Panorama of San Bernardino

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Ham of a Thanksgiving Story

I love the holidays.  It is a season of scents.  If Christmas smells like pine needles, cookies and hot chocolate, then Thanksgiving smells like maple and pumpkin to me.  Oh and ham.  Thanksgiving definitely smells like ham.

A ham is a must on Thanksgiving for us Mantz girls.  Dad loved ham and every Thanksgiving, he roasted a ten pound ham with pineapple.  His turkey was too dry, but the ham was always delicious.  Dad would fry it up the morning after Thanksgiving with eggs.  It is the flavor of our childhood I suppose.  And now that Dad is gone, the ham is really all we have to remind us.

In the last couple of weeks, things are different.  I have felt slight twinges of what I recognize as happiness.  The fog from the last six months is lifting and pushing away all the anxiety and pain that I was drowning in.  I wish I knew how this is happening because I would bottle it and sell it to others who are struggling.  This new found happiness could be the result of the passage of time, it could be my new therapist, it could be that the holidays are coming which always cheers me up, or it could be a combination of everything.

When I feel happier, I can better appreciate my family's idiosyncrasies.  This year, I am hosting Thanksgiving again.  We took a break last year and I regretted the lack of chaos and missed everyone.

Of course, a holiday in the Mantz family is not a holiday without some argument.  This year, the argument was over a ham.

My twin sister Jackie offered to bring a ham on Thanksgiving.  Our younger sister Annie is bringing the potatoes, salad and dessert.  My husband Adrian will make the turkey, he stuffs it with fruit and I am making the sides: cranberry and apple stuffing, candied sweet potatoes, a three cheese mac and cheese with fried bacon as well as homemade cranberry sauce and green beans with olive oil and almonds.  I never ever use mushroom soup on my green beans, I hate the processed flavor it brings.

Dear reader, let me explain my day and the ham debacle.  Jackie called me at lunch on a day at work where I didn't have time to eat, drink or pee all morning.  I had fourteen clients on calendar and we were down two attorneys.  I left court at noon and had to be back at court at one thirty. I got back to my desk and a colleague stopped by to talk about a case and when I looked at my watch, I saw that it was one p.m..  I had thirty minutes to grab lunch and get back to court.  Then my phone rang.

"Hi, I can't bring the ham.  The remodel is not done and we don't have a kitchen and I just can't do it," Jackie said in her don't mess with me voice, without any introduction or pleasantries.  This had clearly been on her mind all day.  I just didn't care.  All I wanted was to go get my Subway and Diet Coke.

"OK," I replied.  "No ham then.  I can't do it and you said you would do it.  But if you can't do it, you can't."  I didn't have time for this.

Jackie's voice rose an octave.  "I asked Annie and she said no.  I don't know why she can't make the ham and I can do the potatoes, salad and dessert."  Jackie was obviously upset, but so was I.  Why couldn't she honor her commitment?

"Jackie, you said you would bring the ham. Don't put it on anyone else," I said.  My temples were pounding.  All I wanted was a Diet Coke and my half turkey sandwich with avocado.

"What about mom?" Jackie said.  "She can do it."

"No, she can't.  Do you want us all to get food poisoning?" I asked her in what I admit was a rude tone.  (My mom is not a good cook.  One time she tried to make a chicken and the inside was pink and I ate it anyway.  Suffice to say, the effects were not pretty)

"Just forget the damn ham Jackie, who cares?"  I was so over this.

"I want ham.  We always have ham," Jackie said.

"Than buy a damn ham Jackie," I said in my I can't handle this shit, oldest sister voice.

"A ham is a hundred dollars," Jackie said.  Then she just started rambling about how it is just her and Joe, a hundred dollars is a lot of money and she shouldn't have to spend so much.  Then she went nuclear.

"I just won't come over on Thanksgiving then."

And suddenly, I got it.  Jackie wanted our ham tradition and she couldn't do it.  But she wanted a way for it to happen.  She wanted to eat ham and remember how Dad would always make it.  I pictured her on the first day of kindergarten, in her two left shoes.  She had been my best friend forever.  This was ridiculous.  Arguing over a damn ham.  I shook my head and started typing into the search engine online and ordered her a ham.  I was done with this.  No more fighting.  No more saying we were not getting together.  I needed my twin and we had to stop the drama.  It was only a ham.  I cut her off and started my own tirade.

"Jackie, I am hungry, thirsty and I have to get back to court.  I looked it up online while you were rambling on and a Honey Baked Ham is fifty dollars for the amount of people we are serving.  Just buy the fucking ham, we can split the cost.  I already ordered it for you and I will pick it up for you after work the day before Thanksgiving.  Stop the nonsense."

Jackie was quiet.  "OK, but I want to pay for the whole ham.  I won't do it unless I get to pay for the whole ham."

And so now we have a ham.  Daddy would be happy.

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