Mother-in-law and I have an odd relationship. We mostly don't have much in common except Husband, yet we manage to spend time together in fairly companionable ways. We like each other, I think. At least we don't hate each other. Tonight we are going to Sonics for dinner, since Husband is teaching and neither of us is much for cooking, and Cream Pie Milkshakes sound really tasty.
But we both think the other one is pretty strange. I know it.
I am clueless on matters financial. Don't ask me, because I don't know. I don't really WANT to know. All that matters to me is how much money I have, how much I have to pay, how much I earn, and where my check book is. Mom is much higher on the evolutionary scale of things in that arena. She should be. She dedicates huge parts of her life to it. She's good at it. She can total numbers in her head, calculate a tip on three levels, and keep track of her small change. She's no dummy. But I am now convinced that there's a whole game going on between she and I, a balance of power thing that has reached some ridiculous levels.
We own a VCR/DVD combo unit. We've had it for a few years. Like all our electronic equipment, it is somewhat Mysterious to MIL. More importantly, no matter how many times anything is explained, it remains Mysterious to MIL. The easiest way to handle any electronic entertainment needs for MIL would be to do it for her, but that rubs her the wrong way. She wants to do it herself. This is an important point in the plot.
Mom walks into the back room where I am cleaning, with a tape in her hand she wants to watch. The TV is on, but I'm only half paying attention. "Do I just put the tape in here?"
I glance up to see that she is, indeed, gesturing to the VCR part of the unit.
"Yes." Now, I'm talking to my mother in law, which means I'm using two voices -- an outside voice that's bland and unemotional and very polite, and an inside voice that's spouting smart-ass-isms. I can't help it.
"Yup". Yes, the one that is about the size and shape of a VHS tape and says "VHS" on the little door.
"It will just play?"
"Uh huh." Well, it will if it's turned on. Or you can push the PLAY button.
And it did. So we watched (she watched, I half listened while cleaning further into the terrifying 1/4 of the back room left over from yesterday) some infomercial thing where three women put on special magical mineral makeup.
"Does this thing shut off?"
Eventually, I suppose so. I'm not paying attention, so I don't know QUITE what she means. I say "Uh, yes." There is some silence as she ponders the machine. I return to cleaning.
"How do I rewind this?"
I walk over, look at the buttons -- in case they had changed, mind you -- and poked the rewind. It goes into fast reverse, with three women unmake-upping themselves . "Ooops, I thought you had finished the tape." I push the STOP and REWIND again.
"Well, I was finished watching." She then goes off to do something else. When the tape is done, I pop it out, put it in its little sleeve and put it in her room. Maybe 30 minutes later, she comes back and starts poking the machine. She pokes for about 5 minutes because I'm still Cleaning and I can't see her.
"Why won't the tape come out?"
"I already took it out, Mom. It's in your room."
"Oh." She laughs a twittery nervous laugh -- similar to the laugh Husband uses when he's anxious, the exact sort of laugh that makes all the skin on my spine contract and my tongue suddenly feel too large for my mouth. "I wondered why I couldn't get it out."
We shan't go into the perils of DVD viewing or using the Satellite Remote. I don't understand why either is complicated, but it invariably ends up frustrating her and then irritating me, because I have to fix it. We put cable on her room TV. She can handle cable. The rest of it? She Doesn't Want To Know. It's part of that game.
Now, I repeat, MIL is not a dumb woman. She's accomplished many things in her life time. She is, however, not only certain I am dumber than a box of rocks, but constantly surprised when I demonstrate I am not. She also says things that simply Do Not Make Sense. Last year it was an issue of house keys. She and I were going somewhere. I pulled out my key -- our front door locks from the outside with a key and I have the original house key on my keyring. It always works. Copies we've made don't work so well, including the one Mom has, so last year Husband had new keys made. Mom is very proud of having a key to our house. She has her new key in her hand. She looks at me and says -- in a serious tone -- "Oh, you have a key, too?"
Ten Years I've lived in this house. I just let it drop. There are rules to this game.
The key issue has gotten funnier this year. Even when all three of us go some where or return, she will push to the front to pull out her key and open the door. It wouldn't be such an issue if...it wasn't such an issue. Our entry way is small. Three people don't fit. Mom is smaller than either of us. She has never made a big deal of locking the door or unlocking it in years past. It's just NOTICEABLE. Maybe I'm feeling a little possessive of the house now -- I mean, I've done everything short of exorcism to make it feel like my home -- no, wait, I've done a few cleansing rituals, which counts as exorcism. Mom originally decorated the house (well, gave Husband old furniture from a condo she'd once owned and helped him with things like curtains). Surprisingly enough, her taste and mine don't differ all that much except that I like a stronger palette and more texture. Still, this house no longer looks like any home she'd owned.
Which was, actually, the point. Score.