One reason I offered to house-sit for Verity: the intention to make the holidays as different as they could possibly be from last year.
Last year, for the last time, my family celebrated the holidays in the way we have always known. This tradition has been taking place, as far as I understand, since the family home was built about 200 years ago.
Last year, my family sat down to our great big oval dining table in the house that our Perry ancestors built. We had a Thanksgiving meal with my grandfather, my grandmother, and their friend Lois Collins, who was so close to the family that I’d always called her ‘Grandma C’. It was the last time my bedridden Grandmother made it downstairs.
My sister-in-law, an Occupational Therapist, was essential in helping move Gran to the table. Everyone was aware that Gran was hurting physically in an unbelievable way. She had very strong painkillers. And that amazing lady, in her stubbornness, joined us for dinner, still managing to preside over us, verbally running things, as she’d always done.
Shortly after Thanksgiving, Lois died unexpectedly. Shortly after Christmas, my grandmother died in her bed. A few months later, Gramps died – the eldest of them all, at age 91, and not interested in sticking around too long after his wife had gone before him.
Now, the house is completely empty and up for sale.
My brother and his wife are bravely hosting Thanksgiving – and probably Christmas – to build a new tradition for their two little girls. And we’re all painfully aware that nothing will ever be the same.
Being in this tiny sunny village in Provence is allowing me to face these memories and, in a way, rebuild myself. It is a peaceful place.
Yesterday, I ventured to the boucherie in the village. I walk past it on my way to the petite magasin and the boulangerie, but I hadn’t stopped in before. Deciphering the sign posted outside, I decided ‘poulet au citron,’ which could only be ‘lemon chicken,’ sounded very nice.
I decided to buy something special – it was Thanksgiving, after all, and though the holiday does not exist outside of the States, and therefore I have no need, nor even any desire, to celebrate it (what a fraught and strange historical remembrance it is, anyway,) it was on my mind.
So I went in and asked for some poulet au citron. I was presented with a sort of vat of fine white chunks of cooked chicken meat packed tightly and stuck together with a clear, yellowish gelatine. I was somewhat intimidated, but said yes, and the girl cut me ‘un tranche‘. At nearly €7, I thought, this had better be good.
I set up a little meal outside in the blazing afternoon sunshine: a slice of the poulet, some bleu cheese, fresh slices of michette (bread,) a leafy salad and a glass of champagne. Bliss.
The poulet was lemony, the cheese was bleu, the bread was fresh. Everything was fresh.
I had to put on my sunglasses.
Later, Gaston joined me and voluntarily sat on my lap.
I wrote three sonnets.
May your Thursday, or your Thanksgiving, have been as peaceful.