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CYC-Online Issue 124 JUNE 2009 / BACK
Listen to this

truths and half truths

Are they gone yet?

Nils Ling

Last weekend my younger daughter got married. So for the past ten days or so, we've been nestled firmly in the bosom of my wife’s family.

Such a fine line between “nestled” and “suffocated”.

Now, I want to say from the outset that I adore my wife’s family. They are good people, salt of the earth, eager to help in any way they can, and insistent that you go to absolutely no trouble on their part.

So of course, we've been going to huge trouble on their part. Because they are “company”.

My wife is genetically predisposed to fuss over company. Her mother did it. She does it. My girls will do it. It is as much a part of their makeup as not going out – even to WalMart – in curlers (do women still wear curlers?), or not showing up as a guest at a party without bringing something. To them, it’s just something you do. Company comes, you fuss.

And to my wife, “you” means “we”. As in “me”.

So I am required to fuss just as much as she does, even if the company specifically instructs me not to fuss. I am expected to ignore their wishes and fuss over them.

See, that’s not the way my family does things. In my family, when you go to visit, you may be a guest, but you’re still family. You might “might “get offered one drink. After that, you’re on your own. We figure that family members have the permission and the wherewithal to sniff out the glasses, ice, and ingredients for their drink of choice. In fact, with my family, it’s tough to keep them away from the bar. And if they choose not to drink, well, that’s just one less passenger for the paddy wagon at the end of the night.

With my family, you might want to tidy up to the point where there are no actual mounds of festering filth, but you don’t have to sterilize the place. My family understands that houses are places where people live, and that a little mess is the sign of a healthy, comfortable, welcoming environment. And if there isn’t a little mess around when they come in the door, there sure will be within the first minute after their arrival.

It’s not like that with my wife’s family. Evidently, her family has to have all the luxuries: nice glasses, hors d“Oeuvres, sheets on their beds, wine from bottles rather than boxes. It’s like a State Visit from some sort of European royal family.

So for the past week, I’ve been serving people. I’d look over at my sister-in-law and her wine glass would be empty, and she would actually waggle it at me. To her, that’s the subtle international signal for “My wine is finished and I’d love some more.” In my family, that’s the subtle international signal for “Apparently, someone has snuck up from behind and chained a piano to my butt, rendering me tragically unable to get my own drink.”

Which is not to say they’re lazy. You never saw such a family for pitching in. There were times when we’d have fourteen or more people for dinner, and when it was all done, you couldn’t get near the kitchen for the crowd of sisters-in-law pitching in.

Now, on one hand, that’s wonderful. “Many hands make light work”, goes the old saying. But another old saying is: “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” And evidently, my sisters-in-law have different places for things than I have. So for the past ten days, whenever I’ve been called on to cook supper, it’s like an Easter egg hunt to find the dishes, pots, pans, and utensils I use to prepare a simple meal.

This morning “and you will think I am exaggerating, but I assure you I am not “I found an egg beater in the drawer underneath the stove. I am unable to fathom the thinking that went into that. Months from now, I just know I will have bought a new blender, only to find the old one behind a couch or something.

I’m comfortable with these people. I’ve known them all for more than half my life. Some of them I love dearly, some of them I quite enjoy, and some of them I deftly manoeuver around. I know I will miss them when they’re gone.

I’m just about ready to miss them.

And soon enough they will be. When that time comes, when the last of them has been ferried to the airport and sent winging away, I–ll come back to the house, slump down in my favourite chair, and waggle my glass at my wife.

Which is, of course, the subtle international signal for, “Please look at me, snort derisively, and carry on with what you were doing.”

This feature: From Nils Ling’s book Truths and Half Truths. A collection of some of his most memorable and hilarious columns. Write to him at RR #9, 747 Brackley Point Road, Charlottetown, PE, C1E 1Z3.


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