“How in the world do you know how to say that in French?” I asked my hostess, in French. The reason for that was simple — we were in France and she was French.  In fact, she was my closest friend at that time and in that place. As I look back, she was one of the best friends I have ever had, in a basically friendless world where I have received few favors. She told me — as we stood in front of a cranberry display on the Market of the Rue Mouffetard, in Paris — that she had learned the word when she had been on the team that discovered that DNA (and not protein) was the hereditary material. Afterward she had a year of sabbatical in Cleveland, Ohio at the Case Western University, and they grew cranberries somewhere around there.  Her friends had known that this strange little fruit did not exist in France, so they showed it to her, and somehow they had tested and exchanged vocabulary, just as I had with her.

Although I had been born in suburban Boston,  I had not seen cranberries growing in a bog until a high school road trip.  My class had traveled to see Plymouth Rock, and the reproduction of the Mayflower (so tiny — they must have been really cramped) and other such things I had been told existed no other place on God’s green Earth except for Cape Cod.  I was glad I had my French friend to help me break such myths of chauvinistic rubbish.  How strong the myth had felt, how deeply I had believed it, and for so long.

I did not recall that myth and how I felt when it was shattered, for once and for all, in my early student-hood, by the experience of the market at the rue Mouffetard. As I write this, it is the late afternoon of Thanksgiving day, when I suspect others have been napping as I was.  If feels too late to send wishes, or induce people to reel off lists of things they are thankful for. Family is mostly gone. The few left are far away and I would just as soon leave them to their own devices. Sometimes there is more power in the symbol than in the reality. The world may never have been the calm and constantly unchanging place I once wanted to believe it is. Recently, I have been happy to learn that, no matter how horribly destructive storms are, local politicians accept global warming as reality instead of rhetoric.  I think they are moving toward saving people instead of saving their beliefs. The threat on a symbol may be more significant in getting things done than threats on people and their lives.

It is hard to explain why it really bothers me that climate change is starting to threaten the cranberry.  I had a little store bought cranberry relish this year, and it seemed neither better nor worse than I would have expected it to be.  Maybe there was a little less of it on the shelves.  I did not notice particularly, for I am an idiosyncratic shopper at best. With my husband on some variant of the Atkins-type high protein diet and me avoiding “deadly” nightshades that make my arthritic knees sore, and loving our permanently transient state, we are as unlikely to show up at a traditional Thanksgiving dinner as we are to prepare one.

I remember from earliest childhood it was still a hot topic among rabbis whether “secular” holidays like Thanksgiving should be celebrated at all.  I was grateful Thanksgiving was approved, as I loved any excuse to turn my ravenous appetite loose.  Now I realize that any memories of Thanksgiving were “implanted” memories.  There was an old and stained reproduction of a lavish dinner, I suppose from Thanksgiving, and a white haired woman somewhere around the turkey and my Bobie (Grandmother-Of-Blessed-Memory) said it was her, kind of. There was a young woman with lots of black hair piled up in big rolls and someone thought it looked like my early secular teacher from Yeshiva (Hebrew religious school). The one time she was invited to our house, my mother told her that the real reason I wore those cute little shoes with buckles was that I STILL could not tie my shoes. Even that trauma was secondary to the fact we had cranberry sauce, and I liked it — the jellied kind, no hunks of fruits.

It bothers me that the American Cranberry is being squarely threatened by global warming.  I remember Thanksgivings past  “through a glass, darkly” like 1 Corinthians 13:12 — one of a very few of the new testament phrases I remember.  I see now that the Norman Rockwell painting of America was a view propagated by movie studios; mostly the views of American movie studio moguls who had been in fact eastern European Jewish immigrants imagining what life in America was supposed to be like.

I’m pretty sure everyone had cranberry sauce, and maybe soon they won’t.  Maybe we are losing ideals we never really had.  There still is room for Thankfulness.  According to “The Secret” and other, more classic movers of thought, it is a crucial part of the puzzle-like track that brings thoughts to action. Yet thankfulness often descends into being glad we are not someone else who is worse off. From where I write this, I can only look at the back of my husband’s head, but it is enough to remind me how I am delighted that the world contains a man such as he, and that he is mine. I am thankful — a good thing to be — and I will do just fine if there are no cranberries. Happy Thanksgiving.

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