“Ham for Dinner” (Forth Magazine)

A personal essay by Amanda Montell

It’s my great-grandmother’s 90th birthday dinner, and the grownups are in stitches. Howling, exploding, wine flying from their glasses. Uncle Charlie’s just told a joke, and it’s absolutely killed, rendering all two-dozen guests at the banquet table unable to catch their breath.

I’m five years old, tiny and green-eyed, sitting in the corner of my mother’s chair, and I’ve missed the joke entirely except for the punch line: “Mamie Eisenhower.” Amid the sounds of my own gnawing on a green bean, this name is all I’ve heard. It’s a mouthful, peculiar. Mamie Einsenhower.

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