I am at a dinner table with two well-dressed older women, sipping iced tea before appetizers. One of them is my elderly mother-in-law, Mother Mary. The other is her younger sister, Aunt Cat.
There are sprigs of mint in the tea. Fine silver on the table. We are having a conversation.
At least, I think that’s what you’d call it.
“I just love oysters,” says Mother Mary, who wears a white blouse, pink pants, and a Life Alert bracelet.
“It doesn’t matter how they’re cooked,” Mary goes on. “I love oysters.”
“Me, too,” says Aunt Cat. “I love them, but I don’t actually eat oysters, I only like their smell.”
“The smell?” says Mother Mary. “Oysters don’t have a smell.”
“Yes they do,” says Aunt Cat. “I like the smell.”
“They don’t have a smell. Besides, you can’t love food just for its smell, you need to either sit or get off the pot.”
“I can like whichever smells I want.”
Mother Mary laughs. “That’s like saying you love Elvis only for his shoes.”
“I happen to like Elvis’ shoes. In fact, I’m pretty sure he sang a song about shoes.”
“No, no. You’re thinking about Nancy Sinatra. And her song was about boots. That song has always brought out my sassy side. I can be sassy.”
It’s about time I interject.
“Elvis DID sing about shoes,” I add. “It goes: ‘One for the money, two for the show…’”
“That song’s not about shoes,” says Mary. “It’s about his hound dog.”
So I show Mother Mary my cellphone to prove it. On the screen is a video clip of Elvis.
“See?” I say. “It says right here, the song is entitled ‘Blue Suede Shoes.’”
“Well,” Mary says, “I’ve never heard it called that, and I’m older than YouTube. And I remember that song when it came out on the radio. We were on the bus for our band trip, we were riding to Weeki Wachee to see the mermaids.”
“You’ve been to Weeki Wachee?” says Aunt Cat.
“You kidding?” says Mary. “The Brewton high school band used to go all over the world, I went to Mexico, Weeki Wachee, Flomaton…”
“Not me,” says Aunt Cat. “I came along later in life. By then, our band didn’t do nothing but sit on our butts, it was the pits.”
“Hey,” Mother Mary says, “that reminds me of the time when I bruised my tailbone.”
“When you did what?”
Mary nods. “Yep. It was at the pool, I was sitting on the steps trying to look all cute for a basketball player and I slipped and bruised my coccyx.”
“You bruised your what?”
“That’s what doctors call your tailbone. It’s called your coccyx.”
“No, I think you’re mixed up, women don’t have one of those.”
“We do, too. Your coccyx. I don’t know how you spell it, though. Maybe you can use YouTube for that.
“It was awful. The doctor gave me a donut pillow and everything, I had to sit on that pillow during class. I was taller than everyone else. The boys dang sure noticed me then, sitting on my fat old pillow. I think you spell it: C-O-C-C…”
“When I broke mine,” Aunt Cat explains, “I fell through a chair and hit the concrete. Doctor patted me on the shoulder and said you’re gonna feel that for a long, long time, honey.”
“C-O-X-Y… No, that’s not right. I don’t know, there’s an X in there somewhere.”
“The doctor was right, my tailbone hurt for months.”
“Hand me my book thingy,” says Mother Mary. “I need to know how to spell that stupid word. It’s driving me nuts.”
“What book thingy?” says Aunt Cat.
“The book thingy with all the emails and the internets.”
“That’s called an iPad.
“Hush. I don’t like that name. It’s indecent.”
“What could be indecent about an iPad?”
“Don’t keep saying that word, my son-in-law is present.”
“There’s nothing wrong with calling it an iPad, that’s what they call it on TV.”
“I don’t care what people do on TV, besides, I don’t watch anything but Chip and JoJo anymore. I think they had a baby.”
“Well, I’m not bringing you the iPad right now, because it’s almost time for dinner. Look, here she comes with our food.”
“Oh goody!” says Mary. “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.”
Mary sniffs the air.
“Hey,” says Mary. “What’s that good smell? Oooo, I can tell I’m gonna like dinner just by the smell.”
“We’re having oysters.”
“I love the way oysters smell,” says Mary.
Happy 79th birthday, Mother Mary.