Sunday, October 25, 2009

Witch of the West

Every year since Fletcher turned 3 we have a birthday party for him. Every year it's on a Saturday at 2 p.m. and we host it in our backyard with open doors and guests wandering in and out to get food from the table. Every year, my mother drives 500 miles to show off her skills as amateur caterer. I do love my mother, in the way you love something that is both good and bad, supportive and judgmental, bittersweet. But, she couldn't be a better user of the back-handed compliment and the best practitioner of damning with faint praise.

I cleaned like a maniac (badly and with loads of sweat) in preparation for her arrival and the party. To be honest, more of it was focused on making her happy than worrying about parents of my son's friends noticing how piggishly I live. I could tell by the way she looked around that I didn't accomplish what I should have. She sneers at all my attempts to keep house and begins moving things around and constantly wiping everything with a damp paper towel.

She rolled in around 5:30 on Friday evening and immediately said several things. My husband needs to help me more, using the words "well you (meaning me) work full time." Implication being he doesn't. No, he doesn't, but he does make money for us. Also called my son, her only grandson, chunky. Yes, he's gained some weight. We are addressing it. She needs to back off about it. I'm chunky. My husband is chunky. We're all trying not to be chunky. Guess what, woman?! Insulting us never helps.

She took us out to eat at Red Robin as Fletcher (who had just turned 8) had restaurant choice. She always orders a petite burger and gives us all the evil eye if we order something larger. Claims that she really isn't glaring at us, but her vision is failing in her old age, but I remember her when she was my younger mother and she did it back then, too. I can't be fooled.

After dinner, Mom and I made a big trip to WalMart to get beverages and other sundries for the party. She was mostly tolerable on that trip but we had to spend too much time dithering over sun dried tomatoes in olive oil. And there was a long discussion about the olive oil I had in my cabinet, along with the admonition that I really should keep it in my refrigerator. Cause, you know, I love having to make it go from solid to liquid each time I use it.

Saturday morning was a fairly early start so I could send Fletcher and Joe off to Fletcher's soccer game and Mother and I could get the house ready fort he party. She cooked and fussed with things and I finished the cleaning the house so desperately needed. I got myself into a sweaty, cranky mess and already had a list of things I needed help with by the time Joe returned.

The day moved on with lots of sweaty running about for me, errands for Joe and nice cooking smells a product of what my mother was doing. I managed to be almost ready when the first child was dropped off early by his grandmother. Certainly by the time most of the guests showed, we were ready to entertain and feed them.

Two hours later after much decorating of superhero capes, greedy mad dashes for prizes and pinata droppings, it was over. Except for the brother and sister who were still there because Dad used that time to do some work. The sister had been invited, the impulse-control impaired older brother was like a prize we couldn't give back that came with. He managed, during the party, to hit my son twice in the head with a soccer ball, which prompted Fletcher to whack him in the head with a whiffle bat. Only fair. Much crying ensued on both sides at each injury. Ice packs were distributed.

The evening after the party included dinner made up of party food scraps and going to a showing of Where the Wild Things Are. Mom and I enjoyed the movie but I think Joe and Fletcher found it too melancholy. It might not really be a children's movie. But, visually, it was so stunning, I had to love it.

Mother left this morning with admonitions about picking up the living room each night and more worried comments about my son's health. I appreciated her help with the party but was not sad to see her close her Suburban door and drive away. I can only take so much Judy.

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