Thursday, October 25, 2007

Champagne wishes and caviar dreams

My in-laws are coming for Thanksgiving. If you know me IRL, you already know that a) I am a mousy, peevish hostess who does, indeed sweat the small stuff and b) my relationship with my MIL is a largely one-sided affair in which I pretend that I don't fully understand her innuendos and ever-so-slightly veiled insults so as to keep the tenuous balance of our family life intact.

In other words, the turkey isn't the only thing getting roasted this year, folks.

Thanksgiving is normally a rather casual affair for us, but I know that MIL will fly cross-continent with great expectations. None of which, mind you, are actually based on any interaction she has had with our family in the real world. MIL is well aware that my family is, by and large, vegetarian (except for Logan, who must be kept clear of cattle at all times, lest he actually sink his teeth into their flesh for want of red meat). This translates to a Thanksgiving table that doesn't exactly mirror the ones you see in Norman Rockwell representations; instead of a gigantic stuffed bird dominating our table, the centerpiece of our celebration is actually a rather tasty three bean and corn pilaf. We do, however, roast a small turkey breast for the occasion as a concession to Jo's desire that we pretend to eat like every other red blooded American family on that Thursday. Never mind that no one really eats much of it. For Jo, it's the thought that counts.

Which is precisely MIL's point. It's the thought that counts--and her thought is that we need an 18 lb. bird baked golden brown gracing our dining room table on Thanksgiving, so that's what counts.

MIL will also be disappointed yet again that I have no formal china. This was an issue when dh and I and I registered for patterns 12 years ago, and it still stands today as a monument to my lack of interest in formal gatherings. By golly, if she's eating turkey for Thanksgiving this year, it's going to have to be on my everyday
Mikasa dishes. Did I mention that I don't bring out a fancy tablecloth for Thanksgiving? That my serving pieces are mismatched? That I don't make that !@#! green bean casserole that everyone and my husband's mother loves so much?

How about the fact that we don't have a television and can't watch parades? Or (gasp) FOOTBALL!

As I always hasten to mention in these rants, my MIL is not an evil person. She is just a person that is so far from me on the spectrum of needs and wants as to almost exist in a separate plane. I am flannel pajamas, hot chocolate, cross stitching and children laughing. MIL is pantyhose, champagne, a dinner cruise and quiet adult conversation.

For further illustration, let me take you back to a trip we took with my in-laws when dh and I were engaged. The not-quite-in-laws rented a "rustic" cabin for us to all visit just prior to Christmas. They had stayed in the cabin previously, and commented over and over again how "far back" it was, how "quaint" and, again and again, "rustic." Now, you must remember that I grew up visiting a great-grandmother who had an outhouse. Knowing a bit about my soon-to-be-in-laws, I set the "rustic" bar a little higher, having already decided that there was no earthly way that they would be peeing outdoors. This is about what I expected:

A nice, cute, pest-free log cabin with a little porch for taking in the view. Not a bad way to spend a weekend in my book--especially not if it has a fireplace for reading around in the evening.

Of course, I was way, way, off. Here was my MIL's "rustic cabin":

Can you see the satellite dish or the gourmet kitchen from this view? How about the hot tub? I think, in retrospect, it was the decorative farm equipment in the yard that made it "rustic."

Clearly, we are different people, this MIL and I. Bound together by our love for a single man, we are now a family in the most uncomfortable of senses. Neither of us quite knows what to do with the other, even after 15 years.

I can't honestly say that I am looking forward to Thanksgiving. Just knowing what a high level of alert I will have to maintain during their visit is enough to give me hives. Topics to be avoided include: homeschooling, Christianity, politics, future plans, adoption, the children's interests, the Bible, my lack of gainful employment, war in Iraq, why dh isn't looking for a job in their state, why we don't call SIL, why we don't visit, why we don't have a bigger house, our nonprofit, missions in general, church planting and how we are raising our children. Yes, I think that about covers it.
My life, I mean.

Hopefully, this holiday will pass with minimal friction and much love and understanding on everyone's behalf. Hopefully my MIL can be satisfied with plain dinner dishes and paper napkins, and I can be happy with my kitchen table groaning under the weight of a turkey so large as to feed a family in western Africa for three weeks. Hopefully we can enjoy our visit together and actually give thanks for the chance to bask in one another's company.

Even without the champagne.


Darlin cousin! said...

"Be a duck" and go with the flow because a raging river can't be stopped: this is my advice.

I'd roast a turkey, make green bean casserole and consider hooking up TV so that mil can be distracted by something other that being critical of you! I'm sure if she wants it so bad, she'll pay for it and the bird(hee hee).

There's no changing her; just survive!

~ Angi :) said...

{chuckling!} once again, MG: First, at your candid ability to purge from the depths of my brain my very first Thanksgiving memory here on the beautiful, sunny, MS gulf Coast. No china, no mashed potatoes, no gravy, no green beans . . .and a meat item being passed as a turkey: Deep fat fried turkey (???) and POTATOE SALAD . . .on a PICNIC TABLE, OUTSIDE, served with (yep, you guessed it!) BEER! EGADS! I cried for a week (who WERE these people, anyway???)

and second, a stunning realization of just how strange I must seem to most: How about pantyhose, champagne, delighting in children and scrapbooking? Evidently I come in on the halfway mark of the scale of two extremes!! LOL

Chin up, girl! You can do it! :)

Sandy said...

Oh, wow. I'm praying for you. My dh family and I are practically from different cultures, so , I get it. Try to keep the conversation focused on her, people like to talk about themselves.

Sarah said...

Um, I still think yours will be better than mine. :)

Dawn said...

The way you describe things is so funny! My MIL think very differently about life also, just in other ways. Good luck!