Sunday, January 23, 2022

Inga's 2022 Covid Quiz

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published January 24, 2022. Note: the La Jolla Light’s published version edited out phrases such as “natural selection” and others deemed to be potentially offensive. This is the version I submitted.] ©2022

If the first three variants of Covid-19 were named Alpha, Delta and Omicron from the Greek alphabet, what might the next one be called?

(a) Sigma chi

(b) Nancy Pi-losi

(c) What-the-phi

(d) Oy-mega

(d) Bob

Which of the following phrases is NOT associated with Covid-19?

(a) “Follow the science.”

(b) “When will you be getting in more masks/handsanitizer/test kits?”

(c) “I’m doing my own research.”

(d) “He was hiking the Appalachian Trail.”

 (e) “Your flight is cancelled.”

Pre-pandemic, if you knew what you know now, you would:

(a) have invested your retirement funds in toilet paper futures and Covid home test kits

(b) taken a cruise before that now-beleaguered industry goes belly up

(c) have realized in March 2020 that even your dearest friends and closest family members would have happily bought the last roll of toilet paper out from under you

(d) have relished leaving the house without a mask steaming up your vision

(e) not have said, “don’t worry, there’s no way they’re going to close schools.”

Which of the following has NOT been put forth as a treatment for Covid-19?

(a) Ivermectin veterinary medicine for de-worming horses

(b) consuming household bleach

(c) Hydroxychloroquine malarial drug

(d) Drinking your own urine

(e)  Advil [actual correct answer]

N95 is:

(a) the highway from Nebraska to Nome

(b) the winning number on your Bingo card

(c) a surgical mask that scratches the skin off your nose but reduces your risks of Covid and similar airborne afflictions

(d) The area that includes Zimbabwe on a world atlas

(e) The successful torpedoing of your opponent’s aircraft carrier on Battleship

Persons opposed to Covid vaccines consider them:

(a) a plot developed by the U.S. Government to insert teeny weeny microchips in citizens for the purpose of mind control,

(b) based on “science” which is a code word for depriving people of their civil rights, and keeping them from congregating in large stupid maskless crowds

(c) dangerous even though they have never had diphtheria, polio, chicken pox or measles because of vaccines

(d) useless because vaccinated people got omicron anyway, even though they didn’t get very sick from it so, seriously, why bother?

(e) the fault of some people far far away, one of whom decided to ingest a bat. #definitelyacaseforgoingvegan

(f) a good idea just prior to being hooked up to a ventilator

In your own household, you:

(a) will invite into your home only persons who gave birth to you

(b) have no clue what “family groupings” actually means.

(c) “socially distance” to avoid your teenager.

(d) stick pins into facsimile dolls of the Zoom creator.

(e)  could not have imagined in your worst dreams that you saved all these years to pay $50,000 for your college student to be remotely learning at your dining room table.

Your community interactions involve:

(a) frequently checking in with neighbors, offering love and Covid test kits #bringingoutthebestinpeople

(b) appointing yourself Chief of Covid Police, posting regular rants on your neighborhood Next Door about perceived non-compliance. #bringingouttheworstinpeople

(c) getting very very mad at anyone who makes the teeniest joke about Covid-19 since it is a Very Serious Matter Not To Be Joked About Ever Because That Could Be YOUR Grandmother Who Gets Sick and Dies.

(d) not admitting you never even really liked your grandmother

(e) wondering if you’ll ever eat indoors at a restaurant again, and not just because of those unreadable QR codes taped to the tables. #willingtoriskitallforanactualmenu

We will know the pandemic is over when:

(a) Dr. Fauci says so.

(b) When natural selection has taken its course

(c) Conversations occur when the words “tested” and “vaccinated” never come up once

(d) CVS is selling Covid home test kits at 10 for a dollar, no returns

(e) The evening news does not lead with Covid data

(f) Your elementary-school-aged great-grandkids visit you in the nursing home for help doing a report on something called “covid” that was apparently a very big deal in the early 2020s.

(g) (see (f) You know you’ve heard the term, but can’t quite place it.

 Your Covid prevention plan includes:

(a) wearing mask as mandated by law.

(b) wearing mask to water plants in your secluded back yard.

(c) sleeping in a mask.

(d) making the dog wear a mask.

(e) not leaving your bedroom since March 2020, subsisting on beef jerky and tap water.

 


 

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Advice For The Thin Police

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published January 17, 2022] ©2022

Several years ago at a holiday lunch, I was seated next to a woman who had opened her own clothing boutique in North County. She thought it was a travesty that women’s clothes were mostly targeted toward the really slender. So in addition to carrying clothes for the emaciated svelte (my term), it was her plan to design clothing for her boutique for the “larger woman.”

“What sizes?” I inquired, suddenly taking interest 

 “8-12,” she says. 

It was all I could do not to accidentally knock her Nicoise salad (dressing on the side) into her scrawny size two lap.

Prior to my divorce 30 years ago, I always wore a size 4, which in today’s deflationary size market is probably a 2, or even a 0. (Personally I think size 0 is what you should be after you’ve been dead a while.) Afterwards, I packed on 40 pounds eating the Post-Divorce Mrs. Fields Cookie and Chardonnay Depression Diet. Alas, I’ve been heifering, er, hovering around a size 16 ever since. I’d consider wearing sizes 8-12 really good news.

Every year, shedding at least 30 of those pounds has been my number one New Year’s resolution. And every year on December 31, I say, “Well, next year!”

Anyone who has lived in La Jolla for any length of time knows that the Thin Police are on regular and vigilant patrol. It is their mission to make sure that anyone who displays more than a certain level of avoirdupois is (1) a regular topic of discussion, and (2) must be “helped.” When I gained so much weight, it was abundantly clear to me how much air time my weight was getting among some of the locals.

In my first few years in the oinker set, a very slender acquaintance made it her full time unsolicited project to assist my weight loss efforts, including showing up at my door one day with a package of over-the-counter diet pills that had been opened with one missing, saying she’d bought these for herself but wasn’t going to use the rest of them, and thought I might be interested. Hell no!

I’ve never understood the compelling desire to tell people how much better they would look if they were thinner.

To this day, what I wish I’d said to the fat helpers was, “OH MY GOD!  YOU’RE RIGHT!  I WOULD LOOK BETTER THINNER! WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT?  I JUST WANT YOU TO KNOW THAT THE CREDIT FOR EVERY POUND I LOSE WILL ALL GO TO YOU AND YOUR AMAZING SUGGESTION THAT NEVER EVEN OCCURRED TO ME!

This is what I like about writing a column; you get do-overs, at least in fantasy. I’m annoyed at myself that I didn’t take this bull by the horns then. But didn’t want people to think I was both fat AND surly.

I’ve always been a lifelong walker, walking at least 2-3 miles a day. Somehow this never seemed to impact my weight, which I think you’ll agree is totally unfair. But for years I used to see the same uber-thin woman whose kids were the same ages as mine out jogging on my same route. She would routinely jog up next to me and inquire enthusiastically, “Hey, have you lost weight?” No other topic, ever. It got hugely irritating because I was clear that in her mind, she thought she was helpfully encouraging me to shed some pounds.

She suddenly disappeared (I rather hoped she’d been bludgeoned to death by an infuriated fatty) but a few months ago, after a 15-year absence, I was out for a walk when she jogged by, as slender as ever. As she jogged in place (some things never change) alongside me, she mentioned that she’d moved out to the desert some years ago but was now back in town being treated for osteoporosis. What struck me immediately was that between years of leathering desert sun and waaay too little flesh on her sunken face and skeletal frame, she looked 100. Seriously. I wanted to grab her by her pointy clavicle and scream, Stand still! You’ll break your little tiny bones!

 “Hey,” she said, “you look great!” (If she’d said, “Have you lost weight?” I was prepared to take her skinny ass down.) I don’t know how great I looked (same weight as ever) but compared to her I felt like Cindy Crawford. OK, a fat Cindy Crawford. I didn’t point out that among the advantages of being a little chunky as you get older are that you’re your own weight bearing exercise. No osteoporosis for me!

Fortunately, the Thin Police have long since given up on me. And for this I say “thank you.”

But I do have some advice for people who are tempted to “help” other people lose weight: 

Shut up and go away.

 

Saturday, January 8, 2022

It Was A Very Covid Christmas

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published January 10, 2022] ©2022

Was this the Christmas that just wasn’t meant to be?

Like so many people, Olof and I were reflecting at Thanksgiving on how much less chaotic this Christmas was going to be than last year. In 2020, our hotel in L.A. precipitously cancelled the reservations of all guests who weren’t essential workers, and we were scrambling for the PCR tests that one of the relatives in our family group of 20+ was demanding of everyone.

But now, as Christmas 2021 approached, all five grandchildren were back in on-site learning, much to their mothers’ relief (and sanity). All were now vaccinated, even the seven-year-old, and all adults boostered as well.

Christmas at our younger son Henry’s house in L.A. is always everyone’s favorite two-plus days of the year.  Both our family and our daughter-in-law’s family get along well. (As her mother likes to say, “no one is crying in the kitchen”).  My daughter-in-law is a fabulous cook and baker, and decorates their home like a Norman Rockwell painting. Her parents, from the East Coast, always overnight out three different kinds of smoked salmon along with some amazing caviar and other fishy delicacies including herring for Olof and me from the best deli in New York to serve for Christmas morning brunch. (Both families being multi-ethnic has its definite advantages.) The five grandkids are all the perfect ages for Christmas.

So what could go wrong?

Well, pretty much everything.

It was December 21 when the first text came from Henry. His fully-vaccinated seven-year-old had a low-grade fever and malaise, and so, in an abundance of caution since the in-laws were arriving from the East Coast the next day, they had him tested. To their surprise, it was positive.

The L.A. grandkids’ private school not only has a rabidly-strict mask policy, but erected temporary classrooms to reduce classroom size to ten, and seem to have cornered the world market on individual plexiglass bubbles.  They also test all the kids once a week.

How does such a kid get Covid? 

Alas, Christmas had be to be summarily cancelled.  The in-laws were fortunately able to divert to Northern California to spend Christmas with their son and family (who had been due to come to L.A. as well.)  But everyone, collectively, was heartbroken.

Personally, I was willing to risk Covid for the smoked salmon for 20 that had already been delivered to my son’s house in L.A.  (My daughter-in-law’s mother wryly observed, “I hope they don’t lose their sense of taste and smell.”) Maybe they could leave a selection in a cooler on the front porch for us to pick up? Worth the three-hour drive to L.A. in the rain. 

Meanwhile, the poor seven-year-old was isolated in his room, no contact with sibs, with Masked Mom bringing sustenance several times per day. I FaceTimed him daily. He was bored beyond belief, but was being allotted pretty much unlimited screen time which he concluded might be worth Covid. 

But then my daughter-in-law tested positive herself.

Meanwhile, two family members who had taken advantage of cheap fares to Europe were due to be arriving back on Christmas Eve, planning, as always, to join us.  But when the wife did her pre-flight Covid test it came back positive, quarantining them in a Vienna hotel room for at least 10 days.  It wasn’t long before her husband tested positive as well, re-starting the clock.

Tearfully, I cancelled all our plans: the hotel, the dog sitter, aviary tender, unpacked all the stuff I had already packed. It was going to be a very sad Christmas.

By pure serendipity, while I was picking up a prescription at CVS on the 23rd, a shipment of much-coveted Covid home test kits arrived. Word spread like toilet paper deliveries, er, wildfire. They sold out in less than an hour.  I bought two, just in case.

Some friends heard our plans had been cancelled and graciously invited us to join them and their children and grandchildren for Christmas Eve dinner.  We gratefully accepted. 

It was delightful.  As sad as we were about missing our own traditional celebration, it was fun being in a family celebration with others. 

Three days later, however, our friends called and said that the younger of their two adult sons, with whom we had spent a cozy evening and sat at the same table, had just tested positive for Covid.  Within days, the son’s wife and his children were now Covid positive as well. (Hmmm. Maybe we could have just gone to L.A.? Eaten the salmon?)

Two hours later, another friend texted me that all fifteen people at their own Christmas Eve dinner, all of whom had had at least one vaccine dose, had now tested positive for Covid.

As of this writing, Olof and I (vaccinated and boostered) have tested negative.  But I don’t even want to say that out loud.  It is never good to tempt the fates. There are still a whole lot of letters left in the Greek alphabet.

 

Nothing says Christmas like a Covid Home Test Kit

 

 

Sunday, December 26, 2021

The Secret Life Of Olof

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published December 27, 2021]

Inga is on vacation.  This column originally ran on June 19, 2014.

I’ve known my husband Olof for a long time, so it was somewhat of a surprise to learn that he was masquerading as someone named Giselle who does outcall services. Fortunately he’s recently retired as I do think this could have impacted, and not in a positive way, his security clearance.

It’s actually Olof’s retirement that got him into the outcall biz in the first place. On his last day of work, he handed in his company phone, and after a brief but deliriously happy period going cell phone commando, he ultimately wandered into a Verizon office and acquired a new one.

When you get a new phone, you gotta wonder where the number has been before you, especially when you start getting a lot of calls and texts really late at night.

We were initially not sure whether Olof’s phone number was previously owned by someone named Giselle who does – or did – “outcall services” or whether her number is just really close to Olof’s and the guys who call her are so excited about Coming Attractions they can’t actually dial.

In our demographic, no one calls you in the middle of the night unless someone has died. Literally the night he got the phone, it rang at 2 am. We both sat up in bed, panicked. Olof quickly answered.

Guy in sultry voice: I’m lookin’ to spend some money!

Olof (puzzled): On what?

Guy (pauses): You kiddin’ me, man?  (Hangs up.)

One Saturday night a few weeks later as we were watching an On Demand movie of my selection around midnight, text messages for someone named Giselle were coming in hard and fast. At first Olof was ignoring them but I suddenly noticed there was a whole lot of texting going on from Olof’s side of the bed. He showed me his phone.

“Olof,” I said, “I can’t believe you’d rather be a hooker impersonator texting some horny lowlife in the South Bay than watch the adorable romantic comedy your wife picked out.” 

His reply: “Is there a question here?”

Transcript from Olof’s Droid:

11:58 p.m. (Incoming text): Hey Giselle you free?

12:27 a.m. “Giselle”: Baby, I’m never free

12:29: Ha! I mean you able to come out to Chula Vista?

12:31 “Giselle”: What you got going on?

12:32 Having some drinks and yay. You down?

12:34 “Giselle”: Where to?

12:36: Chula Vista    hanging with my boy want some company…cruise over.

12:38 “Giselle”: Dunno. Meet you where?

12:40: (Gives address). House.

12:44 “Giselle”:  Just me or should I bring friends?

12:44: You mama. How long?

12:45 “Giselle”: Maybe 30. What should I bring?

12:50: Ummsomething sexy and your fine self. You are going to be pleasantly surprised. I’d like to see a pic of your face darling. Can you come sooner? 

12:54 “Giselle”:  Baby, I gotta free up, ya know?

12:58: Where are you coming from girl?  I am up. Can I see a pic of your face?

1:01 “Giselle”: Working in La Jolla.

1:05 a.m: Ok not too far. If you left now id say about 30 min. Not seeing your phone number so need a pic baby.

1:08 “Giselle”: There’s a link on my ad. Don’t have a pic on my phone.

[Guy is starting to get suspicious]

1:12: I am not seeing this # as the girl I reached out to, so what ad honey?

1:14 “Giselle”: Where’d you get my #?

1:23: BP  [Back Page on Craig’s List?  Or…?]

1:26 “Giselle”: Yeah, that’s me. On my way.

1:27: Are you sure   f—k

Too bad he never got to find out he was actually chatting it up with a male Medicare recipient in La Jolla.

What worried me after the fact was just how good Olof was at this. I mean, “What you got goin’ on?”  Not exactly engineer speak. But what I really want to know is: what was he planning to wear?

 

Saturday, December 11, 2021

An Elderly Person's Guide To Christmas Tree Watering

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published December 13, 2021]

With Christmas trees, if it’s not one thing, it’s another. As I’ve gotten older, tree issues have been a process of constant adaptation. This year is no exception. 

I’ve written previously about my perpetually-problematic efforts to set up a Christmas tree in my early years post-divorce. Single with two little kids, I went for the six-foot douglas fir simply because they were the cheapest. That first Christmas, I was on my stomach (something I’m trying to even imagine at my current age) attempting to screw the trunk into the stand while six-year-old Rory was holding up the tree. Three-year-old Henry was supposed to tell me when it was straight.  I crawled out from under the tree to discover that it was listing 45 degrees. Irrefutably demonstrating the principle of gravitational vector forces, it promptly fell over.

It was several more years until we had a Christmas tree that wasn’t leaning precariously. In a brilliant Single Mom Home Repair School solution, I tied a cord around the top of the trunk and tethered the other end to a ceiling plant hook.  Miraculously (since I guarantee that butterfly bolts are not rated for Christmas tree stabilization), it stayed vertical.

Another year, 11-year-old Henry and I, outside in the dark, amazingly managed not to sever any digits using a flimsy hacksaw leftover from the Pinewood Derby to saw the bottom branches off a bargain supermarket tree so we could get it in the stand.

The best solution came, of course, when I married Olof after 12 years of penurious single parenthood and could finally have the noble fir of my dreams delivered.  Olof even did the lights, which were always the bane of my holiday existence.

In recent years, as Olof and I have gotten older, the biggest issue has been crawling down on the floor to put water in the stand. The statins that Olof has to take since his heart attack several years ago have made him incredibly stiff such that crawling around on the ground is hard for him.  So the job has generally fallen to me. 

I do a home yoga program every day on the carpet in my bedroom, constantly reminding myself of the sage advice of my former senior yoga teacher that the most important exercise we were doing was getting off the floor.

But in June of this year, I started having problems with my left shoulder, which was finally diagnosed via MRI in November as a torn rotator cuff.  Nope, I didn’t fall or actually do anything to it.  Spontaneous decrepitude has to be the most annoying part of getting older. 

I’m making progress after a cortisone shot to my shoulder and dedicated physical therapy but there was no way I was going to be able to put water in the tree stand.  Even if I balanced on my good arm, I can’t lift the other one more than 30 degrees, never mind hold a water pitcher with it.  And getting up off the ground one-armed?  Forget it. 

So this year we needed to go for Plan B if we were to have a live tree. 

By the way, more and more friends have gone for artificial trees, some that even come with the lights already on them. The mere thought of such a wonderful invention brings tears to my eyes. Unfortunately, we have no place to store one in our garage-less cottage.

Now, you’d think that with the number of baby boomers in this country and the fact that we can put the Rover on Mars that all manner of solutions would be available.  But not all that many. If you go on Amazon, however, you will find a limited selection of tree watering options.

No surprise, I went for the lowest tech solution, a Christmas-tree-green funnel with a 40-inch tube attached that could nestle nicely among the tree branches and be anchored in the tree stand.

Now, as you might immediately imagine, the problem with pouring a lot of water into this funnel from a comfy standing position is that you are in danger of overflowing the tree stand onto your nice hardwood floors, even though you have sagely covered them with multiple layers of plastic.

So, when the nice tree delivery guy came, I had him cut off additional branches from the bottom so that, in an uber-low-tech team effort, either Olof or I could be pouring water into the funnel, and the other could be sitting on the ottoman with the flashlight beamed into the tree stand ready to say “When!”

Prior to decorating the tree, I texted a photo of our new funnel gadget to my older son with the caption, “Elderly persons’ tree watering innovation!” The irrepressible Rory texted back: “A Christmas urinal!  Great idea!”

Hopefully, next year I’ll be able to crawl around on the floor again.  But if this works, I’m saving my floor time for yoga.


OK, so next year maybe put it on the back of the tree 

Low tech, but it works* 
*as a tree waterer

 

Sunday, November 21, 2021

When A Root Canal Is Preferable To Calling Customer Service

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published Nov. 22, 2021] ©2021

I used to think that the most terrifying phrases in the English language were “It’s a simple outpatient procedure” and “Packed flat for easy assembly.” 

But they’ve both been supplanted by the new, most dreaded phrase there is: “You’ll have to call them.”

Resolving anything by telephone has not been anyone’s first choice for information gathering or problem resolution in a very long time.  But (alleged) staffing shortages from the pandemic have made it a nightmare beyond all reason. 

There’s nobody at the other end.

Late night comedian Jimmy Kimmel did a sketch last February about spending three hours on the 211 phone line trying to schedule vaccine appointments for his elderly parents.  This was supposed to be the alternative for people who couldn’t make the on-line vaccine scheduling system work.  Of course, the reason they couldn’t make it work was because it actually didn’t work.  But neither did 211. He never got humans.

It's a well-known fact that pretty much every business is struggling with understaffing, including and especially customer service lines.  And nowhere has that problem been more egregious than with airlines.

Four? Five? Six hours on hold with an airline has become routine.  People are trying to reschedule all those cancelled flights from last year or reschedule the constantly cancelled flights they’ve booked this year.  For reasons known best to the airlines, this cannot be done on their websites.  It is a major Technology Fail. Maybe Elon Musk can be persuaded to take over U.S. airline operations.

Our daughter-in-law, for example, has often bought a ticket on-line for their five-pound Yorkie to travel back east with them when they visit her parents in the summer.  But this year, a message popped up that she’d have to “call.” Why? Did the dog need a negative Covid test?  It was literally five hours on hold listening to the same mind-numbing recording. When she finally got a human, the transaction was completed within four minutes.

Unfortunately, her children’s school decided to require all students to be back and quarantining seven days before school was starting so the return dates of their trip had to be changed.  Another five-plus hours on the phone.

Airline horror stories abounded all summer. We were sitting outside in our front yard one night enjoying the sunset when some neighbors walked by, the husband holding a phone to his ear.  He said they’d already been on hold with an airline for two hours and finally decided to just go out to dinner while they were waiting.  When they walked by on their return, they were still on hold.

One can only speculate how many cell phones have been hurled against walls in frustration. Does one’s insurance have a Homicidal Rage rider?

To make matters worse with airlines, no one believes them anymore. All those “weather” excuses?  “Techno difficulties?” “Mechanical problems?” “Air traffic control glitches?” “Crew members exceeding work limits?” The excuses are endless.

Having to spend upwards of six hours listening to a recording about how your call is very important to them must begin, by the second hour, to sound like this: 

“You have reached Lying Weasel Airlines. No one works here at the moment, except Fred.  He’s on his lunch break. Till tomorrow. Rather than remain on hold, you can leave your number for a callback by Fred.  In 2023. Please be prepared for the fact that if you ever reach Fred to reschedule your flight, you can expect that it will be cancelled yet again. Which means you’ll have to call back and start this process all over. If you do actually board one of our few aircraft that is actually managing to leave the ground, please be advised that no food will be served, your entire family may be summarily ejected if your two-year-old won’t wear a mask, our flight attendants will be in full Surly Gestapo Mode, we truly don’t care if you’re missing your son’s wedding/dream vacation/parents’ funeral, and if you so much as look at us cross-eyed, you’ll be on our permanent no-fly list. The next available agent still has 450 people ahead of you.”

No one should ever assault another human being, including an airline employee, but it is weirdly puzzling to me that the airline executives haven’t made this connection.

Flying this holiday season is truly an act of bravery.  Maybe bring a portable camp stool to sit on during those long waits in line when your flight is cancelled.  Also a Christmas carol book to add a little holiday spirit when you spend Christmas Eve at Gate 25.

I myself am staying close to home.  I’m too old and too decrepit. And too nostalgic for the era – there actually used to be one – when your call really was important to a business and airlines actually liked the passengers. I know – sounds utterly crazy.





 

 

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Inga's Short Guide To Being A Successful Mother-in-law

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published November 15, 2021] ©2021

 I was thinking about writing a guide on how to be a good mother-in-law but truthfully it can all be summed up in two words: “Shut. Up.” 

My long-time motto, to which I have, alas, faithfully failed to adhere, has always been “A closed mouth gathers no feet.”  As anyone who has read my column for a while might guess, letting an opinion go unvoiced is not my strong suit. 

But I really try hard with my two daughters-in-law who are truly the daughters I never had and whose good opinion is my utmost priority.  Having been a daughter-in-law twice myself, I vowed I would be a dream mother-in-law.  A friend of mine insists that’s an oxymoron.  But then, this is a woman whose bedroom sports a throw pillow embroidered “The only good in-law is a dead in-law.”  A tad harsh, I think.

I’ve learned a lot from both of my mothers-in-law.

My first mother-in-law only ever referred to me in the third person, even when I was there, and preferably without conjunctions, as in: “Ask the shiksa she wants dessert.”  These in-laws escaped from Russia in the dead of night with the clothes on their backs, enduring incredible hardships in their new land all so that their son the doctor, their phoenix rising out of immigrant ashes, could marry…me?   SO not part of the plan. 

Ironically, with the passage of time (and the raising of two sons), I have tremendous empathy for her position.  Now that I have adult sons, I know I would be devastated if either of them married someone I truly thought was wrong for him, regardless of the reason.  I wish she were alive today so I could tell her.   (She’d still probably tell me to drop dead, but I’d feel better saying it.)

My second mother-in-law (Olof’s mother) actually liked me.  And I adored her. My own mother died when I was 25 so Olof’s mother was truly a second mother to me.  Although fond of her son’s first wife, I think she wishes Olof and I had married the first time around. (So do my former in-laws.) 

The one thing I told both of my daughters-in-law from the get-go was that I was trying to learn their tastes so that if I got them a gift they didn’t like, they needed to say so. As a cautionary tale, I relayed the saga of a friend who, as a new bride, politely gushed over a hideous china tchotchke her mother-in-law gave her. She has continued to receive another one for every birthday and Christmas for the last 34 years.  Two years ago, her mother-in-law surprised her with a display case for them. 

Honestly, I knock myself out to stay on my daughters-in-laws’ good sides, and fortunately they are such sweethearts that they make it easy for me.  But occasionally, despite my best efforts, I’ve just screwed it up.  When my young grandkids were down visiting one time, I thought it would be really fun to take a bunch of cheapo on-sale hotdog buns down to our favorite sunset spot to feed the seagulls.  Now at the time, the sun was setting at around 5:00, so it was just before dinner.  Neither of my daughters-in-laws are food fanatics but they quite reasonably prefer to maximize the nutritional value of whatever they happen to be feeding their kids.  So as you might guess, not a lot of white bread.

But as soon as we got down to the sunset place and each kid had a bag of hotdog buns in hand, they started eating them instead of tearing off pieces for the birds.  It was like, “Whoa! You don’t even have to chew this stuff! It’s nothing like the 12-grain cement blocks Mom feeds us!”

Mom quickly confiscated the buns and handed them pieces to throw but these went into mouths just as quickly, despite admonishments to the contrary. I could see my daughter-in-law’s jaw tightening.  This well-intentioned happy activity was tanking fast.  It was such a good idea!  Which so totally failed!  The kids were, of course, way too full of nutritionally-bankrupt processed flour product to eat dinner.  My daughter-in-law was totally nice about it.  But in my mind’s eye, I feared becoming fodder for her next dinner party. 

Sadly, I know women who really don’t like their daughters-in-law and have even engaged in the ultimate mother-in-law act of aggression, i.e. sending the grandchildren drum sets for Christmas.  I’m going to continue to be phenomenally grateful that I ended up with the daughters-in-law that I did.  But next time:  whole wheat buns.  After dinner.