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.
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?