Together they were feeding ducks at the pond. Not just the cheap, stale bread crusts, either. No, they was throwing out pieces of strawberries, fish sticks, and sliced roast beef from the deli.
“Can ducks even keep that stuff down?” I asked as I caught up to them.
“Why the hell not?” Grandpa asked right back with a gleeful chuckle as he threw a strawberry and hit a duck on the head.
I shook my head in amusement and took a seat at the edge of their bench. “So, how are you guys?” I asked.
“Just ducky.” Grandma laughed at her pun. It was so bad that I had to giggle too.
We three sat together, just listening to the ducks’ confused squawks as they tried to eat the food that was being thrown at them. It took several minutes before the food ran out and for Grandpa to chase the ducks away with his cane swinging and arms flapping. Once he sat down again, my grandparents scrutinized me, and I waited to hear why they had called me out to the pond.
“Becky, how old are you?” Grandpa asked. “Twelve?”
I smiled and said, “I’m fifteen, Grandpa.”
“Well, I was close,” he said with a shrug. “I always knew when your birthday was, though. Just not so good with the years.”
“When you’ve lived as long as we’ve had, they all start running together,” Grandma said with a wink.
“Don’t worry about it,” I said, grinning at their casual manner.
“Anyway, Becky,” Grandpa said, “your birthday is coming up soon and, according to you, it’s your sweet sixteenth. Got any plans?”
“Nothing definite yet,” I said. “I was thinking of going to see that new Johnny Depp movie with a bunch of my girl friends, then maybe go out to eat before heading home for cake and gossip.”
“That’s good,” Grandma said. “Plans are good. You should also plan on visiting us the night before your birthday so we can give you your gift.”
I blinked. “I thought we were doing that during the weekend. Mom said we were having a family party on Satur–”
“We’ll see you then too,” Grandpa said, “don’t you worry. But we have a very important gift to give you, and you must have it the night before your birthday.”
“Oh, okay.” I agreed easily, figuring I would ask Mom about her parents’ eccentricities later. Cheekily, I asked, “What is this present?”
“A talisman,” Grandma answered promptly.
“It’s a talisman,” Grandma repeated. “You know, one of those magical doohickeys. This one has been in our family for generation upon generation, skipping a couple here or there, like your mother. She doesn’t have the magic in her blood, bless her soul, but I don’t think she minds. You, however, are practically bursting with magic.”
“What?” I stared at my grandparents, wondering if they were pulling my leg or just really starting to lose it from their old age.
“You’ll get used to it,” Grandpa said with a nod. “We have an instruction manual for it that you’ll get, too. You’re a smart kid. I’m sure it won’t take you long to figure out how the magic works.”
“So, wait…” I shook my head, trying to comprehend what they were telling me. “Magic? Our family does magic?”
“The women do,” Grandpa said, sharing a smile with Grandma.
“Alright, fine,” I said. “What kind of magic does this talisman do?”
“It depends on the woman,” Grandma said. “The talisman let me grow a fantastic garden. You know how many awards my vegetables and flowers got in our community’s garden shows.”
I admitted that Grandma had a green thumb, but I figured that was just skill and luck.
“My Aunt Ruth was a superb swimmer,” Grandma continued. “The talisman helped her breathe underwater and glide through the water like an otter. And then there was her mother, Nana Lizzie, who understood every language she came across–”
I sat there frozen to my seat as Grandma raved about our ancestors and their supposed powers from this talisman while Grandpa listened attentively with a patient smile. Once Grandma was done talking, I forced myself to grin. “It sounds great,” I lied, not having the heart to dismiss their fantasies.
After all, magic wasn’t real… Was it?