Once again, it's Gratitude Friday, when many bloggers – inspired by Diana -- take a few moments to reflect on things for which we are grateful.
But this week, I’ve thinking about gratitude in broader terms. I’ve been thinking about what makes for A Good Life, and it seems to me that a major contributor to that, is a continuing sense of gratitude and an awareness of every good thing in life.
What brought me to this, was reading Julia Child’s biography “My Life in France.” This, a co-production between the great chef and her grand-nephew Alex Prud’homme, was published just before her death in 2004 at 91. It focuses on her years living in France, where shortly before her 40s, Child discovered French food and developed a lifelong passion for understanding French cuisine and French culture.
Interest in Child’s life was, of course, recently renewed with the popular movie “Julie and Julia” the best part of which draws from this biography to focus on Julia Child’s years in France.
My book club met last night to discuss Child’s biography, and every one of us agreed that we each loved this book. The biggest reason? Her exuberance and real appreciation for life. It seemed that she had a real ability to embrace and dwell on all the great things that came along in her life, while refusing to be pulled down or dwell on the many negative events.
And there were negative events. In many ways, her life was wonderful. She had great, supportive friends, a wonderful marriage, years living in Paris, a house in Provence, a popular American TV show.
And her biography really focuses on these positives while skimming over such sadnesses as the fact she and her husband could not have children, although they wanted them. Money must have been a concern. Life in Paris couldn’t have been cheap, even immediately after the Second World War when Child and her husband Paul moved to Paris, and were living on his small salary. Paul Child was apparently not a political animal and as a result, did not rise high in the diplomatic circles where he spent his career. Few promotions, few raises, little respect from his superiors. Julia Child’s first cookbook took a decade to produce and likely didn’t bring them much income until they returned to the United States in the 1960s.
It seemed they often did not have heat in their Paris apartment. She did not get along with her father. She must have felt horribly out of place among petite, chic French women, as Julia Child stood 6 foot 2 inches and had size 12 feet. (I’m only 5’9 and feel like an awkward giant among petite European women!)
But it seems that none of those negative issues mattered in the slightest to Julia Child, who apparently bounded through life with joy, and an appreciation for the fascinating things she saw and felt.
I haven’t figured out her secret for achieving that kind of happy imbalance, tilted so strongly in favour of the positive. But it seems that her concentration on the wonderful things she came across, the joy she found in cooking and in her husband, and her acceptance of herself, warts, large feet and all, were crucial factors. As was, I suspect, an abiding sense of gratitude.