Anne Caryl

Page eighteen

A Christmas Poem
Merry Christmas. Are you kidding me?
About Me
The Gold Train Connection
Back to Reason
Virtual Art Gallery



Phil wanted to tell their parents about the baby as soon as possible. All day Tuesday, Macie bit her nails, dropped files and forgot names, dreading the evening confrontation with her mother. Karen Whitehall wasn’t a bad person. She was just incredibly hard to please.

"Raise the bar," she said repeatedly. "Set your standards higher."

Trouble was, the bar was already so high, Macie felt she couldn’t clear it. No dress fit just right. No friend was good enough. High grades could always be higher.

"Maybe that’s why you leave so many things unfinished, Mace," Phil told her one day, playing psychoanalyst. "Why you never have an opinion on anything. You’re afraid someone’s going to criticize you for it."

"And it usually happens. A lot of times, it’s you."

"Oh, don’t even go there. Can’t you discuss anything like an adult and not treat it as if you’re being attacked?"

Macie had started to cry then. Phil had taken her arms, as though he wanted to shake her.

"Don’t do that. It’s not fair. You force people to rescue you from things."

"Rescue me?"

"Make decisions for you, tell you how you should feel. That way no one can come back on you for it. Right? ‘Cause it wasn’t really your idea? You make me feel like such a jerk sometimes, Mace. You start a fight, then you back off, and suddenly you’re the victim and I’m the big bad…"

She hated to admit it, but she thought he was probably right. That didn’t mean she knew what to do about it. If she could just get him to tell her mother.

But she was home from work, the mail was sorted, and dinner started. If Phil walked in, she'd have to go through with it, no matter what. She couldn’t put it off any longer. Macie walked by the telephone for the sixth time, deep in conversation with herself.

"Pick up the phone, Stupid. It’s just your mother, not the nursing board. I mean, what can she say? What am I talking about? It’s not what she says; it’s how she says it. It’s what she doesn’t say. I can’t talk to the woman… I have to talk to the woman. Would you pick up the phone and dial?"

Finally she lunged at the wall phone, and pressed a speed dial number. After three rings, Macie’s mother answered.


"Hi, Mom. It’s Macie. How are you?"

"I’m good, Mace. How are you?"

"Umm, good, Mom. I’m good. Uh, how’s Daddy?"

"He’s well, too. Right now he’s downtown getting a haircut. What’s going on?"

"Well, I sort of have some news." Macie waited for her mother to ask what it was, but she said nothing. "Don’t get mad. Are you sitting down?"

"No, but I will if you want me to. Are you pregnant or something?" Macie’s mom laughed.

"What if I was?" Macie held her breath, waiting for the reaction.

"Well, at this stage in your life, it probably wouldn’t be the smartest thing you’ve done. I mean, you two are solvent, but that’s about it. You don’t have any real cushion to fall back on in case . . . On the other hand, you’re thirty-two. You’re not getting any younger. But what’s the news? Why am I sitting down?"

"That’s the news, Mom . . . I’m pregnant." Macie held her breath.

"You’re what?"

"Pregnant, Mom. I’m going to have a baby. "

There was silence for thirty seconds. Then the older woman coughed. "When are you due?"

"In the fall. Sometime around Halloween, I think. I haven’t seen the doctor yet."

Again, the silence. Then Karen Whitehall screamed into the phone. One loud, short scream somewhere between laughter and crying.

"I’m going to be a grandma. Me. A grandma. With a brag book in my purse and drawings on the fridge. A grandma. Me. Are you sure?"

Macie gasped. Tears gushed. "Pretty sure, Mom. I took a test, two actually. I’ll see the doctor as soon as I can get in. Mom . . . are you really happy?"

"Happy? Mace, Baby, I’m ecstatic. Your dad will be, too. Can I tell him, or would you rather call back?"

"No, Mom. You tell him." Macie pictured her reserved, proper mother sitting in her rocker, waiting for her husband to walk through the door so that she could break the news. She wondered if her mom realized she screamed into the phone when Macie told her. "Mom?" Macie whispered into the receiver, her voice catching in her throat. "Mom, I love you."

"Me too. We‘re going to have to get busy. We need to decorate a nursery. I‘ve got to get a layette bought. Let’s see. What colors will go with your house? Never mind. We’ve got time to repaint if we need to."

"Mom . . .." Macie’s voice tumbled into the flurry of words, like socks in a dryer, and disappeared. "Goodbye."

"Goodbye, Macie. I’ll talk to you soon."

When Phil got home, Macie was sitting on the stool by the phone.

"Why didn't you wait for me?" He ran a glass of water and turned away from the sink to face her. "Maybe I wanted to talk to her to, or at least be here when you told her."

"I wanted to prove I could do this alone. By myself," she lied.

Phil’s parents were easier to approach. Phil dialed the kitchen phone, Macie clicked her fingernails against the receiver of the bedroom extension. The first time Phil called, no one answered. They were, as they explained later, taking a shower. When he finally reached them, they both got on a phone.

"Hey, are you guys ready for some news?"

Phil’s father answered first." Are you coming for a visit?"

"Well, not right now. Second guess?"

"You’re expecting." Phil’s mom was matter-of-fact.

"No. I mean, yes. How did you know?" Phil sputtered.

"Madam Cleopatra."

No one spoke for a moment. Then Phil’s mother giggled. "Your mother-in-law called me. She thought I already knew."

Macie cleared her throat. "I’m so sorry, Mom. My mother sometimes takes things upon herself."

"Actually, she thought you probably called us first. She wanted to plan a baby shower. I don’t know if the grandmothers do that sort of thing. But I guess there’s always a first time."

"Well, it would be nice. We don’t have anything for the baby yet but, if my mother’s reaction is any indication, that won’t be the case for long."

After the calls, Phil sat cross- legged on the floor beside Macie’s chair. "What do you want?"

"You mean like boy or girl?" Macie caught her breath. She hadn’t let herself think about that. She wondered if that was intentional. If she thought the baby might somehow go away if she paid no attention to it. Boy or girl?. Maybe a little boy, like Phil. She could get him little Broncos football jerseys and tiny cowboy boots. Or maybe a girl, to dress in lacy clothes. Maybe one of each. "What if it’s twins?"

"Are there twins on your side? ‘Cause my cousin had two sets of them."

"If it’s twins, Phillip Stone, you had better plan on having one of them." Macie scowled theatrically at her husband.

"And how do you intend to accomplish that?"

Mace slid off the chair into his lap. "Like your mother said, there’s always a first time."

Before she knew it, the light faded. She stood and pushed the switch on the table lamp,

Red Arrow 4

Anne Caryl
504 East Furry St.
Holyoke, Co. 80734