a tale of the wander years, and all the adventures that came my way.
what we call the beginning is often the end
and to make an end is to make a beginning...
we shall not cease from exploration
and the end of all our exploring
will be to arrive where we started
and know the place for the first time.
- t.s. eliot, 'four quartets'
Thursday, November 28, 2013
thanksgiving, à la française
before i left the states back in early september, my mom
went above-and-beyond the call of duty and made me a full thanksgiving
dinner. she was worried that i would be
sad about missing out on the best meal of the year, so she pulled out all the
stops. and i was truly grateful, because there is nothing like sitting in my
dining room with my whole family and eating some seriously fantastic grub. and
she was right, in a certain sense – today was a sad day, in a way. but the pang
i felt in my heart when i thought about everyone gathering together back home
without me was soothed in no small measure by the joy that i’ve gotten to
experience during this season in france. not only did i get a bonus thanksgiving-in-august,
but i got to celebrate it in three different ways over here in europe! so
really, moving abroad just multiplies the festivity, if you can find the right
people. and it certainly magnifies the sense of gratitude!
thanksgiving #1 - friendsgiving
this past week, i had the absolute privilege of sharing a
thanksgiving meal with about 30 people, hosted by the home-church group that my
friend devon and her husband attend in paris. the dinner was at the home of
michael and sara, who live in a beautiful apartment in the marais district of
paris and evidently have no qualms with welcoming all the waifs and strays!
there were plenty of expats there, from all over the world, and a few native
frenchies as well.. my friend jessie and i enjoyed getting to know several of
the guests as we all chowed down on the standards – turkey, stuffing, potatoes,
corn casserole, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce (!!!) – as well as some
traditional dishes from other countries! and let’s not forget the desserts,
which took up the entire table after the first round was cleared away. the
atmosphere was lovely, the food was delicious, and the people were warm and
welcoming – it truly felt like a family gathering, despite the fact that the
majority of the group had never met. at the end of the evening, several of the
church members made sandwiches with the leftovers and encouraged all of the
guests to grab a few on the way out, so that we could share the bounty we had
enjoyed with someone less-fortunate who looked like they could use something to
eat. it was a really sweet gesture, totally in keeping with the attitude and
generosity of everyone i met that evening. i ended up leaving one sandwich next
to a woman sleeping bundle of ragged blankets in a little alcove down the
street, and giving another to a man near notre dame, who sat under an umbrella
with two little dogs tucked inside his over-sized coat. it wasn’t much, but i
was happy to give someone a break from hunger, if only for one night.
thanksgiving #2 – chez moi
the sensation of immense gratitude carried over to monday,
when i finally got home to my little village to find a thanksgiving package
from home waiting for me on my doorstep! i knew it had been sent, but it was
still such a nice surprise to see my mom’s handwriting smiling at me from my
threshold the moment i got home. and the contents of that box were
faaaantastic! here’s an inventory: poultry seasoning (for the stuffing!), jif
peanut butter (per my request), cupcake baking cups, taco bell sauce packets,
red sprinkles, a nature valley protein bar, turkey gravy mix and alfredo sauce
mix from kroger, some christmas decorations, a sponge, betty crocker peanut
butter cookie mix, some tea, airborne tablets, a turkey dishtowel, and a card.
now, i know that some of those things might seem random or kind of meaningless…
but it was so great. sometimes, it’s just nice to see things from home for
novelty’s sake; i don’t even like taco bell, really, but those sauce packets
made me smile! and i may live in one of the culinary capitals of the world, but
there are times when absolutely nothing beats an apple and peanut butter. and
the simple act of hanging that turkey-appliquéd dishtowel on my toaster oven’s
handle made me feel like i was back in the kitchen at home. but i digress...
cooking for one is hard; i’ve said it before, but it’s never
been more true when you’re cooking a meal that usually needs to serve a dozen
people or more. i decided that i wanted to do a little thanksgiving meal for
myself, just to get a taste of home, so i asked my mom to send my grandmother’s
stuffing recipe (hence the poultry seasoning in my box). well! this morning, i
made that stuffing, and let me tell you… it was great. i toasted, cubed, and
staged the bread last night, so it was all nice and dried-out by the morning!
the process itself was simple – sautée onions and celery, add chicken stock and
seasoning, mix in bread cubes, put in oven – but the act of making it gave me
such a feeling of nostalgia! granted, i’ve never been the one to make the stuffing
before, but just having the smell in my apartment was enough to make me feel
like i was back in franklin. i also made a teensy serving of mashed potatoes
and got two turkey breast fillets from the supermarket – three cheers for a
thanksgiving dinner for one! and as a bonus, i skyped my parents while they
were at our big extended family dinner, so i even had the chance to say hi to
thanksgiving #3 – sharing the message at school:
as an english assistant, i’m somewhat of an ambassador
between my american culture and that of my students. last week and this week, a
few of my teachers took advantage of the holiday season to talk about america –
in some of the younger classes, that meant discussing thanksgiving! i can’t
explain how strange it was to hear a holiday that i’m so familiar with boiled
down to the bare bones – “it’s a day where families gather to eat a turkey and
pray to God.” i mean… that’s true for some people, i guess, so i couldn’t
correct them. but i enjoyed the lessons, because it was a great opportunity for
me to share what thanksgiving really
means. the kids had basically no idea (short of the turkey/God thing), so i had
a blank slate! after a little reflection, i told them that thanksgiving was a
day where families gather together and shared a meal (had to keep the english
level pretty simple..) in order to express their gratitude for everything they
have. despite being a historically catholic country, france is exceptionally
unreligious, so i tried to stay away from talking about thankfulness in purely
a religious sense. also, explaining the concept of blessings was difficult. the
story of the first thanksgiving was also challenging. historically, the whole
“pilgrims and indians eating together” might not be entirely accurate… but at least
it gives a better origin story than “we kinda just came and displaced and/or
killed pretty much everyone, and then centuries later, the government
arbitrarily decided to create a holiday about it for commercial purposes.”
sooooo… pilgrims and indians it is. i focused more on the fellowship and
quality time aspects of the holiday. :)
so, in summary, i am thankful for…
…a God who loves me unconditionally and never fails to
provide for me,
who lets me make mistakes so i can learn the way i learn best, and who blesses me
endlessly every day.
…a family who supports me and encourages my insatiable
desire for adventure.
…a job that allows me to pursue those adventures,
simultaneously providing new experiences in and of itself.
...coworkers and students who are supportive, engaging, and patient.
…a body that puts up with all the shenanigans i put it
and remains in moderately good health – traveling is hard, y’all!
…a wonderful apartment in a great community.
…the people i love who are spread out all over the world
…the miracle of technology, which lets me stay connected
with aforementioned loved ones via various social media.
happy thanksgiving, everyone! :)
ps - i documented my little thanksgiving cooking experience here if
you’d like to see it!