Friday, April 3, 2009


This trip to the MIL's is, as always, wigging me out. I won't take this opportunity to complain too much specifically about the MIL (won't I?) because we've come to a place of reasonable peace. But I will say that she's the sort for whom nothing is ever good enough--and in the early days of my motherhood, it was my mothering that was in question. I was way too insecure to take a stand on my own behalf, and just say, "I'm the mother, and this is the way I do things." No, instead I was driven crazy between trying to assert myself on behalf of Hedgie, and then feeling embarrassed, neurotic, and apologetic. When I think about it I become super pissed off--it's almost as if she sensed my weakness in this area, and deliberately tried to do me in--if I was a paranoid person, I'd think she was almost enjoying my discomfort.

Things are a little easier now--I'm a much more seasoned parent, and then too I've learned to let go quite a bit where Hedgie is concerned.

But seriously the MIL's house is a gilded cage. It's huge, and ostensibly we have our own little wing to haunt there, but if you so much as crack a window to get some fresh air, a discreet little alarm goes off and a light lights up and then you are questioned: "Was it too hot for you? Should I put the air conditioning up a few more degrees?...did you remember to close the window when you were done?" Done with what pray tell? Done with fresh air? A breeze? A sense of personal freedom? Adult decision making? Self-actualization?

Yes, I suppose for the duration of this visit, I am done with all of those things. The earlier in the trip that I make my peace with that fact, the better off I'll be. There is no sense in chafing at the bit, trying to establish one's needs, wants, ground rules. Better just to go along, to do as one is told, to put on one's sunny face as one is kept on a very short leash, kept to a martinet-strict schedule of "fun" and activities. No lounging about, no taking in the sunshine, no going to see a matinee or driving around aimlessly enjoying the Texas spring. No. There are places to go, many many specific places, random distant family members to show Hedgie off to, lots and lots of appreciation to show.

Oh, I'm on a roll. But I'll stop here. Instead, let me strategize. What can make this visit less terrifyingly oppressive?

1. My knitting. For non-knitters, this won't seem of great import, but for the knitters out there, you know how a project in hand is worth a price above rubies. With your knitting needles you can stake your claim to your place in the universe. It speaks to a hope for a future beyond your prison sentence. Your finished project will see the light of another place, another better time. And besides, it gives you something to do so you won't go mad during the endless chatting.

I'm bringing the half-completed two pairs of socks for the sock contest, and for those times when I can't concentrate on counting stitches, I'm also bringing along a simple afghan with crochet hook.

2. My ipod. Can she really lay claim to my soul when more potent purveyors of soul-claiming have already done so? For some reason, a little listen to the Velvet Underground's "Loaded" late at night in Texas really helps.

3. My computer. With my trusty aircard, I can blog from anywhere really. I knew I had a reason for not becoming a Luddite.

4. A bottle of wine, or two or three. This is a new plan I had for this year. MIL is an outspoken teetotaler, and I think we need to wet down the dry household. Drinking in the evening. Me and Sarge. We'll blur the sharp edges together over juice tumblers of something. Or just beer--from the bottle--she hates to see a lady drinking beer from a bottle.

5. A DVD of something funny, to cackle over in our room.

6. My Judaism, clutched about me like a cloak of invisibility in this bastion of Roman Catholic (the immediate family) and Baptist (everyone else). Not that I have anything against these denominations, but I do believe that although MIL knows, Sarge's extended family has yet to understand that Hedgie and I are actually Jews. We practice it, we're really Jewish. Not just along for the ride of another faith. (I often think how jolting it will be when they receive invites to Hedgie's Bat Mitzvah). It's Passover week, and I'll be brandishing the Matzah like a machete.

7. Some sort of vintage erotica/s & m classic to review for Just a Housewife. I was thinking of doing some de Sade next. Perhaps I'll bring along my copy of "Justine."

8. A sense of humor. It tends to dry up when the plane lands in Austin. Let me hang onto it like grim death.

9. Tranquilizers.

10. I'm stuck. Any ideas out there people? Something to bring along, be it tangible or intangible, that will help me hang onto my last precious shred of sanity for the ten days of incarceration?


Anonymous said...

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MJ said...

The Penis Book!

(Not-So) Cynical Gal said...

Hope. I see all of these items as hope. So bring some of that stuff too.

Megan said...

Me! Bring me! :)

The phrase endless chatting struck me forcibly. Made me think about all the game playing we do when we get together. Easy to avoid the chatter when you're in the middle of a game.


just bob said...

Hi Leah!

Leah said...

MJ--perhaps the Penis Book would bring comfort in this my darkest hour...

NSCG--you're right. And I will bring some extra.

Megan--I wish I could. But trust me, you don't. Maybe I should start to see the chatting as a positive--at least the MIL is trying to connect! In her way.

Bob: Hi Bob!

savannah said...

will you have a car? sugar, if i'm reading this correctly, y'all are gonna be in A-U-S-T-I-N the absolute crazy capital of texas! carr y'all's dear self around town, honey and have some fun!

of course, seriously, y'all will have to preface all of this by saying, "i'd thought you and my dearest sarge would love spending some time together this trip..." has little miss hedgie discovered her "whatever" skills yet? could she practice those on grandmama? or, if none of that is possible, do what i do when i'm in the company of my SIL aka shewhoknowsitall, carry a flask and smile. xoxoxo

Jimmy Bastard said...

Bring along your sense of humour and a corkscrew. You can always rely on either to keep your spirits up.

If that fails, get someone to call you with the news that your house is on fire. (god forbid)

Remember, it's only 10 v - e - r - y long days before you will be free to come home!!

Anonymous said...

Oh Dear Leah...I feel for you. Just think to yourself, "This too shall pass."

You will make it through. And someday we will be the MIL. YIKES!!!!!!!!!

Brian Miller said...

brandishing your matzah like a machete...priceless.

feel for you, although you seem to have some great ideas. usually really on a healthy does of books to help me make it, and my wife is gracious in allowing me to escape periodically.

Emerson Marks said...

The Velvet Underground? Get in!

If you're taking the penis book, a king size jar of KY jelly ought to ruffle the monster-in-law's feathers.

Lisa said...

I had something witty to add until I read Emerson Marks' all I can do is giggle and agree whole-heartedly....

Old Knudsen said...

10 days is the waiting period to buy a gun here in Callyfornia it is a terrible wait.

You enter her home and so you have given yerself up to her hoose rules.
A little family imposed sacrifice just don't give a fart too much and remember what Old Knudsen says, "If he looks dead another shot to make sure wouldn't hurt him any."

Enjoy if you can for life is short and take plenty of pictures.

If it wasn't for Texas and Florida I wouldn't have stupid moron stories for my news blog.

Keep practicing yer Jew voodoo thingy some day you may be good enough to make money at it.

So ........... Sarge's foreskin.

Anyway when a Jew man dies is he reunited with his foreskin in the afterlife?

Anonymous said...

Justine? Why not Anais Nin? You could bring a Thora and insist that it's the real bible, not that translated trash. Some Marx brothers together with the wine. Is there a Bethaus in Austin, or did it accidentially burn down last night? Is there a Jewish history of Texas, like: "Texas, how it really was won"? Questions abound ...

Anonymous said...

Old K.
Jesus' foreskin is revered somewhere in Italy.

Baino said...

Ten days? I think you've got it covered. Love the idea of you two getting pissed and her watching on disapprovingly. Ironically, Catholic priests can do just about anything but have sex . . you should see their booze fridges!

CSI Seattle said...

Oh Leah, please. The answer is simple. Listen carefully:

Everytime the MIL makes you uncomfortable, scream uncontrolably and smash yourself in the side of your head with your open hand repeatedly.

After a few responses like that, she may suggest that you go home early.

This technique worked for Rainman, and it will work for you.

On a cautionary note; if you feel compelled to buy your underwear at K-mart, and must have access to a television everyday at 3:00pm to watch Wapner on The People's Court, then you are hitting yourself too hard.

merelyme said...

I am SO sorry. In the meantime...entertain yourself with Young Frankenstein. I fell in love all over again with my husband watching him watch it. It is priceless.
Every time MIL annoys you your mantra should be, "it is because of this woman I have my husband". That then will help you appreciate her or give you an excuse for the bottle. ;)
And whatever you do, "Don't put the candle back!"

Sarah said...

The question that strikes me is, are the tranquilizers for you or for her?

Leah said...

savannah--we'll be in San Antonio actually, for the duration of our stay. But perhaps I will do a deluxe escape at some point. But I'll be sure to carry the flask and the smile at all times!

Jimmy--can I use the corkscrew to surreptitiously jab people?

Random--I often think about how I'll be the MIL someday and I will probably piss off son-in-law (well, or daughter-in-law, I don't discriminate!). Actually, I worry about this. I know that my MIL had a rough time with her MIL, so that really gives me pause!!!!

Brian--you see, it is all in the periodic escape, you're right. The problem is it is so difficult to negotiate use of the car. Maybe the alternative is to let them go off for the day...

Leah said...

EM--you a Velvets fan too?
As for the KY jelly and the Penis Book, well, I'd hate to think of the guy who randomly goes through my luggage as they sometimes do...

Lisa, LOL, right?!

Old Knudsen--I really look forward to the day when I can hang out a shingle and practice the Jew voodoo professionally. I just have to come up with a name for my business...

as for the foreskins...well, I just shudder to think of all the foreskins that end up in the landfill, but at least they biodegrade. As for being reunited, well...what an image!!!

mago--I've never read any Anais Nin, good suggestion. And Hedgie would probably love the Marx Brothers too!

So Jesus' foreskin is in a reliquary somewhere? Now that's a pilgrimage I can get behind!

Leah said...

Baino--you're probably right, I've got a lot of bases covered here! As for the booze, Sarge remarked that he didn't trust himself in that situation with a head full of spirits. Looks like it'll just be me getting tanked.

CSI--now, how to achieve just the right level of self-inflicted head-banging? It must be hard enough to horrify but not so hard I end up watching Wapner...that's a tall order, my friend. But I'll give it some thought.

merelyme--I LOVE "Young Frankenstein." Great idea.

Sarah--the tranquilizers are for me; the tranquilizer gun is for her.

Auntie, aka cagny said...

by the time you read my comment, you will already be deep in the lion's den.
how are you holding up honey?
i would have brought the EXACT same things in my survivial pack.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Hi Leah!

Knitting, books and vino would have it covered for me.

Shocked by RC's comment someday we will be the MIL Now that's a scary thought :)

Ronda Laveen said...

A stick to put up the MIL's wazoo? Oh, so sorry. She apparently already has one of those. MMMmm. Let's see...Some sort of imaginary retribution for each of the 10 days. I think that would be in order. After all, it is only imaginary.

Holy cow! Those 10 days could have been your last Theme Thursday post. Ten days of the MIL!

Old Knudsen said...

Holy foreskin Batman!

The hospitals used to encourage circumcision as they sold the skin to others for burn grafts, now they don't do it for free and so its parent a choice, mutilate or not to?

Mrsupole said...

My MIL lived near us on and off, you should be glad it is only for a few days every so often. Mine swore I was taking her son away from her. She finally apologized for all she had done about six months before she passed away. Then we got along great, she was always mad at hubby if he did not treat me right. I wish she could have been here longer after that apology. Your MIL probably thinks the same thing because your FIL is no longer with her. Her son is very important.

So every chance you get just go up to her, hug her, give her a kiss on the cheek, tell her you are so glad she is in your life and you love her so much. Thank her constantly for letting you come visit with her. Thank her for everything. This will really shock her. Win her over with kindness and love. Then she will soon be avoiding you.

I am one of those MIL's and my SIL tells my daughter that if they ever get a divorce he gets to keep us. I guess he is so lucky he got me for his MIL. He always calls me when he has problems and needs someone to talk to. Calls hubby and says he misses him. They only live 8 miles away and he wants to come spend the night. So the good news is that not all MIL's are bad.

I was so touched with your story about FIL, maybe she wants that kind of relationship with you and just does not know how to have it.

Yup, just give her lots and lots of love. Tell her you brought it with you. Hope things are going well there. Remember the Alamo. Take a stand and fight for her love.

God bless.

kylie said...

i wish i had some enlightening comment for you but i dont.
some things just have to be lived through.
good luck!

Cece said...

I like CSI"s idea. Could you imagine the look on her face when that happened? PRICELESS!!!!

Anonymous said...

You could bring Reed's "Ten days" and read it loud after dinner ...

The Idle Devil said...

A little voodoo doll? :)

Brandy Rose said...

Make multiple trips to "the store" for supplies and such. (the store can mean the bar, the park, anywhere but there.)

Suzanne said...

Hi darling.

Of course I'm here.