Mimi made me a ham,
glazed with honey and smelling sweetly,
a surprise so I wouldn’t have to eat turkey.
The aroma greeted us as we entered,
lingering and melding with others,
bread and cranberries and pumpkin.
We were all gathered, talking over each other
about the small dramas that consume us,
catching up after months apart.
Mimi would fuss over the details,
direct whoever was around to place spoons
or get the rolls out of the oven.
I’d stand nervously waiting.
Papa would call us to settle and bow heads,
and he’d give thanks for the bounty and
say words about our health and Jesus.
Amens would follow, and the kids would
converge to be first to go through
a carefully laid out buffet line. I’d wait,
and my mom and I would exchange a look,
her giving me the permission I needed.
I’d get to the end of the line and pile turkey
onto my plate, skipping the ham,
a particular favorite of others.
Mimi eventually would sit down,
time finally for her to enjoy the company.
I wouldn’t say anything, avoiding conflict,
hoping she hadn’t noticed me
at the kids’ table in the adjacent room.
But she would notice, and she would apologize
and she and I would laugh about it.
She would make a mental note about
Brian not liking ham, a note she would lose.
The next time we’d gather,
the next time Mimi spent days cooking,
organizing everyone’s particular tastes,
I’d arrive again to the smell of a ham,
cooked especially for me, and I’d smile.
I still don’t eat ham,
but nobody makes it for me anymore.

Brian Fuchs, “Ham” from Okie Dokie (Scissortail Press, 2019)

Written 26 April 2008 in Anchorage, Alaska & 11 September 2019 in Payne County, Oklahoma.

Featured Image Art: photo of Christine Tucker, my Mimi, & myself


Original version:


If I had liked ham
maybe I wouldn’t have
disappointed at least one person.
She’d reveal the surprise,
glazed with honey and smelling sweetly,
the scent lingering from outside.
But it wasn’t me and I’d wrinkle
my forehead, politely thank her,
and eat my turkey, the ham meeting
with praise from enough
for my neglect to not seem to matter.
She’d notice, apologize, and make
a mental note that Brian doesn’t like ham,
a mental note she’d promptly lose.
And for the next gathering
requiring food preparation,
we’d repeat the game.
I still don’t like ham,
but nobody makes it for me anymore.


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