I call my mom and I have enough time to talk - I'm not really rushed - but I kind of have to triage topics. We have to move quickly along, not hover too long on topics that get her ire up. Like the Holocaust. Or the Nazis.
But there are other, less obvious topics on which she can wax and wane, topics that are not always so obvious. Like food. My mother would like nothing better than to regale me for hours with an unending litany of all the food she and Stepfather eat each day - no detail is ever too small. If I could just remember not to ask her what she's eating, to stay clear of that trap, everything would be fine.
We're on the phone and it's 5:00, which in the time zone pulsating around my mother's house means it's really ten o'clock PM. I've called too late. She and Stepfather need to eat and rush off to bed. I realize my error.
"Oh, sorry, Ma. Do you need to go eat?"
"Eat? Bob and I don't eat."
"For dinner tonight we're sharing a potato."
"Between the two of us."
"You can't have two potatoes?"
"Oy! We could never eat so much."
"Well, okay, Ma, I'll talk to you tomor-"
But she's just warming to the topic.
"Do you know what we ate for breakfast?"
"A boiled egg."
"One boiled egg?"
"For the both of us."
"You couldn't each have your own egg?"
"We can't eat so much. We're not young like you."
It's good to hear that I'm young, especially since I'm turning fifty in five months.
"Well, Ma, I've got to go-"
"And lunch. Do you want to know what we had for lunch?"
"Well - "
"One small salad. For both of us."
Then I realize that if I just give the right answer, it will give her recognition for being the least hungry, most meagerly eating woman on the planet. So I express amazement.
"You don't say?"
"Yes. One small salad."
"One small salad?"
"One small salad."
"Well, I've got to go now, Ma."
"Good. Bob's got our potato on the table."
"Don't eat too much."
And there's a click.