When we last heard about Mother Mary, I was worried she wasn't using her oxygen, as the doctor ordered, and her nose was turning blue.

Well, we were on our way to a blue Christmas.

Because we stopped speaking to each other.

Here's what happened.

At first I didn't realize it. One day, I just noticed that since our conversation about the oxygen, Mother Mary hadn't called me. She usually calls every three days or so, just to say hi, but it had been about six days, and no word.

So I called her, wondering, but she didn't pick up. Still, I didn't suspect anything. It isn't unusual for her not to answer, because she naps at odd times during the day. In fact, she takes lots of naps. Because she doesn't have enough oxygen.

Because she doesn't listen to her doctor.

Grrr.

Anyway, a few more days went by, and one day, I realized she hadn't returned my call.

Hmmm.

You may think I'm slow on the uptake, and you would be right, but in my own defense, there are a number of reasons it didn't dawn on me that I was getting the silent treatment.

Number one, Mother Mary and I have never had a big fight. Ever. In all my 55 years on the planet, we have never gotten so angry that we haven't spoken to each other. We love each other, and mostly we agree on things. We're like two house cats that fuss, sometimes.

All mothers and daughters are.

Even Francesca and me. We get along great most of the time, and then suddenly, our claws appear. As fast as it starts, it's over. We work it out, like a catfight. Mothers and daughters are best friends, but occasional enemies.

Reason two I didn't suspect anything is that the Flying Scottolines are not big on the silent treatment. We much prefer the Yelling Treatment. Or the Nagging Treatment. Or the World-Class Guilt Treatment.

But not talking? It's against our religion. We're women, so we never shut up.

Anyway, to stay on point, I still didn't figure it out, on my own. Brother Frank's birthday came up, so I gave him a call and he told me:

"You're in big trouble. Mom's not talking to you."

"Really?" I couldn't believe it, and frankly, it got me angry. "She's mad because I told her to follow her doctor's orders?"

"Basically, yes. She said you were fresh."

Hmph. I wasn't fresh, I was right. So I did the only logical thing. I folded my arms, figuratively speaking. "If she's not speaking to me, I'm not speaking to her either."

"Hooboy," my brother said.

Happy birthday, Frank.

And so we were at a standoff. If she was boycotting me, I'd boycott her right back. Days went by. I thought about her a lot, worried about her more, and checked my phone for messages.

Mother Mary was standing her ground.

And then I realized, if I was facing Mother Mary in a standoff, I was going to lose. Because though we'd never fought, I'd seen her anger segue into a grudge, which is a different thing altogether. You've heard that matter can be a gas, a liquid, or a solid, but there's a fourth state.

A grudge, as held by Mother Mary.

Her grudges are more solid than any concrete. Her grudges could build fallout shelters. Granite wishes it could be a Mother Mary grudge.

I can be stubborn, but I'm still the daughter. In other words, it may be true that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, but the tree is still the tree, if you follow.

And an apple is no match for a tree.

Especially the Mother Mary Tree.

When the holidays came upon us, I felt my grudge beginning to wobble. I was still mad, but I was more worried than mad, and if something happened to her while I was boycotting her, this apple would become applesauce.

The holidays are the time we're most grateful for our family, however angry they make us. Or however silly they are for not listening to their doctors.

Families need each other.

Like oxygen.

So I called. She picked up, and I said, "Merry Christmas, Ma."

And she said, "About time!"

"I'm sorry I was fresh."

"I made another doctor's appointment. And if he says I have to use my oxygen, I will."

Which is her way of saying "I'm sorry."

So everything is going to be all right.

Happy holidays to you and your family.

Treasure each other, and listen to your doctors.

Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella's essays have been published in "My Nest Isn't Empty, It Just Has More Closet Space" and "Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog." Visit Lisa at www.scottoline.com.