Sunday, January 06, 2013

Moans over my hammy

“There’s nothing to eat,” my son Evan reported from the dinner table, moving his head to the side so that we could see him behind the gigantic ham.

“Evan, you’re the reason everyone is eating ham tonight.  You like ham.  We can’t have chicken nuggets for Christmas dinner,” I said.

Our extended family, having traveled from Anchorage, Virginia Beach, Philadelphia and Binghamton, surrounded the table, using vaguely familiar utensils to scoop copious amounts of food onto fancy plates that hadn’t known the touch of an entrée since exactly one year ago.  

The one plastic plate on the table scooched toward the centerpiece, propelled by the fingers of a finicky three-year-old.

“Please, Evan, eat your dinner.  You like everything on your plate,” my wife Kara said.  Weeks prior, she’d decided to base our Christmas dinner menu on Evan’s tastes, which meant we’d either be eating ham or gummy worms.

Just then, a serving plate passed into my hand, and I looked down to see the mushy asparagus casserole that everyone somehow loves.

“No room,” I smiled, passing it quickly on its way.  Someday, I’ll teach Evan how to arrange his zucchini bread side-by-side, rather than stacked, to fend off ambushes from the asparagus casserole.  He’s on his own, though, until he at least learns to take a few token bites of his meal to deflect attention.  Right now, he’d just blow my cover.

“Don’t want ham,” Evan moaned, deciding that he only liked ham on occasions when there wasn’t one the size of Santa’s sleigh parked in front of him.

“There’s homemade mac and cheese, too,” I offered, plopping a spoonful onto his plate.  When all else fails at dinnertime in our house, mac and cheese always comes through.

Evan glared at the steaming off-white heap of deliciousness that had been lovingly prepared from his grandmother’s special recipe.  It wasn’t glowing a Cheetoey orange like mac and cheese was supposed to.

“Don’t like it,” he said, making an uneducated guess.

“Dude, you love mac and cheese, too.  Is peanut butter and jelly the only thing you’ll eat anymore?” I asked.

“Don’t like that, either,” he replied.

“No, I’m sorry, you still like peanut butter and jelly.  It’s all you’ve eaten for the past year.  I do not accept that,” I said.  Denial is the first step toward bending reality to your will.

“Don’t like it anymore,” he shrugged.

After dinner, having surrendered to Evan’s stubbornness, I joined the clean-up crew, a rag-tag troop comprised of everyone who’d been useless during dinner preparation.  Cleanup after a fancy meal is tougher because fancy dishes can’t be put through the dishwasher.  Somehow, we’ve decided that fancy things must be less functional than their cheap counterparts.  By this logic, Porsches should not have steering wheels.

As we put away the last of the weird cheese knives and little plates with snowmen on them, I felt a little wistful that we were venturing into the New Year, preparing to leave behind a holiday season that, according to the mall, had begun two weeks before Halloween.

After we’d made it look as if the dinner had never happened, except for the leftovers bulging the rivets on the fridge, Evan went around the circle of aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents, hugging them goodnight in his new Buzz Lightyear jammies.

“To infinity and beyond!” he said as we went upstairs to tuck him in.

“It was a good Christmas, wasn’t it, buddy?” I asked.

“I’m hungry,” he replied.

You can send Mike Todd to bed without his dinner at

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