“How many are you?” Maga asked.


“Now that’s a big happy group.”

“It is indeed.”

“The holidays are a good time for families to get together.”

“That they are. And what did Santa bring you?”

“Presents, candy, perfume, the usual.”

I knew my parents had given her an unusual technological gift, and so, yes, I was fishing for information because we hadn’t had a proper chance to talk the day before. Maga’s omission of that gift spoke volumes and yet was 100% not surprising given her age and disinterest in all things technology. Plus, I’d seen her reaction and confusion to it the day before / the way her 10yo great-grandson explained it with ease.

I reeled in the hard questions and allowed her to direct the conversation back to the weather and how many family members I was surrounded by.

“I wish you luck and success,” Maga said as we wrapped up the conversation with talk of the new year.

“I wish you love and good health,” I replied.



“How are you?” I asked.

“Well, I’m not the most sturdy or good of anything I’ve ever known,” Maga said.

“Oh no!”

“When you get to be my age…” And then she showed her years when she confused my earlier years with Sister E’s. “You basically grew up in that town that your sister and brother-in-law live in.”

“No. They live in [State].”

“Yes, yes. They live in [State]. I guess I meant your mom and dad.”

“Oh,” I chuckled. “Well, I only went to high school where my parents live. Sister E is the one who basically grew up there.”

“What’s the age gap between you two?”

“11 years.”

“Oh my.” And then she showed she was as young as ever. “What a surprise that was when your mom announced she was pregnant.”

I jumped on the familiar familial details from a new source. “Oh yeah??”

“It seemed like she’d gotten finished with that business, but not at all. What a surprise. A pleasant one.”

A happy sigh from us both.

“The more the merrier,” we said simultaneously.



With holiday surprises coming together under my fingers, I was feeling indulgent, so I allowed Maga her weather questions.

“I hate snow,” Maga said. “Is that showing my age?”

“If it is, then I’m 97 too.”

But that didn’t mean I couldn’t make some light-hearted jokes while doing so.

We then discussed the importance of family during the holidays, travel plans, and visitors.

“What day of the week is Christmas this year?” Maga asked.

“I think it’s a Tuesday. Oh, so that would make it exactly two weeks from today.”

“What’s today’s date?”

“The 11th.”

“11 + 14 is 25, so yes, exactly right. Good for you.”

Looks like Maga was feeling rather indulgent tonight too.



“I have a few decorations up,” I said, “one of which is a ceramic Christmas tree. It reminds me of one my mom has, so I’m absolutely in love with it.”

“That’s nice.”

“It’s my first holiday season having it up. It reminds of my childhood.”

“Those are some of the best memories of all.”

“What sort of decorations did you put up as a kid?”

“My childhood was kind of different. We didn’t have terribly big celebrations. It was just me and my mom. My grandmom would put up a tree.”

Maga’s statements were clipped. Unsure if it was her memory or her attention span, I pushed forward. “Were there any things you did as a kid that you incorporated once you were in charge of the holidays?”

“After I got married and it was Jobo and me and the kids, we’d hang up stockings on Christmas Eve…”

She trailed off. Talk about queen of the cliff hanger! Struck with deja vu, I realized it was both her memory and her attention span. My own mother, Maga’s daughter, often does the same thing when on the phone (hi, Mom, yes, we know you’re folding laundry and answering emails and putting dishes away all while talking to us), however, I had a feeling Maga, who’d gotten settled into her chair at the start of our conversation, wasn’t doing twelve other things. Perhaps my questions were stretching her limits. But after answering yet another question about the weather, I tried one more time for some new information.

“Did you have any favorite holiday foods?” I asked.

“Not really.”

“Oh! Did you used to eat pearl onions?”

“I guess we might have.”

“My mom always makes those and I thought it was something she picked up from her childhood because it’s not necessarily a favorite dish in our house.”

“Well, usually mothers hand down recipes to their daughters.”

It wasn’t a definitive statement about the holidays, traditions, family, or the secret ingredient in her (is it hers?) pearl onion dish, but, it wasn’t another question about the weather…