My first mother-in-law was an. . . erm. . . very complicated person. Oh, to hell with reticence. She was horrible. In all the years I was unfortunate to know her, she never managed to open her mouth without saying something excruciatingly mean. She was also cheap to the point of ridiculousness. Let me tell you just one story about her to help you understand the kind of person she was (and probably still is because nobody changes dramatically at her age.)
When A. (her son) and I got married, he came to live in my apartment. Everything in there was mine: the furniture, the drapes, the pots and pans, the crockery, the cutlery, the bedding – everything. The poor guy wasn’t allowed to take anything away from the house where he had grown up and where everything had been bought with the money made by his late father. Mind you, A.’s family was a lot richer than mine, yet he ended up having to accept a suit of wedding clothes and a wedding ring bought by my mother because everything he had was taken hostage by my mother-in-law.
A. still wanted to feel like he contributed something to his new household, which is very understandable. So he brought a fairly old table runner and placed it proudly on the table in the living-room of our shared apartment. I can’t say I was too crazy about the runner, but I could see it mattered to him to have at least one thing that belonged to him in his new life.
Then his mother came to visit us. She walked around the apartment looking like, in my mother’s apt expression, somebody had placed a pile of shit in her pocket. Nothing was to her liking. The apartment, the furniture, her son and I were equally disappointing.
And then she saw the table runner.
“Is that MY table runner?” she said in a terrible whisper.
“No, it’s my runner,” A. responded. “It was given to me by grandma and I wanted to have it here to remind me of her.”
“You took it away from MY house!” his mother bellowed as her eyes bulged out. “This is how things begin. First, you take a table runner and then you steal everything your elderly mother has. My own children are robbing me blind! I will die alone, in the streets, begging strangers for a piece of bread!”
“Mom, it’s just a table runner,” A. mumbled.
“Who taught you to steal things from me?” she continued yelling. “Did Clarissa teach you to do that? Or was it her mother’s idea? I always knew those Ukrainians were crafty!”
“I think we should give the table runner back to your mother,” I suggested to A.
“No!” he suddenly exploded. “I want to have my grandmother’s gift in my apartment and I will have it!”
I realized that things were getting too tense for my liking, so I cleared out and let mother and son discuss the table runner for the next 40 minutes.
The table runner stayed with us but it brought no joy because every time we saw my mother-in-law she would ask in a tragic voice, “So how is my table runner? Are you, at least, taking good care of it? I miss it so much!” All this was said without a trace of humor.
I know you are now thinking that there is no way this story could be true. This is because you never met my first mother-in-law and have no idea that this was one of her nicer moments (I mean, she did let us have the table runner, after all.) The rest of the time she was much worse.
I’m happy to report that my second (and, hopefully, last) mother-in-law is a vast improvement on the first. From what I hear, she is not a huge fan of Ukrainians either but she doesn’t come to my house to share those feelings, which is good news already.
She is also a great fan of my blog. Of course, a person who enjoys Clarissa’s Blog is, by definition, a worthy human being. Mother-in-law made two requests for blog posts. One is that I write more about my personal life. Curiously, my personal life these days happens exclusively with her son who is a very private and reserved person. Which means that I find it hard to honor that request. The second thing she asked for was to see photos of our recent trip to Punta Cana on the blog. So to honor the cause of good mothers-in-law everywhere I will now be posting photos of that trip with my insightful commentary.