- Kristan Higgins
Updated: May 6, 2022
Let the good times roll.
The other day, when my sister was visiting our mom, we decided to have a game night. Oh, readers! It was a combination of Trivial Pursuit and conversation starters, curated by McIrish, who clearly won the lottery because he got to spend the evening with the three Higgins women. We uncapped the wine, broke out the chips, made a fire, and settled in to battle to the death.
Mom killing it on Password with Joel Gray, back when I was a chubby toddler and my sister was a babe in arms.
Sainted Mother thrives on games. She is a two-time Jeopardy champion and, back in the day when game shows were filmed in New York, would bop down to the city and slay the competition. She won a car, a vacation, money, and a lifetime supply of Q-Vel anti-foot cramp pills. She is, in other words, a fierce competitor.
I myself am pretty good at trivia…I have what I call “cocktail party brain,” in that I can discuss almost any subject, at least a little. Football, World War II, Egyptology, even, on rare occasions, math. My beloved sister is also fierce and has a leg up on questions about art since she works in a museum. Therefore, answers such as “Cleopatra!” and “Broadway Joe!” and “Matisse! No, Toulouse-Lautrec!” were shouted from various points in the family room.
I, however, had an advantage, in that I’m married to the master of ceremonies. “I said it first,” I’d lie, and he’d nod and pretend to give me the win. We weren’t keeping score, and he knows where his bread is buttered, as they say. “Great answer, honeybun!” he’d say as my sister and mom groaned about the unfairness of life.
My sister’s most precious belonging.
It was the conversation starters that gave us the giggles, though. “What sentimental item would you save first in a house fire?” McIrish asked.
“The photo albums,” I said instantly.
“Nothing,” said my mother.
“My Snuggie!” my sister said.
“At which store would you most like to spend $100?”
“Kristan’s Market,” said my mother, previously unsentimental. This was the store her grandmother owned, a little corner grocery with uneven floorboards, sepia-colored freezers and a penny candy counter with hardened Tootsie Rolls and Squirrel Nut Zippers that could pull out your teeth.
My Hungarian great-grandmother in front of the store she bought and ran for decades.
“Did they have enough inventory for $100, though?” I asked. Mom probably could’ve bought the entire contents of the store for about $35, we speculated, fondly remembering dusty cans of green beans, loaves of Wonder Bread of indeterminate age, and, best of all, the chicken parts that were fused together with freezer burn and hope.
My grandfather would take out a dog-sized lump of poultry, pick up the cleaver and hack away, bits of ice and chicken flesh flying in the air.
At one point, McIrish pronounced France the French way. Mom’s less than stellar hearing had her asking “Where’s Frunk? Is it in Europe?” Hilarity ensued, with my sister and me suggesting that Mom call up her cousin and book a nice long trip to Frunk.
But it was at the end of the night that Mom laughed so hard we thought she might pass out, or indeed, die as she had lived, with a glass of wine at her side and her beloved daughters teasing her. You see, McIrish dared to pick up some plates and take them to the kitchen.
“Terence!” she yelled. “Don’t clean up!”
“Oh, it’s happening, Noël,” he said. “It’s happening!”
“Terence!” said I, pretending to be my mother. “Why are you so cruel to me? Why do you torment me this way? Step away from the dishwasher!”
Laughing yourself to death. Not a bad way to go.
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