Sunday, January 2, 2011

Take Me Home, Country Roads, Part Deux

Just got back in town!

This is a re-post from January '09 because when it comes to trips to the in-laws, I'm nothing if not predictable, and if there's ever an excuse to include a pre-40 year old photo of myself, I'll take it:

Sorry for the blog silence. I’ve been holed up in a house w/ 7 kids, 6 adults, one dog and a hermit crab for the past 6 days. I’m kind of glad I couldn’t blog at my in-laws, because I would have come off as a raving lunatic, or at least more of one than usual.

I needed to get back home and get a little perspective before filling you in on my week. See how happy I look in my own kitchen?

Trips to the in-laws always seem to go like this: I work myself into a lather packing for the household. Laundry, pack, schlep, laundry, pack, schlep. When we get there, my first strategy is to hide out in a back bedroom reading books 24-7. This is not to protect myself from them, but to protect them from the raging b-rat I become every time I’m there.

I find myself cringing at everything anyone does. I play a little game in my head called “That’s where Tom got that annoying habit.” I feel rebellious. If they are talking politics, I feel like yelling, “I voted for Obama!” If they extol the virtues of health food, I rip open a bag of chocolate and strap on my feed bag.

Underneath my rolling eyes, moaning and groaning, I think what I’m doing is trying to punish them for not being my family of origin. As if to embrace them fully and their way of doing things will somehow negate my experience of “family.” The thing is, ever since my mom died, twenty years ago, my family hasn’t exactly been all sunshine and roses, so why am I comparing, and judging, and punishing these kind, lovely people who have never been anything but good to me?

But still.

By day 2, I feel the need to flee. Unfortunately, I’m 7 hours from home and have never bothered to plot an escape route. The idyllic country setting begins to feel more like a curse than a blessing. I have no idea how to get to a main road. Perhaps if there were a Target nearby, I could indulge in a little retail therapy to make it through. No dice. Snowfall doesn’t help either.

Low thermostat? Annoying. Boring local newspaper? Ugh. Tennis magazines? No thanks. By day 3, I’m lethargic, as if overtaken by carbon monoxide. Everything is in slow mo. I sleep as late as possible, ignoring the chipper “Well, look who is up!” by other members of the household. I keep my Christmas pj’s on as much as possible.

The kids are having a blast with their cousins, and Tom is loving catching up with his parents and siblings. By day 4 Tom is offering me a one-way plane ticket home and out of his hair. The nerve. I rally. Our anniversary is pretty good. We go to a nice dinner and a movie. That night, I roll over in my twin bed uttering a “Night Ricky,” to his “Night Lucy.” Romantic in an old fashioned kind of way.

Day 5 really picks up. I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I start to socialize. I drink wine. I’m not sure why I didn’t think of this earlier. I ring in the New Year with a smile on my face, even though my night is spent in yet a different house with 10 kids, 6 adults, and I’m on an air mattress mere inches away from a cage containing a dead guinea pig. The people we stayed with were pet sitting for the holidays. Someone had a much worse vacation than I did.

On Day 6 I start to think about whom Jake will marry. Will he bring home a girl so witchy and judgmental that I’ll have to walk on eggshells around her? Will I have to apologize for my mere existence? Will the way I breathe bother her? Will she play the “A-ha!” game inside her head? Will she fail to recognize what a fabulous person I am?

Chastened, I spend my last few hours there being the daughter-in-law I should have been since the beginning. To my in-laws—I’m sorry for what I’ve put you through for the last decade and a half, even though most of it just played out in my mind.

To Tom, I’m glad you come from such a dear family, with kind parents, siblings, and nieces and nephews. I know I’ve said this to many guys in the past, but I think this is the first time I’ve said it to you. And I mean 96% of it: “I’m sorry. It’s not you, it’s me.”


Anonymous said...

Just discovered your blog...what a hoot! Love it! Happy New Year!

Jill said...

Oh my goodness ... I laughed out loud as I read this, and cried tears of happiness at the end.

Hilarious! Totally relating!! And love that you bring a big smile to my face on the 2nd day of this new year.

Happy new year my dear friend. Looking forward to living near you soon enough! xx

Anonymous said...

Wow! And I thought I had a challenging week with my family in town. My hat's off to you...and you get bonus points on account of the dead rodent.

I guess they're rodents.


purejoy said...

are we twins, separated by birth?

i understood that down to the very foundation of that post. i feel your pain, and i also celebrate from where the hubs has come.

even after 25 years together, i still at times feel like i don't belong, even though i see my own family so infrequently that i feel more of a stranger there. but at times i feel so disconnected.
i'm glad this was not the case for me this holiday. it was warm and wonderful and drama-free. something to celebrate indeed!
thanks for sharing from your heart, but delivered in such a light-spirited, hilarious way. love you, anna

Unknown said...

After having my new daughter in law here for several days at Christmas, this really hit home with me. Explains a lot!

Julia said...

Anna....Ditto. Just plain old ditto. I have a wonderful husband but if I had known then what I know now, I probably would have declined the proposal. And there were times in my 30's that I would stare at him and think "if we were divorced, I'd never have to make this trip again."

You nailed exactly how I feel. I have to play nice and it gets exhausting being nice and internally cussing these people out. What kills me is that my husband...who is the most NON chauvinistic male....always plants it in a chair in front of a tv and never sees the tension. Until I grit my teeth and whisper nag before bedtime!

Glad to know I'm not the only one.

xoxo, Julia

dearheart said...

Anna - This post so perfectly describes the (or at least my) in-law vacation experience. I get the tunnel trajectory where at first you reject them for not being your family, you hit the lowest low, then perk up and finally act the way you'll want your future daughter-in-law to act from day one.

I totally relate to this and am relieved for it!

Paula said...

I don't know what's more amazing - how perfectly I relate to this post or how many other people do too. As the mother of only boys it terrifies me. Except I'm so cool and fun I'm SURE future-d.i.l. will LOVE hanging with us on vaca always :)

Can't believe you do a week - i can barely make it one night before I flee.