I’m laying in bed, mentally gearing myself up for the conversation. I used to worry a lot about how to phrase things correctly, but as this is the fourth year in a row, I’ve long since abandoned politeness.
“You know I am a gracious and benevolent queen, and have been a good host to your parents every time they come to visit right?”
“You have to get your parents to shower today. I don’t care if you shove them in there yourself, or take them out into the backyard and hose them off. But they have to wash. With soap.”
People talk a lot about their in-laws and their “crazy” experiences, but I’ve yet to find anyone who can beat me. You see, my in-laws look completely normal on the surface. They’re nice people, always ready to lend a helping hand…a good middle-class family by all outward signs.
But I married into them and I now know the truth.
These people are batshit fucking looney tunes crazy. And the fact that you can’t see it from a distance makes it so much worse.
This annual visit is no different from the ones in years past. They arrived late on day 1 and immediately began apologizing for the hassle. “We washed before we left so we won’t be any imposition.”
You guys, their annual trip is 8 days long. They washed before they left and, to be less of an imposition, they aren’t planning to wash while they are here. Not themselves. Not their clothes. They’ll just quietly occupy as little space as possible.
I grit my teeth and try and contort my mouth into something that vaguely resembles a grin.
“Welcome, come on in…”
They pull their carry-ons into the living room and I offer to help my husband bring up the rest of their luggage. “That’s it,” he says, and I peer behind him in confusion. Eight days…two small carry-on suitcases. Okay….
“Grams, what did you bring us?” my kids knock one another over in their haste to get the inevitable presents.
Grams unzips and begins pulling things out, flourishing items so large that I begin to hope the bag came from Mary Poppins ‘R Us. “We went to Costco before we left and picked you up a few things.”
- 2 blocks of cheddar cheese
- 4 Hershey’s bars
- 2 boxes of K-cups
*To note: we also have a Costco where we live*
Now that the practicalities are out of the way, Grams rummages around for the kids’ presents.
“Oh, here they are!” She pulls two hot pink throw pillows out of her now empty suitcase.
(Side note: Before coming, she asked my husband what she should get them. As he’d just had an argument with the kids about dragging their pillows all over the house, he suggested she buy them each another pillow. They’re 6 and 8 and have yet to express a strong interest in the January White Sales. When I questioned his sanity, he reminded me that last year she brought them rosaries, so pillows would be an improvement.)
The pink pillows are festooned with cherubic, half-naked angel babies and have a bible verse embroidered on them. “Tonight I’ll show you how you can use them to pray, girls!” The girls are, as you can imagine, ecstatic about the prospect.
I dip and dive for the next few days, disappearing off to complete urgent work tasks or run unspecified errands. I’m in denial of the rising stench emanating from my guest room.
However, by day 5, I have to broach the subject with my husband, and as usual, he gives a half-hearted reply that lets me know that if I want this done right, I’ll have to do it myself.
I wrack my brain for an easy idea.
“What about that movie Signs? With Mel Gibson? About the aliens?” I ask myself, “Maybe my in-laws are those aliens. If I throw water on them, will they leave?”
It’s a good plan, but at this point I don’t think an accidental spill is going to cover it.
After breakfast, I gird my loins and head off for battle, cornering my mother-in-law as she heads down the stairs.
She’s come down with a cold, so I approach it from the angle of “germ theory”. She’s really, really concerned about germs, particularly toilet germs, specifically germs that might be on the seat of any public toilet I let my children sit on. She is HORRIFIED that I let them sit down (she swoons every time this is discussed) and is convinced that they will contract some horrendous unspecified disease.
This is the ACTUAL conversation, word for word with no exaggeration:
Me: You are still covered in airplane germs, you need to wash them off. This is why you are sick.
Her: Are airplanes really that dirty?
Her: But I have been washing – just a little at a time. Like my hands, my face.
Me: GET IN THE SHOWER. getintheshower. showeryourentirebody.
Me: And we should wash your clothes.
Her: My clothes? But I already have them on.
Me (in my head): 10. 9. 8. 7…
Me (out loud): Are the clothes you are wearing the ONLY clothes you brought here? For a week-long visit?
Her: Of course.
Me: You OWN a beach house. You can afford more than one outfit. If you cannot, we will go out and buy you one.
Her: What do you do when YOU go on a trip?
Her: But what if you are with a tour group?
Me: What kind of tour groups are you on that your hotel doesn’t have a bathroom?
Her: I meant your clothes….if you can’t wash them.
Me: I bring other clothes. I. Change. My. Clothes.
Her: <clutches pearls, scandalized>
Me: You can put more than one outfit in your suitcase.
Her: But to only wear it once??? What a waste!
Me: You can wear it back home again.
Her: <clutches pearls, scandalized>
You guys, I.cannot.even.literally.cannot.even.even anymore.
SEND ALCOHOL ALL THE ALCOHOL ANY KIND OF MOTHERFUCKING ALCOHOL.
We’re on Day 7 now and my guest towels are as pristine as the day I bought them. I’m thinking of returning them for a set of embroidered throw pillows that say “Cleanliness is next to godliness” and a lifetime supply of Dove soap. One bottle should just about do it.