“Happy birthday, great-Grandma!”
6 year-old Madeleine took great pleasure in declaring this wish as often as she could. All day she’d run up to and plant a huge kiss on the older woman’s cheek.
Maizie hugged her great-granddaughter tightly. For Maizie, it was the milestone of a lifetime. Today, on Christmas Eve, she was turning 80 years old!
She was surrounded by all her family members who came to celebrate this magnificent achievement: her four children, their children, and grandchildren. With spouses and significant others, there was a total of 28 well-wishers in the house all day, eating, drinking, chatting, and generally just having a great time.
Maizie looked around the room at all the generations before her. She didn’t want a large party with too many strangers, just her immediate family. And here they were for this special occasion. Most of the guests had come in from out of town and many of the cousins had not seen each other in years.
Several family members were seated at a dining table for 10 along with Maizie. They were having after-dinner drinks and relaxing and winding down. Many of the younger ones were scattered throughout the house, playing video games, texting, or chatting.
Maizie felt very special that she was alive to see two great-grandchildren born into her family. So far, she had survived World War II and two husbands. She never wished to have a third. She had outlived the rise and fall of several empires. She had lived to see the world map change too many times to remember and was born in a European country that no longer existed. In fact, the country she moved to after she was married also no longer existed. She had survived bombings, invasions, expulsions, migrations, plagues, and childbirth.
“You know, I am very, very old,” Maizie reflected. “I’ve seen everything there is to see in one lifetime.”
“Salud!” one person at the table announced, and they all raised their glasses to Maizie’s good health.
One of her grandchildren, Dominic, 28, entered the room.
“Grandma, I know this is your special day, but I have some great news to tell you. You’ve inspired me to finally settle down and get married.”
Maizie was overcome with joy. Another wedding!
“Congratulations, Dominic! I’m so proud of you! How come your mom didn’t tell me? Who’s the lucky girl? I didn’t even know you were seeing anyone. Is she here?” She looked around the room. Her mind wasn’t what it used to be, but she was almost sure everyone she had met was accounted for.
From behind Dominic, an unfamiliar face emerged. Tall, slender, masculine. “This is Chaz, Grandma. We’ve just decided we’re getting married later this year.” All eyes turned to face Dominic and Chaz.
Someone must have sucked all the air out of the room, because suddenly Maizie was finding it very hard to catch her breath. After what seemed like an interminable length of time, she was finally able to respond.
“But he’s a– a– he’s — he’s a boy!” she stuttered.
Dominic’s mother interrupted. “They’ve been together for about two years now, Mom,” she informed her.
Dominic added. “We love each other.”
Maizie looked at the couple, first one, then the other, and back again. “Well, I guess I really haven’t seen everything in my lifetime after all,” she concluded.
She smiled and raised her glass to them. “What the heck? Welcome to the family!”
Someone at the table whispered to the person next to them: “Well, at least she never mentioned that Chaz was black!”