98. I Am Delicious!

98. I Am Delicious!

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Curvy & Confident

I Am Delicious!

Grandmother-grandchild relationships are simple. Grandmas are short on criticism and long on love.

~Author Unknown

“Eat, eat, eat,” my little Hungarian grandmother ordered as she pushed a second walnut stuffed kiffle in front of me while adding more butter into the dough she was blending at her kitchen table.

“This will be a special batch for you to take home,” she said with a smile that filled her face. Her chant, combined with an old-country accent, continued, “Eat, you are too thin!” This became an almost religious mantra in my grandmother’s household. “Eat, eat, eat,” developed an insatiable rhythm of its own as you stuffed oversized portions of her delicacies into your mouth.

“Grandma,” I argued, “I am not too thin. All the girls in school call me fat and make fun of me.” Fourth grade was a wicked year for me. I was too young to flirt with boys and too old to play with dolls, and I lived in this elementary-school limbo in which I was intimidated by classmates who, in my eyes, looked perfect!

“Did you know that Mom has to go to a special store to buy my uniform? They only sell clothes for ‘huskies.’ Do you know what size that is? Huskies are for fat girls,” I screamed.

Without interrupting her task of rolling the kiffle dough, she said calmly, “Husky, isn’t that a cute dog that people love to cuddle?”

“Okay, so there are two meanings,” I said, “but the other meaning is fat, you know, big, large, heavy, fat!” I yelled so loud the next-door neighbor stopped watering his garden and ran inside.

“Fat?” she questioned. “What is fat? There is only one meaning for fat in Hungarian, and that is something that makes food delicious,” she said, as she stirred the special walnut mixture that would plump up her crescent-shaped kiffles. Then, she ordered me to follow her. While wiping her hands on her handmade apron, she marched me to her bedroom and stood me in front of her beautiful, ornate mirror. Taking her brush from her bureau, she brushed my hair away from my face.

Real beauty comes from the heart. I see yours and it’s beautiful.

“Look deep in the mirror,” she said. “Who do you see?” Of course, being focused only on myself, I never noticed her little, round body next to mine.

It took a while for me to answer. “I see an ugly girl, Grandma,” I sighed, “a very fat, ugly girl.” And then I cried.

She pulled me close to her soft, comfortable body. “No, no, no,” she said, as my tears fell onto her apron. She wiped them gently away with her wrinkled, embroidered hanky, and continued. “Look deeper. I see two beautiful ladies, a young one and an old one. The young one is just starting to understand what real beauty is all about, and the old one already knows because she has lived long enough. Real beauty comes from the heart. I see yours and it’s beautiful. One day, you will understand.”

With that reflection, she returned to her kitchen table and invited me to eat yet another walnut stuffed kiffle while firmly saying, “When those girls in school call you fat, just tell them you are delicious!”

Despite all the anxious conversations I had with my grandmother about being overweight, I never saw her that way. Her soft curves cushioned babies, comforted tears, and hugged multitudes of family and friends who needed to know they were loved.

My grandmother died many years ago. I am trying to age gracefully, accepting the added wrinkles and pounds that are captured in the mirror that once was hers. Some days, when I stand in front of it, I still see my little, round grandmother standing next to me. I remember her treasured, encouraging words: “You are not fat, you are delicious!”

A confident, beautiful smile brightens my face because I finally understand her meaning of those heartfelt words, and yes, I am delicious!

~Lainie Belcastro

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