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Fellowship of the Christmas ham

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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.

But there’s something about the camaraderie of waiting in that cold long line, sharing both a common purpose and anticipation over holiday plans, that puts me in a festive mood and reminds me of the true joy of Christmas. It’s nice to give pause for a reminder, whether that reminder comes at church or at the local ham store.

When the doors do finally open, my fellow shoppers and I offer up our holiday good wishes and then rush inside to quickly grab our hams and pay. I always leave that store with more than just a main course for Christmas dinner. I leave with my holiday spirit rejuvenated, fueled up and ready for the days to come.

Kristen Hansen Brakeman is a freelance writer. Her website is www.kristenbrakeman.com.

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