Not so long ago, a long-distance phone call was just for Christmas, and over-sharing wasn’t always caring.
longdistance family time
Isipped an early cup of tea and turned on the computer to check my emails. There were five headed MUM in capital letters. Clearly I’d done something wrong.
“You pressed ‘reply all’ again!” wrote the first one. “You’ve been planning Christmas without talking to us! We’re not 10 years old any more!”
Damn! The email was supposed to go to one at a time. I wanted to tell them, gently, that I was “doing” Christmas and didn’t need any help.
“We do things the same way every Christmas anyway,” I pointed out to the MOTH (Man of the House). If you don’t count the legendary “sugared almond” fight of 1998 and the year the Christmas tree fell on the cat, things have gone pretty well.
“And we always FaceTime Ruff Red and Rebecca in New York despite the 14-hour time difference. They watch us sip chardonnay and we watch them eat Coco Pops. It works!” Then we eat and drink and talk until somebody realises, a bit late, that red wine and pavlova are not a good pairing, which is when everybody goes home.
I swore on a stack of A4 paper that, in future, I’ll pause before “sending”.
“Now stop calling me ‘Donna’ Trump.”
“Maybe you keep in touch a little too much,” the MOTH said mildly. “Ruff Red thinks someone’s died every time you ‘message’ late at night.”
My parents believed long-distance phone calls were for Christmas and catastrophes only. I still clearly remember one of my last Christmas calls to Mum.
“Hi Mum, it’s me!”
“Nothing! Merry Christmas!” “Thank you dear. How are the children?”
“They’re fine! How are you?”
“I told Dr Stewart any more chest pain and I’ll take myself to hospital.” “Chest pain!”
“Yes. But compared to the arthritis and the migraines the chest pain is a walk in the park. Did you hear what happened to Mrs Bolton?”
(Mrs Bolton was my piano teacher.) “Her nephew married the Creelman girl. The younger sister got into some trouble but I didn’t like to ask about it and then she died.”
“The Creelman girl?”
“Keep up dear! Mrs Bolton died!” “I’m sorry to hear that. Was she still playing the piano?”
“Of course not! She was sitting in a chair, stone cold dead.”
“Mum, Den says this call is costing $15 a minute.”
“He was always good with figures.” The MOTH paced around the kitchen, joggling the baby. We lined up the other four and passed the receiver from one to the other so each child could wish the grandma some of them had never met a Merry Christmas.
But we couldn’t squeeze a gurgle out of Ruff Red.
“He’s smiling at the phone, Mum.”
“I like the quiet ones,” she said, before adding, “Robert says Merry Christmas too.” “Robert?”
“A new friend, dear.”
“Way to go Marjory!” whistled the MOTH quietly.
We watched the kids fossick about in the presents under the tree. It was almost Christmas. Time to smooth over the cracks of another year.
“They watch us sip chardonnay and we watch them eat Coco Pops.”