“It doesn't matter if the glass is half empty or half full. Be thankful that you have a glass and grateful that there's something in it.” - Unknown
It wasn’t till I ate my first Thanksgiving meal away from home that I realized that Escargots Bourguignonne (Snails in Garlic Butter) were not a traditional Thanksgiving side dish. My parents were French and raised six children in the United States without the benefit of extended family around to help. Thanksgiving was particularly important because although they missed their families, my parents were thankful for the opportunity they had to move to the United States. Moving here when my mother was six months pregnant and with few belongings, they were astonished and grateful for the openness, kindness, and generosity of the Americans they met. As well, Thanksgiving was the only day that Americans cooked and ate better than the French. That alone was enough motivation for my parents to learn how to cook a traditional Thanksgiving meal. They took American traditions and added their own French twist.
Being French, any recipe that included a can of Campbell’s Soup was immediately removed off the list of potential recipes to try. This particularly narrowed the field of side dishes to try in the 50’s, 60’s and even the early 70’s. Although we were guaranteed a turkey, we were never sure what stuffing my father would decide to experiment with. Most of us kids hoped for a traditional bread stuffing of some sort. The years papa decided to try dressings that included chestnuts were OK, but most of us were not happy with the oyster stuffing he tried one year. Now, in my own home, I don't deviate from creating the same basic sausage, bread, and apple stuffing every year. I’ve learned form my upbringing - and my daughter’s insistence- that not all surprises are good ones and to leave the turkey alone. Any creative experiments are relegated to the side dishes, but they don’t include snails.
The days of finding escaped snails crawling on the kitchen ceiling long after the turkey has been eaten are long gone. But like my parents, I am grateful for what I have, not on what I’m missing. I am thankful for my friends, family and neighbors; the kindness of strangers; the educators and support people who have helped my children (neurotypical and autistic) to become the young adults they are now. I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to do what I am passionate about, and thankful for all the wonderful parents and educators I meet on the road and online.
This year, I’m particularly grateful to my parents that raised my siblings and I to appreciate two cultures, while teaching us that there is no shame in being different.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones.