Thanksgiving in France

November 24th was just another Thursday for Parisians.  Life went on as normal–weather getting colder, Christmas decorations going up and traffic trying to figure out how to avoid traffic jams now that Mayor Hidalgo has closed two main thoroughfares to everything except pedestrians and bicyclists.

For me, it was Thanksgiving.  My 4th Thanksgiving in Paris.  My first Thanksgiving in 2013, My friend, Barbara and I went to the Hippopatomus for dinner then to see Captain Phillips with Tom Hanks.  For Thanksgivings 2014 and 2015, I invited fourteen people to my apartment on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and we had a wonderful meal and went around the room each saying our special gratitudes.

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This year, I am moving apartments.  I couldn’t possibly entertain and also be closing up the apartment.  A month ago, two good friends, American and French, invited me to celebrate Thanksgiving with them ON THANKSGIVING!  That invite made my whole day seem different.  Every time I looked out the window, I expected to see little or no traffic.  I kept having to remind myself that stores were open.  Only the thousands of e-mails I received informing (as if I was a Martian) me about Black Friday and Cyber Monday reminded me that this weekend is bigger than an American day of gratitude.  It has been surpassed by a world celebration of Greed! of More!

The two years that I hosted Thanksgiving, I would go to the Thanksgiving store in the Marais and put in my order for a turkey.  That turkey costs 4 or 5 times the price of a Butterball and the first year I justified it by telling myself I was the hostess and therefore brought the Poultry of Honor.  After eating said turkey, I had no need to justify anything.  Without exception, French turkeys are the best I’ve ever eaten.  I’m told they are raised in the South of France, under very humane conditions.

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At the Thanksgiving Store, one can also buy Libby’s Pumpkin, stuffing makings, aluminum to cook the turkey in, all sorts of nuts, evaporated milk and most anything else that screams Thanksgiving but is all but impossible to find in Paris and certainly the rest of France.

You would have to have a subscription to SkyTV in order to see a football game and who knows if you could find something on at the same time.  And because we have Thanksgiving dinner literally and not a mid-afternoon meal, there is not the usual constitutional before dessert and coffee.

 

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Tom, Sylvie, Bill, Sylvaine, Susan, Barbara

 

There is something about Thanksgiving.  Maybe it’s because it’s still Autumn and in many parts of the States, it is still Indian Summer.  The leaves of many colors have floated to the ground, the weather hovers somewhere between crisp and delicious, my last 25 Thanksgivings in California have always had blue skies.  It is a quiet day and usually a quiet celebration.  Football fans are shooed to the TV room to cheer on their teams and the rest of us sit around the table in a relaxed fashion that just isn’t possible for most of the year.

As you can guess, it’s my favorite holiday.  It reminds me to be enormously grateful for the abundance in my life, for so many friends in both the US and in France.

 

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Susan, Barbara, yours truly, Sylvie 

Are you an ex-Pat?  How did you spend your Thanksgiving?

A bientôt,

Sara

 

Going on a Trip

I am leaving Paris for two weeks.  I’m going to California where I lived for most of my adult life.  It is a beautiful day today.  The sky is blue, the Seine is peaceful, sparkling and the Bateaux Mouches have begun their daily trips up and down the river showing tourists the sights along the banks.

 

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I have been grumbling about the weather most of the Fall.  It seemed that we went from summer to winter without passing Autumn.  In fact, we have had a couple of beautiful Indian Summer days and this seems to be turning into one of them.  I’ve turned the heat off in the apartment and I’m looking forward to a walk.  My iPhone says that the next week will be sunny and much much warmer than it has been.

 

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However, I’m leaving for Charles de Gaulle airport before the sun comes up tomorrow morning.  And like most of my “last days before the trip” Paris seems lovelier.  I seem to see it all much more clearly.  I look around my apartment as if I will never see it again.  I held Bijou, the cat, so close trying to make a physical memory of her furriness, her sweetness, the way she will suddenly look up at me with loving eyes that completely melt my heart.  I don’t feel this way about going anywhere else in Europe.  But California and another life seems worlds away from Paris and this life.

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Last January, when I took my trip to California, terrorists had just bombed the Brussels airport.  We had heard, though it hadn’t been confirmed, that the Brussels airport was second choice to Paris.  I had no idea what to expect.  I felt very matter of fact about it.  I called my lawyer and asked if I wrote out a makeshift will in pencil about all my belongings in Paris, would it be considered legal.  He said yes then added to please not worry, nothing was going to happen to me.  He couldn’t possibly know. The truth is, a place where terrorists have just hit is probably one of the safest places in the world.

I’m not worrying about terrorists.  I look forward to these long flights to California (but not to the jet lag). Once I get to the airport, get my bags checked, get through border control, I’m in No Man’s Land.  Soon my phone won’t ring at all, I won’t be able to receive any texts.  No one can bother me or demand anything of me.  I can watch five movies in a row and not feel guilty or lazy. I can daydream or read a book or write.

But that’s tomorrow.  Today, I’m walking around looking at everything as if it’s the first time and the last time.  I don’t feel anxious.  I don’t have a word for it.  It’s a feeling I’m sure everyone gets at some time or another.  Of wanting to imprint something in my memory that is stronger than just a memory.  I want to be able to touch it, feel it, take it with me.  When I’m sitting in my living room in Oakland, I don’t want Paris to feel so incredibly far away.  The memory I always default to is sitting in my armchair that I have facing the window.  The window that looks out on Quai des Grands Augustins, the Pont Neuf and the river Seine.  It’s an amazing view of one of the most beautiful parts of Paris that I look at every day.

 

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A bientôt,

Sara