March 29, 2006

Prelude to a mother-in-law's visit

In a few short hours, my mother-in-law will be arriving for a weekend visit.

This will be her first time in our house since 2002. We're hardly estranged from the in-laws - we talk on the phone regularly, and Sam and I have made a handful of trips to Minnesota in the meantime. But this weekend is Sam's mother's first visit to Reno since our wedding three and a half years ago.

I'm terrified.

I've talked to a lot of people who seem puzzled by my demeanor. She's not, in her own right, scary in any way. My mother-in-law is a very nice woman, "terrific" if we're speaking Minnesotan. She's a grade school teacher, a liberal intellectual, and a fantastic cook. And I'm fairly certain that her opinion of me is pretty positive and well-formed.

So why all the anxiety?

I've reached that point in my life where it's becoming more natural to imagine myself as a mother. Even though I've never given birth to anybody, I can put myself in my mother-in-law's shoes more easily now than I could, say, when I was in college.

If I had a son, I would want his life to be as happy and fulfilling as possible. If I had a 28-year-old son, and he lived half a continent away from me, I'd want to go to bed each night thinking that he was living a good life.

I'd want him to have fresh herbs in his fridge, and not the kind that are green on top and black and liquidy at the bottom.

I'd want him to have a reliable car, preferably not one that had all the paint scraped off the front bumper a year ago and never repaired.

I'd want him to come home at the end of the day and feel a sense of contentment and belonging, instead of bashing his knee on the broken lawnmower in the garage while trying to get into the house.

I'd want him to have plenty of books to read, the time to enjoy them, and the bookshelf space to put them away once finished.

I'd want him to be well-traveled. I wouldn't want him carrying high-interest credit card debt as a reminder of his adventures.

I'd want him to have a backyard in which to gather friends and host barbecues, but I'd fill the yard with grass instead of thistles and dandelions.

I'd want him to be able to cook a good pork chop, troubleshoot a garbage disposal, and wallpaper a bathroom - or live with someone who knew how to do those things.

As much as it would probably break my heart, I'd want him to be OK spending Christmas without me. However, I wouldn't want to see the outdoor lights still hanging at the end of March.

I'd want him to live with somebody who loved him with her whole heart, who told him so every day, and who valued his happiness almost as highly as I did.

Well, at least I've nailed the last one. I've got one more hour to start the rest of the list.

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