It was just the two of us, seated at dinner. Alone on Christmas night. Dressed in our Sunday best. Candles on the dining table. Choral music playing.
“This is weird,” said my wife, slicing her turkey. “Not having Mother with us.”
“I keep waiting for her to call me on the phone. I keep waiting to wake up one morning and figure out it was all a bad dream, and that she never really died.”
“Is this turkey too dry?” she said.
“Are you kidding? This turkey is so good it’s got an R rating.”
“How about the gravy?”
“I could water ski on this gravy.”
“You like the dressing?”
“I want to use this dressing in the shower.”
She smiled. “Do you recognize the plates that we’re eating off of?”
My wife lifted a dish. It had a simple green Christmas tree painted on it.
“These are your mama’s plates?” I said.
She nodded. “We ate on them every Christmas.” Then she inspected the plate and her eyes began to turn pink.
“And,” she said, “do you notice anything about this blouse I’m wearing?”
“Your mom’s blouse.”
Another nod. “Do you
“This strand of pearls is hers, too.”
“The perfume I’m wearing, can you smell it?”
“I can. Was that your mother’s, too?”
“Yes. Do you like this perfume? Is it weird that I’m wearing an old woman’s perfume at Christmas?”
“I adore that smell. And there’s no such thing as an old woman’s perfume.”
She covered her mouth. Her head dropped. Her hair fell into her plate. She dropped her fork and her knife, and there was the light sound of sobbing. I stood and went to my wife. I wrapped my arms around her.
“She’s gone,” moaned my wife. “Why can’t I seem to feel that? Why do I keep thinking she’s still here?”
“I don’t know.”…