The Light Dessert

Aïda Rogers

Posted 1/3/24

By Aïda Rogers

The request seemed simple enough. “A light dessert,” my neighbor Sharon texted. She’d invited us for a soup supper just before Christmas. Always happy to be invited, we accepted, and I’d asked the requisite question of what I could bring. “A light dessert” became my quest.

I asked my mother, a superb creator of sweets and savories. “Banana pudding,” she responded, she of Iraq who’d never heard of the stuff until she came to this country in 1952. I questioned this idea, thinking of how banana pudding seems to follow barbecue and little else. “Jello,” she suggested. “Wait until it almost congeals, then mix Cool Whip in it.”

“Too summery,” I thought as I slid into the holiday frenzy I was trying to avoid. Presents to buy, porch presents to protect, not-very-present state of mind. I presented myself at one of two parties we’re invited to and presented my question. Surely these guests would have ideas.

It took a while to take my poll, mainly because we were not eating light desserts or drinking light drinks. And then I took notice of what my good hosts were saying. They’d presented their holiday party for 20 years, stopping for the past few because of the pandemic and family health problems. The hostess recounted how her brother erupted when she told him they probably wouldn’t have the party again, that it had run its course. “You can’t stop having that party,” he cried. “It’s a tradition!”

Bah. That party means a lot more than that. When invitations arrived at the homes of the guests, our hearts bloomed like camellias in winter. “We’re so excited to come,” one responded. And others did what so many do: “What can we bring?” we chorused, thrilled members of a returning Broadway show. Others brought food unsolicited. The table was laden; the counters and stove covered.

At the end of the night when only a handful of us were left, I posed my essential question. Then I watched our hostess – it was almost like a Bugs Bunny cartoon – look up from clearing a counter wearing a smile from Satan himself. “We have a light dessert,” she said, eyes gleaming. She reached in the fridge and withdrew a sizeable bowl.

A generous guest had brought a layered dessert of brownies, whipped cream and crushed candy bars. There’d been no place to put it so loaded the house had become with food.

That light dessert came home, where I put it on the scale. Eight pounds, two ounces. I figured the bowl – it was glass – accounted for at least two.

I lugged that light dessert across the street wondering how Sharon would react. Regifting regifted food – yes, I was doing it – could only be my sacred duty as a gracious guest. Besides, I had witnessed how the proverb had proved true. I had asked, and it had been given. It was fitting to share the wealth.

We ate our soup. It was delicious. Then we spooned into our dessert, also delicious but not exactly light. But what was that I saw on Sharon’s face? Was that a burst of light as the chocolate did what chocolate does? I relaxed. My job was done. And a seven-pound bowl went back across the street and into the refrigerator – into a light of its own – the star among the shelves of leftovers.

Aïda Rogers writes from an old house in Columbia and a new porch in McClellanville. Her three-volume anthology series, State of the Heart: South Carolina Writers on the Places They Love, includes stories by 108 Palmetto State writers.

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