Thursday, November 22, 2007

Une action de grace

The New York Times today includes an article on the psychological benefits of gratitude. Turns out that being grateful and saying thank you, even making lists of things for which you are grateful, can actually make you a happier person--and not just on Thanksgiving Day, which is what today is, but all the time. I would describe myself as generally happy with a chance of late afternoon irritation, but in the spirit of the our first Thanksgiving in France, here is my list.

Thanksgiving is not a noun in French but a phrase: it is une action de grace, literally, an action of grace. So here are some actions of grace for which I am particularly grateful this Thanksgiving day:

Alice and Wendy, curled up at my feet in my warm kitchen, while chicken stock simmers on the stove and rain falls outside. They keep thinking they want to go outside, but when I open the door and they see the rain, they look up at me in horror and go back to the rug.

M. LaChaix, who just phoned me from a traffic jam in Paris to say that I should absolutely feel free, not hesitate one half minute, to use the refrigerator in his house up the hill to store our Thanksgiving overflow. He does go on, but inside the bossy Parisien exterior there lurks a kind heart.

Olivier, who, last night before he went home, gave me two large bottles of eau de cologne, made at the parfumerie where his wife works. One bottle of lavender water, the other of a lemony, light scent, and when I thanked him he said, Non, non, c'est normale.

C., who took me to the hospital last weekend for stitches in my hand after I dropped a tea cup, who found his way to the hospital on the far side of Grasse in the dark and with a bleeding and woozy wife in the front seat beside him. Who figured out where to park the car--which was not evident, pas du tout--and made me laugh. Who stood beside me holding my hand for the whole event; who, even though the sight of blood makes him faint, never paled.

E. and G., who have held my hand every night this week while C. changed my bandage, even though there hands are so small in mine that I am afraid I will hurt them if I squeeze too tightly.

A. and L. and Paris. Oscar Wilde said that when good Americans die they go to Paris; I have not been particularly good, but nevertheless the universe afforded me sufficient grace not just to go to Paris again, but to go with my two best girlfriends. We walked down the Avenue Victor Hugo at dusk, and as we looked at the beautiful cakes in the windows at Le Notre, the trumpeter in a strolling Dixieland band rolled out the first few notes of "Hello, Dolly." His confreres joined in as we gazed in at the pink and green macaroons stacked up into a baroque festival of a patisserie, and then the band followed us as we strolled down the street towards home, where there were people we loved waiting for us, and good food and light and warmth.

Pas mal, as the French say. Pas mal du tout. Thanks.

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