Photo: Can you see the chip in the rim of this here bowl? Not a big deal, right? That’s what I said.
First, before I get into my little tale, I must start with an apology. Boy Scouts ate my weekend, starting promptly on Friday afternoon. I had planned my day for writing Quiet Thoughts in the evening, but crossed lines and mixed signals led to parents needing to be two places at once in order for two little boys to have fun at Scouts. Saturday was just as busy and Sunday just as busy still. All Scouts related. I’m so sorry, Dear Reader. I try not to let the Quiet Thoughts slip.
So, instead of waiting until this Friday to tell this story, I’ll tell it today.
You see, the bowl pictured to the left was Grandy’s bowl. It was her fruit bowl. Home to many an apple, orange, and banana over the years. I brought it home with me this summer and have been using it as a serving bowl. It’s the perfect size for spaghetti and meatballs, the hands-down favorite of two little boys. I think Grandy probably loves to know that the bowl gets so much use in service to her great-grands.
Anyway, last Saturday after the Greatest Birthday Party of All Time, I went to the grocery store to purchase meatball things, came home and got to cooking. Yes, that’s exhausting and ridiculous, but I’ll remind you that my in-laws were here. Cooking usually means that I don’t have to do stuff with my in-laws. This is not a bad thing, even if it’s exhausting.
My in-laws were here for a specific purpose: The Husband has been working on the downstairs bathroom and wanted some assistance with putting up the drywall. My father-in-law is pretty handy. We figured we’d invite the in-laws up to help with the bathroom and they could be here for Major’s big birthday. Pretty good deal.
Despite the fairly slow progress (they didn’t get nearly as much done as hoped), my father-in-law was pretty helpful. My mother-in-law… well, she did her best to make sure she was as uncomfortable as possible. I don’t know why she drives 8 hours from Maryland to come up here and make a point to not be comfortable while she’s here. She doesn’t want to talk, she doesn’t want to play with the kids, she just wants to stare at her phone or read her book at the dining room table. I, having learned my lesson from the other times she’s been up here, didn’t pay her not a bit of mind. I kept myself busy.
On Saturday night, I put the boys to bed and got into bed myself. The Husband stayed downstairs with his parents. Eventually they left (they insist on staying at a hotel when they come up here), and The Husband came upstairs.
“I have to tell you something,” he said. I barely looked up from the book I was reading. “Hm?”
“Mom chipped Grandy’s bowl. She said she is so sorry.”
It was one of those moments where the air goes out of the room. But the brain took over pretty quickly. He said chipped, not broke. And furthermore, “I fixed it! It’s not a big chip. I took some Gorilla Glue to it. You can still tell something happened there, but it isn’t that bad.”
I nodded. I was exhausted. There was church in the morning. And I really do try not to hate this woman. So I breathed and I turned my heart over to forgiveness and I said I’d look at it in the morning. What you see is how the bowl looks.
It is really and actually not a big deal. I told my husband so in the morning. I thanked him for fixing the bowl. All was well.
We went to church. The in-laws were met us there for service. She wouldn’t even look at me when I got into the pew. We listened to a great service, said the Nicene Creed, repented our sins and were absolved of them. Then came The Peace. I turned to my mother-in-law full forgiveness in all sincerity in my heart and in my face.
“I am just so, so sorry about the bowl,” she said.
“It’s not a big deal. I looked at it this morning and it’s–”
She threw up her hands, defensive. “We’ll talk about it later. We’ll talk about it later.”
“Ok, if you want, but it’s not a big–”
“We’ll talk about it later!”
Well, later came. After church, after everyone got changed and I was standing in my kitchen making everyone lunch. Here she comes, phone in hand. “I am so sorry about Grandy’s bowl.”
I stopped what I was doing, calm and sincere. “It’s really not a big deal. I’m grateful that you care so much, but it’s such a small–”
“It’s just that I know how much these things can mean to people and I think you should have that bowl forever. You should have it on your table forever.”
“And I will,” I said. “It’s just fine. [The Husband] fixed it and it’s really not that notic–”
“Well I was on the internet last night and I found this place in Delaware and people send there stuff there for restoration and I think you should send the bowl there.”
I snorted. “I hardly think that’s appropriate. Have you seen the chip, it’s not–”
“Well, I’ll send you the link. I’ll just send you the link. If you want to send it, I’ll pay for it.”
And then she she scurried away, a mouse running from a cat. Ten minutes later, she sent me an email with a link.
My mother-in-law has decided that I’m the antagonist in her own personal story. It’s a ridiculous thing and I don’t know why it happened. It has taken me years of working on myself to learn that this isn’t about me, this is about her. I cannot control the way she behaves. I cannot fix her. I don’t have time or energy to try. It’s hard enough to live here and do what I do. I don’t need her shit. I’ve removed people from my life for less.
What I do resent about my mother-in-law, however, is that she has successfully figured out how to make me feel like a monster in my own home. Her passive-aggression is so damn masterful that she has successfully painted herself as the ultimate victim. I can do no right. Even forgiveness is somehow aggression. It’s incredible and infuriating and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it.
My Quiet Thoughts would have been about apologies. I would have said that the lesson is that you should just say that you’re sorry and then accept whatever is given to you, forgiveness or rebuke. Just accept it if you’re truly sorry. I suppose that’s still the Quiet Thought, even if it simmers and stews, even weeks later. Lordy.
Anyway, it’s over. I still have my bowl. I have many items of Grandy’s in this house, and the bowl is not the most precious of them. I tried to explain that. If she’d have listened, she’d be fine. I suppose that’s the other lesson, which I tell my boys all the time: listen with your ears and not with your mouth.
I feel like there is a dude in Virginia who could use that bit of advice right about now.
Lordy. This world sucks at the moment, doesn’t it?
Be careful out there, Dear Reader. Until Wednesday, take care.