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Weighing In — A Thanksgiving Tradition

Today, as Jen and I prepared a fourteen pound turkey for us to share during our first Thanksgiving dinner together, thousands of miles away from our families, I was reminded of a tradition that my family started practicing soon after I returned from a deployment to Iraq in my early twenties.

On “turkey day” at an entry control point northwest of Fallujah I broke bread with a brother Marine while we stood watch on a post that overlooked the city’s dump. The menu consisted of some canned shredded chicken, a stale piece of bread, a fruit cup, and some type of canned juice that I had never seen before, nor since. We made the best of the day though, at least it was quiet.

On the first Thanksgiving that I spent with my family after having returned home my brothers and I took it upon ourselves to start a new tradition. The menu was as diverse as it was delicious, per the usual, and with about twenty mouths to feed the amount of food present was rather impressive. I’m not sure who came up with the idea of seeing who could eat the most amount of food during dinner, or who devised the rules, but I do remember how competitive those dinners got.

The rules were clear: Anyone who wanted to participate needed to empty their pockets before stepping on the scale right before sitting down to dinner, each person was allowed one standard sized drink, and they were to weigh out immediately upon standing up from the table (often times we brought the scale out into the living room).

My middle brother, Eric, won the first competition with a total weight gain of four pounds. We enjoyed the it so much that we started gorging three times per year, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. Over time, we started developing strategies and pre-meal rituals.

Since we could eat more if we ate faster, Eric and I started a practice of distracting people while the other snagged food off of their neighbor’s plate. This allowed us to spend more time eating and less time walking back and forth from the table to the buffet style food supply. I can vividly remember the first time this occurred. My mother sat down at the table with a full plate before Eric and I sat down next to her on either side. We weren’t seated for more than five minutes before Eric snagged a roll off of her plate. While she was busy trying to reacquire the stolen bread I made myself busy snagging some mashed potatoes and beans. From then on, people knew better than to sit between us, so we preyed on any newcomers who unknowingly provided pounds of food to the competition for years.

Winning required eating over five pounds of food, and on one occasion I gained 6.5 pounds. I won the second “weigh-in” and was not dethroned for many years, until Eric took the title during the very last edition of the contest a couple of years ago.

Today’s feast was similar to the meals of the past, minus the absence of a scale. We had turkey, sweet potato casserole, baked spinach Gruyere (a new item introduced to me by Jenny), stuffing, and mashed potatoes with gravy made from the drippings. It was just the second time that I spent the holiday with only one other person and I could not have been happier with the company.

We ate until we had our filling, then we ate a little more. After the meal was over and all of the food and dishes were taken care of, we settled down on the couch to watch the movie “Grease” while we napped. Then we got up to head out for a short walk. Along the way we admired the constellations above, and talked about the vastness of our reality. As we stared at the heavens above a shooting star blazed a trail across the sky.

Today I am thankful for every single aspect of my life.