72 year old Mary MCDonnell is dreading the Christmas holidays this year. For the first time in 19 years she finds no delight in decorating the tree, writing out Christmas cards and planning menus.
It is a McDonnell family tradition that Mary's son, Ian and his family, spend the Christmas period at her home in Richmond, Virginia.
Each year Ian, his wife, and their two children, Bethany who is 18 and Lonnie who is 15 make the 5 hour drive from Charleston, South Carolina on Christmas Eve and stay with the widowed Mary until New Years Day.
Mary is delighted when her son and his family come to visit.
But not this year.
Three months ago 18 year old Bethany got herself a tattoo.
It is, she believes, a fashion statement, the discreet small heart that now adorns itself on her ankle, she believes, is cute.
Mary is dreading what her friends at her local church will make of Bethany's tattoo. How will her neighbors react when they see the tattooed teen?
She is dreading the indiscreet glances, the whispering, the mild indignation.
"It is terrible" said a fraught Mary "I can't believe a grandchild of mine has gone and gotten a tattoo! She looks awful. Everyone, all my good friends will now judge me on her tattoo. It is utterly embarrassing."
Mary is not the only Grandparent dreading the arrival of grandchildren for the Christmas season, up and down the country worried 'old folk' are preparing to encounter boys with earrings, long haired adolescent males and tattooed granddaughters, not to mention the pierced navels, noses and lips.
"What are they thinking?" muttered a forlorn Mary, as she gazed into space, a tear filling her eye.
She shook her head before displaying a false smile and continuing with her household chores "Oh well" she shrugged, "Oh well".