“Don’t you think you should turn out those lights?”

“What mom?” said Nicky.

“Isn’t that expensive having the lights on during the day?”

“Nah, mom. They’re energy efficient bulbs.”

She clamped her jaw biting back a comment. Her grandsons ran through the room chasing each other yelling. They looped around the sofa and bounded down the basement steps.

“Dad! Andy got into my new nail polish and ruined it!” his 12-year-old daughter screamed as she stomped into the room.

“Ah, honey. I’m sorry.”

She huffed up, “Well I can’t get more! It was a gift!” She waved her arms punctuating her words before rolling her eyes and disappearing down the hall.

“Kids sure are different these days,” Mrs. Huntington said.

“In what way, mom?”

“Well, we wouldn’t have dared to act like that when I was a kid.”

Nicky understood now. That was a jab at his parenting. He decided to let it go.

“Let’s look at these photo albums,” Nicky pulled an album out of a box next to his chair and handed it to her.

She opened it to the first page and said, “Where did these come from?”

“They are yours, mom. We brought them from your apartment,” he said using the word they had come to call her place at the assisted living home.

“Well, I wish you’d take them back there! How would you like it if someone went through your stuff and took it?” The vein in the center of her forehead was popping out a bit.

“Okay. I’ll take it back tomorrow,” he said knowing full well she would forget about it by morning. “Who is that in the picture?” He pointed at the book trying to distract her.

“I don’t know.” She said sharply, then looked closer, “Do you know who that is?” The redirect worked. She was a little confused now.

“I think its your sister, Annie.”

“Oh. Yeah. Annie.” She stared at the photo as though she was trying to connect the name in her mind.

Nicky’s daughter came back in the living room. “Mamaw, do you want me to put your Christmas presents in your room?”

“Yeah. Do that.”

“How about if I put your new coffee cup in the kitchen so you can use it?”

“No! I want it in my room.” Nicky could see his daughter trying to understand why she wouldn’t want it in the kitchen.

“Just put it in her room, honey. Maybe she wants to look at later.” Nicky said.

“Okay,” she said. She picked up the stack of boxes filled with presents and took them away.

“Nicky, where is Amy?”

“She is in the kitchen cooking Christmas dinner, mom.”

“What is she doing that for? We already ate today. We don’t need to eat again. It’s almost bedtime.”

“It’s 5:00. Its time for dinner. Besides, that grilled cheese at noon isn’t going to count for Christmas dinner. Amy is making a nice ham dinner for us.”

“Well I’m not hungry.

The phone rang and Nicky picked it up and chatted for a minute.Then he held the phone out to her. “Mom, Janette is on the phone. She wants to talk to you.”


“Yeah. Your daughter. She wants to wish you a merry Christmas.”

She took the phone, “Hello?” She said it with a questioning upward lilt. Then slowly answered, “Oh. Okay.” There was a short pause as Janette said something else, then, “You, too. Bye.” She held the phone out for him to take it back. “Annie said merry Christmas.”

“That was Janette, mom.”

“Are you sure? I don’t think I have heard from Janette in a while. You never hear from her. Don’t you think she should settle down? Is she married yet?”

“No. She isn’t married. She is busy with her job.”

“Well, I’ll tell you something, if I had to give up everything for a job, I’d never do it. You can’t tell her anything though. And then she doesn’t even talk to me on Christmas.”

Nicky stared at her while she went through all that and said, “Mom, she just called you.”

“Now Nicky! You don’t need to defend her.”

Mrs. Huntington clasped her hands and Nicky noticed moisture collecting in the corners of her eyes. “Are you okay, mom?”

She grimaced and blinked back the tears. “Its just– When did Joe die?”

“Three years ago.”

“Three years ago? And you’re just now telling me?”