A Word In Edgewise: Marshmallows – To Eat or Not To Eat

Marshmallows close-up and copy space on a pink background. Marshmallows in an earthenware mug.
Marshmallows close-up and copy space on a pink background. Marshmallows in an earthenware mug.

Photo by Bigstock/SoNelly1

Thanksgiving’s history, turkey’s remains reheated or frozen; all that’s left in 2020 is to survive your winter holiday–or holidays–there’s at least eight, nine if you stretch “winter” out to February or March (hey, it’s Minnesota) to include Mardi Gras.

First Hanukkah, from sundown December 10 to sundown the 18th; then St. Nicolas Day the 6th (observing his 343 AD demise); St. Lucia’s Day December 13; Christmas the 25th, and Kwanza December 26 through January 1. New Year’s Eve the 31st launches 2021, then Three Kings Day, or Epiphany, celebrating gift-bearing royalty January 6.

All are celebrated with food and conviviality; and perhaps more, this year. Thanksgiving is primarily an American holiday, food and family, gathering at grandmother’s house on today’s horse-drawn sleighs, some 30,000 feet above the snows, but all, beyond whatever spiritual components, speak to the human desire to be physically within the family circle, all the generations united.

No one at this writing yet knows what else was brought to Thursday’s groaning boards along with the green bean/onion soup hot dish and pumpkin pie. Will a COVID-19 surge ensue? How to plan now to handle the next wave of festivities? It’s almost impossible to reason or legislate safe visiting practices when the pull of family and friends is so compelling. There are kids to shower with toys, there’s Mom and Dad and the grandparents; we don’t know when we’ll see them again, so we’d better do it now. There’s the primal human need to be with loved ones. Even the less-loved; they’re Family after all. What to do?

The news just out is that the UK will begin rolling out Pfizer’s Covid vaccine within the coming week, starting with health workers and nursing home residents. Other reports say vaccinations should start here later in December. More vaccine will be available as the new year progresses. The brightest news we’ve had in a long time.

Still, with gatherings at home, and millions congregating around the world—dining, drinking, and discoursing into the night; with the crisscrossing of planes and trains and automobiles getting everyone there and back, there’s a high probability some will return bearing extra baggage. This dilemma, interrupted by news of the coming vaccine, reminded me of the 1972 Stanford Marshmallow experiment.

A child would be given a marshmallow and promised that if he or she would wait briefly to eat this marshmallow, they would receive a second treat. The child and marshmallow were then left together in a room. Some succumbed, others waited and were rewarded as promised. Accurate or not as a prediction of a hungry kid’s future SAT scores, the Stanford experiment suggests a possible strategy to consider for these Covid-threatened holidays.

If just this once, knowing vaccines are imminent, you celebrate with only household members, you may be rewarded with many more future gatherings with your extended family; safe hugs and kisses galore. Delayed gratification can save lives. Nothing is ever certain, but your odds in 2021 will be greatly improved.



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