“About that settlement date,” Susan says, “April is really far away. There’s no way the seller will accept that.”
“Oh, so you think we’d better propose the end of March?” I hear Hubbie ask.
Susan chuckles, as if in response to a joke. “I’d rather go for mid-February,” she says, “at the latest.”
Wow, that’s less than two months from now!

When I get back home two hours later, I find Hubbie concentrated on his computer screen.
“I just got the offer documents from Susan,” he says, turning the laptop to me. “We need to initialize each page electronically and then sign the whole thing.”
I look over his shoulder and scroll down the first page of the document, then wait for the second page to materialize — which takes forever — then slowly move on to the third, then to the … Wait a minute;
“How many pages are there exactly?” I ask.
“Fifty-four,” Hubbie sighs.
Oh dear, this is going to take forever…
An hour and a half later we submit our signed offer to Susan who promises to get in touch with us as soon as she gets feedback from the seller.
“Merry Christmas in the meantime,” Hubbie says.
“Yes, well, I suppose we’ll talk before that,” she replies.
That soon? Christmas is only three days away. Surely the seller will need more time to think this over?

On Sunday, our car packed to the brim for our 2,000 mile trip, we hit the road. Traffic is smooth. We’re almost in North Carolina when my phone rings.
“Hi Helene, Susan here. I just heard back from the seller’s agent. He’s making a counter-offer.”
Wow, that’s quick! I write down the seller’s price and promise Susan to get back to her.

Hubbie seems as surprised as me with the quick reaction. While his gaze fixes on the road, we discuss the counter-offer, quickly agreeing it’s too high. Fifteen-year-old Eloise, whose focus on the tablet does not seem to impact her capabilities to listen in on our conversation, quickly interjects,
“You’re not going to let the house get away, are you? I really like it. I can see us living there.”
Seven-year-old Thibaut, his eyes trained on his swaying tablet, immediately chimes in,
“Me too, I love the house.”
An hour later I return Susan’s call. “We’ll meet the seller halfway, but that is our final offer,” I announce.
“Okay,” Susan says, “I’ll get you the new paperwork. Do you have internet access?”
New paperwork? Not again!
“We’re in the car right now. I’m not sure when we’ll stop for the night. Given that signing the paperwork on my computer took ages, I’m not sure how it’s going to work on the I-phone.” With this reply, I hope Susan will offer to just orally relay our new offer. No such luck.
“Let’s just give it a try,” she says, “You won’t have to sign as many pages now. Only about, let’s see, fourteen.” Fourteen?

“What if he doesn’t accept our final offer?” Eloise asks, looking up from her tablet for a few seconds.
“Then the house was not meant to be for us,” I reply.
“You don’t even sound as if you’d care.” She sounds shocked.
“We do, but not desperately. We’re pretty sure there are other good houses,” Hubbie replies while I slowly upload and sign one page after another on the I-phone.

Monday morning we wake up to a bright blue Savannah sky. I check my e-mail before hitting the road for the second stretch that will take us to an Orlando hotel close to Hubbie’s grandparents. A message from Susan awaits me.
‘The seller says that at that ridiculous price, he’d rather take the house off the market,’ it reads.
‘Too bad,’ I reply, relieved that I didn’t get myself too emotionally involved in all this. It’s sad we put all this time and effort in it, but at least we now know what to expect if we bid for another house. If anything, we have learned that it’s better not to ‘just start the process’ right before leaving on a trip.

The kids look disappointed as they climb into the backseat.
Once we’re on the road, Hubbie and I briefly discuss the fallen-through deal and jointly decide that we’re not sad it didn’t work out. We really liked the house, but it was all getting too serious too fast. Besides, we’re still contractually bound for eight more months to the rental house we live in now. It’s all for the best. We switch our focus on the holidays ahead and on the quality time we will enjoy with Grandma and Grandpa.

After checking into our hotel, Hubbie and I get installed on loungers while the kids jump into the pool. I fire up my laptop and check my email, only to find another mail from Susan.
‘The seller wonders why you omitted initializing page 13,‘ it reads. ‘Since he’s a lawyer, that makes him very suspicious. I will forward that page right away so you can sign it.’
What? Why would the guy read through a boring 54-page contract if he thinks our offer is ridiculous? Looks like he still does consider it!

That evening, while we seemingly leisurely stroll through the Downtown Disney area — home to our hotel — I hyperventilate at the thought of our pending purchase. What happened to our stance of ‘just making an offer and see where things lead’? Somewhere along the past two days things got pretty serious.
Trying to relax me, Eloise sums up the positives about the house and Hubbie reassures me that we are financially all set to take the plunge. I try to convince myself that I am totally okay with buying a house in the US; that I am ready to take this step that brings us closer to permanent US residency. Meanwhile, Thibaut is blissfully ignorant of my little panic attack. He’s just happy; to be at the Downtown Disney Lego store, to be close to Grandma and Grandpa, to be part of this family that might soon move into a new house where he just knows he will be happy too. Oh, the bliss of a confident and stress-free childhood!

By the time we get to the hotel room I am relaxed enough to fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow — or maybe I am just too exhausted by the long drive.

I awake at nine, brew a cup of coffee and settle with my laptop in the sunshine on our deck. Another mail from Susan awaits me.
‘Good news,’ it reads. ‘Your offer has been accepted. We have a ratified contract.’
Wow … That means I’ll soon be an American homeowner. Contrary to my state of mind yesterday, this information instantly relaxes me. My new home is in America and that feels just fine. I owe myself a few more minutes of solitude to fully absorb this new feeling, then walk into the hotel room where I find my awakening family members.
“We’ve got the house,” I announce.
“Wow! I’m so happy!” Eloise jumps up to hug me. Thibaut follows her cue. Hubbie seems to need a few seconds to fully register the news. Then he walks up to us to complete the group hug.
“Susan needs a scan of the new check we will use to pay the deposit. She also needs us to fill out ….” While I sum up everything we need to do, Hubbie gets dressed, ready to take over the hotel business center for a few hours.

Only later that afternoon, as we are seated on Grandma and Grandpa’s couch, toasting to our new home with beer and Pepsi, do I realize what an extraordinary thing just happened. We bought a house on Christmas Eve’s day, while on the road, using a smartphone! What happened to heavy, luxury-brand pens that trace elegant signatures on the bottom of important documents? Or to champagne toasts on a new milestone?

What ensues are hectic days, shaping our vacation in quite a different way than planned.  Every morning we wake up to a new mail from the bank or from Susan — God bless her for guiding us through this — containing a new mission for the day. Can we please send proof of where those funds we wired from Belgium came from? Did we think about scheduling a visit with a home inspector before January 5? Can we please send our three last tax return sheets? Haven’t we forgotten to send a registered mail containing a notarized letter to our current landlord to end the lease, four days before the end of the month?

How often during those days do I think back about Susan’s words, the day before we left. “Are you sure you want to do this now, so close to the holidays?” Now I understand what holiday travels – or any other travels for that matter –  have to do with making an offer. Nothing! The two just don’t go together!

Then again, a new house for Christmas is a gift you can’t beat, can you?

Happy New Year!
Hélène Toye is the author of Go West, available on :