The clang of dirty dinner plates being neatly stacked on the draining board halted a conversation’s flow in the smoky kitchen for about as much time as it took Maggie to reach into her cardigan pocket, pull out her packet of Major extra-sized cigarettes, purse one in her lips and light it, inhaling the first deep breath of her twenty-fourth of the day. The first after dinner is always the best. She had been smoking since she was sixteen, and never more than now at sixty-five years old.
Her husband and her three grown up sons retired to the living room to digest their food as always, and she was left in the kitchen with her three daughters for their after-dinner chat. They would have anywhere between fifteen minutes to half an hour before the men would return to the kitchen to clean the delft (Maggie always insisted that the cook never cleaned). The length of time depended on how many servings the men had dished themselves. Today Maggie reckoned it would be the full half hour.
She took a few more lungfuls of her Major extra-sized, and extinguished it in her glass ashtray. The weather was not particularly pleasant; it was cool, and there was a constant drizzle that kept the windows wet with little rolling droplets. She looked outside while in the comforting warmth of her home, and smiled to herself.
‘What’re ya’ smilin’ at Mammy?’ Claire asked, who was filling a kettle with water from the tap to make them all tea.
‘Ah… nothin’ really, just smilin’ to me’self.’
Her children were all fully grown, and had warm homes of their own. All were married, most had children, yet they would all reconvene here in the homestead of their childhoods from time to time to spend an evening with their parents and catch up on each other’s lives.
Wishing the moment would sit still, and knowing nothing lasted forever, Maggie took a snapshot in her mind of the girls, or rather women, chatting busily, paying no heed to their words meaning yet finding them comforting, like a warm blanket or a glass of hot whiskey. Without knowing it they gave Maggie the rare gift of utter contentment. She had done a good job.
She reached into her cardigan pocket, pulled out her packet of Major extra-sized cigarettes, pursed one in her lips, and lit number twenty-five just in time for her cup of tea.