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Ghost of Thanksgiving Past

Updated: Dec 8, 2020

"Go with the light meat, it's less fattening."

Grandma always made the turkey, stuffing, and gravy, which was stirred up by Mom when we arrived. It was always Mom's job. Everyone else brought a side dish or dessert. On the counter the display of festive food grew as people arrived: green bean casserole, jello salad, crackers on trays, pumpkin and pecan pie.

As we watched football and visited, the treats and appetizers were irresistible. Instead, I drink diet soda and only eat fruits and veggies. "Gotta save room for dinner and dessert!" My mind plays this sentence over and over.

Finally, it's dinnertime. In Grandma's house there was the dining room table and the living room table. It used to be the adult table and the kid table, but when the kids are basically adults, it's mixed-and-matched. She's set out place tags; mine always had a festive sticker and my name written in calligraphy.

Each table has a little bit of everything, but a specific side may be at the other table. As the serving plates are passed around, a war within me bubbles to the surface like a simmering soup letting out pockets of air. "Light meat has fewer points. Skip the gravy. Only one roll. No jello salad, it's not sugar-free. Get another diet soda, the bubbles will make you feel full. Go with the white meat, it's less fattening."

At Grandma's house, dessert was served immediately after dinner as we lounged and watched whatever football game was on. I always loved watching the Friends Thanksgiving episode at 7pm on the little TV. The dessert portions passed around. "Just a sliver," I'd say. But the sliver would turn into another, and another, until I've decided to just call it a cheat day and eat anything I can find. Not that unusual for Thanksgiving in our culture, but a moral failure for me.

Feeling food-hungover, the next day I decide to just eat dinner. No breakfast or lunch. And on, and on, and on for two decades. Hungry.

This year, it was just me and my immediate family for Christmas. (Thanks covid.) I made everything, cooked most of Wednesday and all day Thursday. And when the plate was ready to be filled, the soup in my mind was calm, not bubbling. "I'm going to have this, and this, and this." After a little, my tummy starts to feel full and I slow down. I do want dessert and don't want to feel too full.

It turns out ghosts are nothing but air.

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