I wrote this story specifically for a 2022 Online Christmas Event and wanted to share it with you. Enjoy!
Jackie’s Christmas Ham
Written by Angela C. Charles
Readers: Narrator, Jackie, Mike, Shop Clerk, Rita, Bev
Narrator: A sigh of pure bliss escaped Jackie Winston’s lips when she stepped into the warm house. She wasted little time taking off her boots and shedding her coat along with the weight and stress of work. It was the end of the week.
Jackie: Ahh! I’m so tired from working in the Claims department at an Insurance company in Toronto. Tired, cold, and hungry. Although it had stopped snowing, the drop in temperature made the walk, to and from the transit system, seem longer than normal because I had to carefully step on piles of snow laying on the ground.
Narrator: She lifted her head at the sound of the television.
Jackie: Mike’s home.
Narrator: Mike was her second husband. She greeted him before heading towards the kitchen while talking to herself.
Jackie: I know there is no dinner waiting. Can’t depend on Mike to cook. He burned a pot trying to boil water. Dinner will have to be leftovers.
Mike: Hey Jackie!
Narrator: Her voice was flat and cold. It didn’t invite conversation. She couldn’t be bothered turning her head towards the direction of the living room where she was sure Mike had his feet on the coffee table, as he normally did, when watching television.
Mike: Did I tell you mama wants us to do Christmas this year?
Jackie: You didn’t.
Narrator: Jackie took a deep breath and looked at the food spread out on the counter. The bowls of soup were ready for the microwave and the bread, ham, cheese, and condiments were waiting to be assembled. She lost her appetite. Three years earlier when she joined the family, Mike informed her that they took turns hosting holidays. His only sibling was married to Helen, a Canadian-born with amazing baking skills, and they had hosted the last Thanksgiving potluck dinner.
Mike: Sorry, Babe.
Narrator: Jackie didn’t answer. She wanted to scream. Instead, she closed her eyes a second, shook her head and exhaled. She needed more time before hosting the all-important Christmas dinner. Potluck for a Caribbean dinner meant guests would bring the extras. Another salad, another appetizer, another dessert. Jackie carried on a one-way conversation.
Jackie: I know that in stepping up to make Mike proud, I’m piling on more layers of holiday stress. He knew I wasn’t ready. But instead of giving me more time, he waited until the end of November to break the news and now he wants to be in my good books.
Narrator: Mike appeared at the entrance of the kitchen.
Mike: What’s for dinner?
Jackie: Soup and sandwiches. If you want anything else, you’ll have to get it.
Narrator: Mike must have felt the chill in the air.
Mike: Soup and sandwiches sound great.
Narrator: He looked at the contents on the counter.
Mike: Your soup is the best - lots of dumplings. Just the way I like it. You know, we should get the ham like my aunt Paula makes. Nothing like a Caribbean ham!
Narrator: Mike licked his lips.
Mike: I’m just like your kids. We like the crusty parts, especially where the pineapple…
Narrator: His voice trailed off at Jackie’s expression.
Narrator: Jackie’s two children decided to spend Christmas with her family in Dominica. At ages fourteen and sixteen, they requested monetary gifts this year, but had exchanged presents before their trip. Mike’s three children, with ages ranging from twelve to seventeen, lived with their mother and their presents, along with those for other members of the family and friends, were under the tree. The days leading up to Christmas were a flurry of activities.
Mike: I’ll help with the decorations and drive you to the Caribbean grocery stores.
Jackie: Thanks. That will help me check off every item on my list.
Narrator: Mike didn’t complain. He dared not complain. However, he made a mistake when he stopped and looked at Jackie just before they entered the second store.
Mike: Ahh, Helen put in a request. She wanted to know if we would have Caribbean Christmas ham. I told her you would prepare one.
Narrator: Jackie let the door slam in his face. The guy at the Caribbean store raised his eyes when Jackie asked for shoulder ham.
Store clerk: You know you lucky! This is my last ham.
Narrator: Jackie smiled but her eyes spoke volumes. She wasn’t in a good mood. She fumed at the late start.
Jackie: No seasoned Caribbean woman would knowingly shop for essentials this late. But thanks God, Mother Luck is with me. I got the last of everything. The last ham, the last sorrel and even the last black cake. I don’t even have time to bake. Luckily, the ones at the grocery store taste just as good. But to be on the safe side, I’ll add lots of rum every day. I know Helen will bring slices of her fabulous Christmas cake and mine will be the reserve.
Narrator: Christmas Day. It was still dark outside when Jackie looked out the window, certain that snow covered the ground. Luckily, no fresh snow was expected. Time to prepare the Christmas dinner. Everything went smoothly. Jackie prepared the ham and started the glazing process after it was fully cooked. Then she returned it to the oven and applied the glaze a couple more times. She had just turned on the broiler for a few minutes to add colour when the doorbell rang.
Mike: I’ll answer the door.
Narrator: Jackie stopped to take a quick look around the living room before greeting the guests. She smiled. Everyone would be warm and cozy by the crackling fireplace. The pine fragrance from the garland on the mantle filled the room as lights twinkled on the Christmas tree decorated in a blue and white theme.
Jackie: Nice. Mike remembered to leave space for guests to place their presents under the tree.
Narrator: Mike’s mother, Rita, had a kind, giving heart. She came with a family friend.
Rita: Do you remember Beverly? Bev was alone so I invited her. Told her you wouldn’t mind.
Narrator: Jackie looked at Mike before responding.
Jackie: We’re happy to have you, Bev.
Narrator: Jackie moved closer to Bev and gave her a hug. Then her mind started to catalog the gifts under the tree, knowing just the one to give Bev. Everyone arrived in close succession. Jackie lost track of time as she asked the guests to place the gifts under the tree and handed the food items to Mike who rested them on the closest table. She steered the guests to the family room where she started to catch-up on the latest family gossip. She was taking drink orders when Mike touched her arm. He had his nose up in the air.
Mike: Is something burning?
Narrator: Jackie’s hand moved to cover the distress in her voice. Her eyes widened and she would have beaten Usain Bolt in a race to the kitchen. Black smoke poured out the oven door as if it were coming from a car exhaust. Jackie’s heart sank as she thought to herself.
Jackie (groaning aloud): Charred ham. My first Christmas dinner and it’s a disaster. What will everyone think? I did my best to prepare the ham especially for Mike and Helen.
Narrator: Jackie straightened and turned around and continued her internal dialogue.
Jackie: So many eyes! Are they judging, disapproving, and finding me wanting?
Narrator: Then someone laughed. Jackie’s spine stiffened. Everyone turned to look at the source. It was Rita. Did she find the situation amusing? Hurt and disappointment kept Jackie silent.
Rita: History is repeating itself!
Narrator: Jackie’s breathing remained suspended. Silence. Everyone waited for Rita to continue.
Rita: Would you believe it? The same thing happened to me. I burned the ham when I hosted my first Christmas dinner. It was a long time ago, but I was devastated, and it was years before I tried baking another ham.
Narrator: Her laugh was dry.
Rita: But my world didn’t end. In fact, the evening turned out better than expected. So, honey, don’t let this spoil your Christmas.
Narrator: Bev cleared her throat.
Bev: I wasn’t sure what to bring but thought that a few extra slices of Christmas ham would be okay.
Narrator: Rita lifted a hand and fanned away the remnants of smoke before moving closer to Jackie and reached for both her hands.
Rita: God always takes care of his children. Thank you, Bev.
Narrator: Jackie smiled her thanks, unable to utter a word at the turn of events. Rita turned her beaming smile on those in the kitchen.
Rita: Now, those who want ham can have ham.
Narrator: Mike chuckled, came forward and smiled as he placed an arm around Jackie’s shoulders.
Mike: Thanks Mama. Thanks Bev. Hey everyone! It’s time to relax in front of the fire and enjoy the season. But please give us a minute. We’ll bring your drinks to the family room.
Narrator: After the guests left the kitchen, Mike turned Jackie to face him and smiled tenderly, pulling her in an embrace.
Mike: Come here. You worked hard preparing for today. Sorry, I didn’t mention it before, but everything looks amazing. Thank you.
Narrator: He hugged her tighter.
Mike: I love you, Jackie. I only want you to be happy.
Narrator: Jackie breathed deeply and relaxed into Mike’s warm body. Her thoughts were peaceful and reflective as she laid her head against his chest.
Jackie: I love you too. Thank you and Thank God for family and friends. Someone will always come to your rescue, either by deeds or with words. I’ll dump the remains of the Christmas ham. But Mike, you and Helen can enjoy the ham you wanted. But most importantly, as the newest member of the family, I had lost my focus stressing about making the right impression and thinking that I wouldn’t measure up to your family expectations. I’m so sorry. The real joy of Christmas comes from Helen and Bev’s generosity, and Rita’s kindness. They reached out in love. They reminded me that we could share and enjoy each other’s company even when we are stressed from holiday shopping, travel, lack of money or the absence of loved ones. Their actions softened my heart and allowed me to recognize the real meaning of Christmas.
Narrator: Five minutes later, Jackie held a tray with sorrel and ginger beer while Mike carried the tray with wine and liqueurs. A smile lit up her face as they stood at the entrance and gazed at those gathered in their home.
Jackie: I’m also thinking of you. My wish is that we all make the journey to Bethlehem in spirit, giving of ourselves as a holy gift.
Mike: Merry Christmas from our family to yours!
The Christmas story was enjoyed by all attendees at the Dominica Convent Schools Alumni Association Event held on December 11th.
Thanks Angela for specifically creating the story for the association.
It was a clever idea to present the story in the readers theatre style.
The cast members did an excellent job: Solange Mohammed, Rosalind Severin McClean, Amah Harris, Angela Charles