3.8.19 – 3.10.19

March 10, 2019

This isn’t a conversation with Maga, but it is a post about family.

My Aunt A had floated the idea of her giving me her mother’s china. She described it as simple but elegant. Creamy colored with gold accents and a rose in the middle. Would I like it? Knowing these bare details was more than enough for me to accept. The only catch was that I had to go visit her to view all the pieces and make sure I understood what I was getting myself into.

HA HA HA HA. That’s the catch? A weekend with my aunt and her husband? Down south in the middle of winter? (Yes, in Boston, March is a winter month.) Sign me up for this most delightful catch ever!

The china was lined up on their dining room table in all its glory. And it was glorious. The rose shining brightly on each piece of Rosemary’s china. The cranberry hue of the crystal glasses and the various shapes glasses don’t come in anymore. The delicately painted dessert plates.

The weight of responsibility settled over me. I could admire its beauty but was I worthy of it?

Aunt A went through each piece telling me about them as best she could. Her mother hadn’t acquired it all at once, but rather piece by piece over time. The china pattern itself is still produced today, but the crystal is not, nor are the dessert plates. The history of the pieces was thick in the room. Then we went through gaggles of pictures Aunt L had scanned and sent over, taking care to fawn over the pictures (usually Easter meals) where the china and crystal ware were being used.

Liz ayliffe van and rosemary at dinner table

Hearing these tales of those who came before me grounded me and helped me to understand more about myself and who has shaped me.

A little tingle started in my heart as the plates began to come alive.

Throughout the weekend, we spent much time in her kitchen. My Aunt A is a whiz, you see, in the kitchen. Any meal, all meals, A+. I was happy to sous chef in hopes some of that greatness and fearlessness would reach me through osmosis. The skills and proper cookware and perfect kitchen layout have yet to kick in, but what did stick is the purposeful way she moves around. The confident way she handles each ingredient. The way she reads through the recipes beforehand as if they’re a juicy novel.

And the way she always thinks ahead.

In preparation for the weekend, she’d asked me what foods I like and don’t. In preparation for the transition of a family heirloom, she shared its history. In preparation for me continuing to grow into adulthood and self-confidence, she tricked me into being successful in the kitchen as she stood nearby. In preparation for the transfer of the rose china from one owner to another, we had a meal of epic proportions on them.

I’d been learning about all the other meals on these plates, but now it was time to create one more memory. They were done being stored away. They were accessible and now in rotation.

My heart nearly burst at the transition. At the continued generosity of my aunt. At the amazing flavors of the dinner we’d prepared. At the friendly faces next to me at the table. At the way the plates shimmered in the candlelight. At the contradiction of super duper fancy china and regular silverware + glasses. At the thought this is okay to do it this way this is how I’ll use them this is me.

At the way these plates now felt like mine.



March 5, 2019

“How are YOU?” I asked.

“Coming up on 100,” Maga said.

Her downtrodden tone led me to, perhaps overbrightly say, “But that’s super exciting!”

“It is big,” she agreed hesitantly. “But I try not to get too undone about it.”

“I think you’re allowed.”

“Have you done anything interesting in a playful way?” She abruptly changed the subject. I guess closing in on 100 has left her subtleties by the wayside.

“Nope. Not so much.” I, also not so subtly, gave her no leeway. But also, I haven’t done anything interesting lately…well, scratch that. Anything interesting that she’d understand. I DID happen to take 3rd place in Beer Olympics this past weekend, but considering I had to repeat myself ad nauseum up to this point, I didn’t feel up to the taste of explaining drinking games to her or the fact I’m 38, unmarried, and sans children. (Not unhappily BTW but that’s another explanation I wasn’t up to either.)

“How long have you been at your job?” Maga tried again to engage me.

“12 years.”


“Why’s that?”

“That’s an awfully long time.”

“I’m a stable girl.”

I wanted to point her in the direction of the previous comment where I’d done nothing “of interest in a playful way” lately…stability = boring = not much to discuss on a Tuesday night. When you’ve lived close to 100 years, I guess you’re entitled to expect everyone else provide entertainment, but when you’re only close to 40, you have to provide your own entertainment, and since I haven’t been doing that in a manner appropriate for a 98yo to hear about, it left us in a rather boring loop. One I could only get out of by promising her I’d see her in less than a month for her 98th birthday. Hopefully that weekend we’ll both live life to the fullest so we can regal each other with (the same) tales.


February 25, 2019

“How are you?”

“I just finished dinner, so I’m still digesting,” Maga said.

“Ooh, okay.”

“How about you? Have you had dinner yet?”

“I finished just a little bit ago.”

“Are you a good cook?”

My response was to laugh out loud. “No.”

“What’d you have for dinner?”

“A baked potato.”

“That’s it?!”


“Oh, well, I guess that’s nutritious enough.”

“It’s the ‘I-just-bought-a-furnace’ diet.”

“What’s that got to do with a baked potato?”

“A furnace is a lot of money. My savings took a hit. Potatoes are only 79 cents per item.”

Maga’s response was to ask about the weather. I clued her in about the brief snow squall this morning and the crazy winds that blustered about all day.

“We got snow yesterday,” Maga said.

“How much?”

Maga’s caregiver confirmed the amount. “8.5 inches,” Maga repeated.

“Did you go sledding?”

Maga’s response was to laugh out loud. “My sledding days are long since over, plus there aren’t too many hills around here.”

My response was to let my imagination run wild with Maga and a sled, or as she referred to it, a toboggan. I guess my mind really ran amok and the silence accidentally piled up. Maga, with her non-sequiturs, took charge.

“Your mom was my firstborn.”

I shook off the lingering imagery in my head and addressed the practicality in front of me. “Yes, she was.”

“I’m impressed with the progress she’s made. She’s done well with whatever she undertakes.”

My response was not to argue. Everything she said was accurate (which is why I took notes on how exactly she phrased it).

Our conversation may have been a night early and it may have not followed a logical path, but it was full of laughter along the way.


February 19, 2019

“I’m sitting here writing some birthday cards,” said Maga. “And it’s snowing and horrible outside.”

“Good thing you’re inside and warm!”

“Yes, I guess so. How’s your weather lately?”

“It was very cold today. Snowed yesterday.”

“Have you gotten any snow lately?”


“I do not like the snow. Maybe it’s my age.”

“We’ve been lucky so far this year. Just a few little storms here and there.”

“Us too. It’s been enough, though not the great big heavy drifts and such. I do not like that. Oh, hey. Do you still do your Tuesday night thing with that crew?”

“No, unfortunately not.”

“Why not?”

I went into the finer, sadder details of why not, which I’ll refrain from repeating online since it’s not my news. Maga ingested the news, then asked if my boss had any kids, which had nothing to do with anything we were talking about…

“Nope, no children. Just dogs.”

“Some people would rather have a good pet, I guess.”

Not me, but I’ll refrain from repeating those details online as well.

Maga pushed me for more stories, more details, more excitement.

“I’m afraid I’m not very exciting right now. I’m living the just-bought-myself-a-new-furnace-financial-diet which is a lot of me sitting at home spinning the two pennies I have left.”

“Sometimes life is good. Sometimes life is boring.”

“I’m definitely in a boring slump right night. Maybe next week I’ll have something more interesting to say.”

“And maybe I will too,” Maga said.

An unofficial pact to live our lives here and now so that we’ll have oodles of tales for our Tuesday night phone calls.


February 12, 2019

“I’m watching something really wild on TV,” Maga said.

“What’s that?”

“It’s red and white.”

“What? That does sound wild!”

“It’s hard to keep up with things these days.”

“Trust me. It’s hard even if you’re not almost 98.”

“Is it? Oh, good.”

We then covered the weather and family news (trips and roads and fender benders) as the snow fell softly outside. It felt right that I was experiencing weather with the woman who always asks me about it.

“Well, that’s about all the family news I have,” Maga said. “Have you heard from anyone lately?”

“Just the Seattle crew. They’re getting crazy snow right now. A lot more than we are.”

“Oh. I had heard about that today.”

We discussed the details of more family news (lumps of snow and lumps on ankles and igloos) and ended with a promise to see each other next month.

“You sound good. Keep it up,” Maga said.

“You too,” I replied.