Merci Donnant


My Thanksgiving rose is blooming, and I'll pick it before the predicted rains come through today. This old but stalwart rosy-red tea (its official name long forgotten) manages to put out one last blossom at this time of year, so I place it on the Thanksgiving table, an appropriate symbol of the bounty of both harvest and love in my life. Growing up in a half-French family, Thanksgiving never had quite the significance it seemed to have for my American friends. When we were children in France, my siblings and I always had Thursdays off since, according to the French system, we had to go to school on Saturdays. The unusually fancy weekday meal at the end of November came as a surprise. Maman never understood why my father insisted on a tough turkey instead of a nice rôti de boeuf, but she was willing to give the meal her best effort (the chestnut stuffing and red wine gravy was what we all craved). Dad was a terrific raconteur in his Irish American tradition, and once we were seated at the table, he would tell us the Pilgrim story. But he replaced his version the year Art Buchwald wrote an article for the Herald Tribune in Paris explaining Thanksgiving to the French. Entitled, Le Jour de Merci Donnant (an awkward phrasing that translates as the Day of Giving Thanks), the article mentions Miles Standish (Kilometres Deboutish) and his courtship of the lovely Priscilla. It is full of silly double entendres. For a family steeped in the two cultures, this tongue-in-cheek rendition was appropriate and hilarious, and its reading became a tradition. Thanksgiving was one of the few times of the year when it was okay to be irreverent, not quite the message children are supposed to be taught, but one for which I am deeply grateful. This year, Thanksgiving will be a day for creating new memories—our son and his family will come from California to spend the holiday with us. I'll be sure to revive this tradition, especially since it links laughter with Merci Donnant.