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Fellowship of the Christmas ham

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But mostly I enjoy talking with my fellow ham shoppers. It starts with the offer of an extra coupon. Then, once the ice has been broken, we are emboldened to move on to other ham-related topics like, “Have you ever tried their spicy mustard?” or fishing for special intelligence on the pies, “How’s the French apple?”

The conversation often segues from the Christmas menu to anticipation over holiday plans. Last year, I chatted with a woman behind me who excitedly introduced a young girl at her side. “This is my granddaughter visiting all the way from South Carolina. It’s her first time here, and she’s all mine for two weeks!”

The woman in front of me volunteered, “I can’t even eat this ham. My doctor has me on a low-salt diet, but my son loves it. He’s flying in from college later today.”

Then I met an older gentleman who apparently lived fairly close to me in the foothill area. We started talking about the previous year’s fire and mudslides. Soon we were one-upping each other with our tales of woe. “That fire came right to the top of our street,” he said.

“Ours too, and we were evacuated from the mud four times,” I bragged.

“Well we had the mud pour into our basement. It ruined everything there!”

Okay mister, you win.

I guess it might seem odd that I look forward to this time with strangers. After all, there’s plenty of holiday cheer around my own home between school performances, a fortunate bounty of gifts under the tree, and the pending arrival of our large extended family. Heck, the excitement level from my eight-year-old alone could get even the most committed Grinch into a festive spirit.

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