I haven’t spoken very much about my late grandmother, but every holiday I am reminded that she is no longer with us. My gram used to do most of our holiday celebrations, usually without even planning. Almost like muscle memory, she would whip the potatoes, slice the squash, taste test the pie filling, and set the table. My mom took over at some point when I was a kid and she, too, exhibited shear perfection in the kitchen. She would wake at 5am to clean the turkey, stuff the mushrooms, fluff the stuffing, and somehow put the rolls in at just the right time. My grandmother, usually, right by her side, telling her how to cut the squash and exactly how many pinches of brown sugar to add.
I wanted, this year, to show my own expertise in my own vegan kitchen. It’s my first vegan Thanksgiving, and while my family tries to be supportive, they struggle to know what is vegan and what isn’t. They understand the “no meat” part, but when it comes to milk powder, turkey broth, or butter, they get pretty confused. It doesn’t bother me too much and honestly, I’m just grateful they try at all.
But, I wanted to be in our home this year. I wanted to learn how the stove works, how to set our new table, what time I needed to start things and how, exactly, you fool a family of meat eaters into eating an entirely vegan meal happily. I was so excited. And I haven’t been excited about a holiday in years.
Since my grandma died, a wound in me was born. Instead of healing, it actually grows deeper. It begins to ooze around the holidays. I remember the ways in which she would carefully wrap gifts, hang decorations, and trim the tree. I miss the simple things, like being able to dust the hearth under her careful eye. How she would ask me to play piano. Most of all, I just miss how our family actually felt like a family.
It wasn’t without some bullshit. Think National Lampoons – that’s us. My mom, freaking out about the chairs. My dad, angry about having to go to the store 400 times. My brother and I, cleaning everything (not quite right). Arguments. Hostility. But somehow, even 20minutes before other people arrived, we would be good. Everyone would be laughing, jovial, happy just to be together. Holidays were the most stressful and also the best times.
Since we lost my grandma though, the holidays feel like winter. They feel like dead trees and snowfall. Cold and achy. It feels like frostbite. It feels like frozen lakes and slippery driveways. Death. Always a reminder of what is gone.
Since Sam and I got engaged, I’ve felt like we might be able to actually bring back those family memories. Since we bought a house, I’ve felt even more of a push to throw the parties, to have the holidays, to get the trees and pumpkins, and to bake, and to feel happy again. Knowing that we can’t be in our home today, doing just that, has me heartbroken. It makes me feel so stupid to say, but I really just want to feel happy again. I want to not feel like I am dying on every holiday, missing the togetherness that they used to provide. I know we’ll be in our house soon, but this year I can’t help but be even more upset, knowing what could have been if things could just go right.
Aside from my family, the holidays are also very difficult for my eating disorders. I cannot eat anything without feeling like I am underserving of food. Feeling like I should purge any calories I consume. Feeling like I shouldn’t be here, that everyone hates me, and that no one actually wants to be around me. I wish I could feel normal – be normal, but I can’t.
My disorders go crazy. They gnaw at me like rabid, hungry dogs. They whisper to me “you are disgusting” “no one actually likes you” “you are an annoyance”, and then they scream “they all hate you”, “you aren’t good enough”. And I try to tell myself to run, but my legs stand still. Wobbly under the pressure, I give in. I allow myself to be consumed. I am a deer caught between a wolf and a headlight, but I am also the wolf. And the headlight. Mainly, I am fear.
And as the hour approaches, as the house guests gather and the table gets full, I will myself to run, one last time.
Wish me luck.