New Year’s Eve 1999 found me wide-eyed with unabashed glee at the prospect of the impending doom about to descend upon civilization as I knew it. An uncertain world was curiously teetering on the brink of Y2K, and in a startling flight from rationality my parents had decided that we stood a better chance against the looters back in the Land of the Free than in our little apartment in the Soviet Block. Thus, my family had flown across the ocean from Kiev, Ukraine, to my Grandparent’s house in Suburbia, Michigan. Locks had been tested, toilet paper had been stock piled, and in a sadistic twist on Trick-or-treat gone terribly wrong, Grandpa had loaded the riot gun and was ready to greet any of the aforementioned looters. Mama had filled every bathtub in the house with cold water, and stacked ominously in the basement were enough flashlights, batteries and cans of low-fat New England clam chowder to launch our own rather unappetizing, well-lit cult.
Pondering that experience as an adult, I am now quite convinced that I would much prefer to die in some sort of apocalyptic event than be forced to eat room-temperature clam chowder glopped unceremoniously from a can.
The Petersons were nothing if not prepared, and my brothers and I were positively heartsick when Y2K held all of the excitement of a dirty Kleenex. The electricity didn’t so much as flicker, and Grandpa didn’t get to fire the riot gun even once. Thus, dreams and bathtub water swirled straight down the drain, flashlights were tucked away and I can only imagine that a local homeless shelter was the unlucky beneficiary of the aforementioned chowder. In summation: everyone suffered.
Fourteen years have passed since that underwhelming New Year’s Eve with the batteries and the bathtubs filled clear to the brim, and strangely, I find myself once again preparing for an event of apocalyptic proportions. Except, instead of Y2K, my MOTHER IN LAW is coming to visit this weekend.
Now, let’s you and I get one thing straight right off the bat: my Mother in Law is the sweetest, most selfless human being on the planet. Lest you think I’m exaggerating, I will tell you that my OWN Mother has decided that she is the kindest person that we know. Gina Dickens began treating me like I was her daughter long before there was a ring on my finger, and I wholeheartedly adore her.
Unfortunately, perfection has its pitfalls, chief of which is raising offspring who thinks it’s normal. In her entire life, Gina hasn’t so much as pretended to be mediocre at something, effectively creating wildly unrealistic expectations for her son that can’t FOR THE LIFE of him figure out why I don’t carry around an plastic bag full of alphabetized coupons. [Um, HELLO, I lost our scissors in the move.] Kellan grew up in a perfectly immaculate house where organization was paramount [I’m pretty sure the folders had folders], and the kitchen was always startlingly sparkling. I’m quite serious about this. I’ve spent three consecutive Thanksgivings in Gina’s kitchen, and have yet to see so much as a flour splatter. [AT THANKSGIVING. THE COOKINGEST DAY OF THE YEAR. She’s like a kitchen unicorn.] My kitchen, however, consistently looks like a bomb went off and the Red Cross failed to respond. And that’s just after breakfast.
I married Gina’s first-born son under the unspoken expectation that I would do my utmost to keep him alive. It was one thing when she came to visit last fall and popped into our tiny little apartment just long enough for lunch before she and Russ whisked us away for a weekend at the cutest little B&B around. [I told you. BEST.] It’s another thing entirely now that she’s coming to STAY AT MY HOUSE for a whole weekend. MY HOUSE, in which a TV is currently precariously perched atop a tower consisting of two Tupperware containers and one old wine box, because CLASSY. I sheepishly confessed that to her a couple of months ago, and she looked at me like I was a starving paralytic in dire need of some sort of fundraiser.
I’ve decided that the whole thing is very much like getting ready for Y2K. I find myself desperate to prove that I am a responsible, prepared adult, instead of someone who still pays for her coffee in quarters and dimes. I vacillate wildly from feeling immeasurably mature as I stockpile spare light bulbs and stamps, to being utterly convinced that she will take one look at the guest bathroom and very quietly put a protective layer of toilet paper over the seat. Kellan began to notice that something was amiss when I walked up to him last night with crazy eyes and very calmly informed him that if he left his mildewed towel on the floor one more time, I WOULD STAB HIM.
I spend every spare minute coming up with contingency plans, quite certain that I will accidentally blow the electricity, the freezer will melt and we shall be forced to eat damp cheese sandwiches by candlelight for dinner. And because she is perfect, Gina will smile graciously and make some sort of charming remark about how lovely the light looks flickering off of the walls while I internally panic because SWEET FANCY MOSES I AM GOING TO MUDDY THE GENE POOL. I’ll grin weakly as I desperately attempt to look like the sort of girl that wears sensible shoes and reads instruction manuals, instead of a girl that doesn’t own a mop.
Clearly, this is dire. Say your rosaries, friends–because we are T-4 days. If you need me, I’ll be dusting my wine-box TV stand and stacking cans of clam chowder in the basement.