Contemporary Fiction

The table was beautiful. They had all of my favorite colors. The balloons were pastel green and pink. The cake was the same with beads of pearl frosting along the edges and my name spelled elegantly in tufts of fluffy cream, “Happy Birthday Norma”. I was 80 years old today, and if I could have said I had a great life, I’d say it was mostly true. However, parts of it were not great. The candles flickered. They spared me from having to blow out so many. Instead of eighty single candles they opted for a giant single eight and a giant single zero and lit them up like they were rockets going to space. Some times I felt like I was lit and ready to go to space.

The grands and great grands got in there and helped me blow the candles out. After the cake eating, the family paraded and sat me in my recliner. I felt like a queen. I wanted to tell them to all get out, I’d had enough of it, but still I chose to just let them go on about their show. I was after all, the oldest in our family. They brought out gifts. There were many in showy bags with great mounds of tissue paper. Sparkles and ribbons were everywhere. My youngest daughter sat perched, on the edge of the arm of a living room chair, with pad in hand, to take notes for me. It was like she wanted to help me because she knew I wanted to write my thank you notes.

Once most of the gifts were opened, they brought one more out, this time from my son, Andrew. He told me that it was from all the children. I opened the box with their help.

“Happy, birthday Mom!” I heard them exclaim in unison. I looked at the machine, perplexed. It was pale green and had a cute little apple on it. I really liked the aesthetics, but I knew what it was, and there was no way they were getting me to use this machine. Every time, I got near one of these things, I felt like I was losing a part of who I was.

“Mom, Cathy wanted to be here for your birthday and she was still overseas with her husband just like last year. She wanted to video chat with you, but you still want to write letters. It’s not the same for her. She is in with the latest technology, and her kids use it for their school work. She wanted to show you what it looks like where she lives. Don’t you want to see her too?” Andrew asked me when he saw the look on my face that I was trying desperately trying to hide. It was that look of trying to show you love something you think you don’t.

I felt my hands begin to sweat. I told him and all my other kids there that of course I wanted to see each of them. I just wanted to hold on to my traditions. You wrote letters to those you cared about. You sent out thank you letters and thank you notes. You wrote invitations. You did not do all that on a fancy machine through wires. Everything was newfangled. If my way of doing things changed, would I change? If those traditions disappeared, would I disappear too?

They told me that they knew that every year the kids and grands and great grands sent me things. They wanted me to have a place to keep them. They saw my house filling up with the many pictures, letters, drawings. They didn’t want the house cluttered. They said that I could take photos with my phone and then dump the photos into the machine, they called a Mac. I told them it was not clutter. They were pieces of my heart there to remind me of what a wonderful life I have. I do not need to store them away somewhere never to be seen again.

When they explained that I could write all my letters on here, including all the notes too, and invitations to parties, and even make my own cards, I explained, that I did not need to. I was on retirement time. I had time to write these with my own hands, even if they were arthritic. The pain was worth the time it took to write those words because they came from me, and I meant every one of them. I looked around the room and I saw their eyes becoming misty. I hadn’t meant to move them. I was just trying to explain to them how I felt.

That’s when they dropped the big one on me about being able to video chat with the family. I told them I knew about video chatting a long time ago, but I couldn’t afford to do video chatting. I could just do it with a phone or a tablet. I didn’t need a Mac to do this or this giant machine. I could easily sit in my chair with the phone and talk to them that way. They needed to just teach me, but I couldn’t afford it. I didn’t have the money on my fixed income.

They all shook their heads in disbelief. They must have been thinking of how stupid they were. I was using an old flip phone. They probably thought, poor, naive Mother. We need to get her one of these newfangled machines, and make her use it. Why do they always do this? They always do. They look right over technology that is right there in front of them, when I would rather avoid all of it altogether.

“Would someone just get me an I-phone on their family plan and teach me how to use it to Face-time? The girls at the water exercising class told me they keep in touch with their grands that way,” I said to my family.

I saw a look of stunned expressions on every one of them. Chins dropped. Eyes seemed to pop out of their very sockets. It was as if they didn’t think I had friends who knew of technology or how it was used in everyday life. Andrew promised me as my oldest son that he would do this for me.

“If that is what you really want, I will take the Mac back and get you an I-phone,” he said boxing it up already.

I nodded. I cleared my throat, then spoke.

“You cannot box up mementos, drawings, letters, and keep them hidden. For there they do no good. They are meant to be shown. Drawings should be kept on cork boards or refrigerators. Letters are meant to be reread. Invitations are kept by the calendar. While thank you notes are hung by string and clips. These should be reminders of those you love and those who love you. I will fade out slowly, just like these traditions. When I do, I will be remembered, by each and every one of you, even when you no longer see me too.”

February 23, 2021 14:10

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