Monday, March 24, 2008

Guess Who's Side of the Family Does Not Know About the Blog

Merrick's best friend and probable future husband, Lachlan, has been in Costa Rica for a week.

Merrick pined.

The Matron left several messages on the Cotner family answering machine. She selected a perky, upbeat tone that did not reveal her desperation: "Hi Cotners! Hey, this is Mary. We can't remember how long you're gone? Was it a whole week? Wow. So. Merrick is hoping that the minute Lachlan's little feet touch St. Paul soil, the two can talk or somehow convene."

While Merrick wailed: it's a message again!

Lachlan loves him right back. He called from Chicago O'Hare on Saturday night and the two conveniently arranged a play date for the very first time they could see one another: Easter Sunday.

Even though we're practicing Buddhists, the Easter Bunny visits. So does Santa. Yes, the Matron is a complete hypocrite.

Scarlett: "Mom, what is Easter, anyway?"

The rushed Matronly reply was too theologically funky to repeat. Suffice it to say that when she was finished, Scarlett said: "That's creepy."

The Matron vows to do a better job next time.

So after Merrick ingested large amounts of chocolate bunnies, John dropped him and a large bag of weapons off at Lachlan's for the day.

Because the Matron and her husband come from long lines of Roman Catholics, the extended family offers feasts and celebrations, which the Matron (in her role as hypocrite) enjoys.

As for her in-laws? She likes them to varying degrees. Some more than others. Some decidedly less. She is inordinately fond of her mother-in-law, even though they once had this conversation.

Matron: "How about that war in Iraq, Sophie?"

Grandma Sophie: "I have no problem with that war. It's going just fine."

The Matron had no reply.

So the remaining family heads off to Grandma Sophie's for feast and conversation. In the van, John says: "Let's not tell them Merrick's not with us. I bet nobody will notice. "

Two of John's three siblings were to attend, with a total of 8 children, counting Merrick. Great big bunch of chaos.

Stryker: "If anyone asks, say Merrick's in the game room!"

John: "Wherever you are, Merick is somewhere else. If you're up and they ask, he's down. He'll just be lost in the chaos."

Scarlett: "Oh! We should have brought his shoes to put by the front door!"

Stryker: "Wait! He left a sweatshirt in the van. I'll bring that in and hang it casually on a chair!"

Matron: "I'm impressed. Nobody lies like this family."

We plotted entrance, exit, dinner.

When we arrived, why that Merrick? He fairly shot downstairs! Go, Merrick!

Uncle Jim: "Hey, where's Merrick?"

Matron: "Oh, he's around here somewhere."

Aunt Judy: "Where's that little guy?"

Scarlett: "Basement."

The youngest cousin, Nicole, went searching: "Merrick! Merrick!"

Scarlett: "Nicole, I'll play cards with you."

Nicole kept wondering why she just couldn't find Merrick. But the Matron's family was sharp. They identified the weak link and got right on it. Scarlett stuck to Nicole's side, glue and distraction.

In the midst of this trick, the Matron attempted the art of conversation.

One of the things that she loves best about her mother-in-law is that when Grandma Sophie was in her late fifties, she enrolled in a community college and earned a degree at sixty.

This two-year community college degree makes Grandma Sophie the only other degreed person in the room. The first would be the Matron, with her big ole honking and glowing P H D.

In addition, the Matron would bet her bottom dollar (which she may some day be able to see if the real estate market doesn't improve) that she and John are the only people in the room who have:

recently read a book
ever attempted chopsticks
tasted tofu
ever voted Democratic, let alone Green (ack! Uncle Jim is fainting!)
not once been visited by a paid stripper
listened to jazz
can tell you how many U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq (4,000)

The in-laws? These are not the Matron's people. But, oddly, they are. They're family.

The family moans over the general state of the world. For sure, Barack Obama or Hilary Clinton would destroy civilization as we know it. Those gay people should just die--they're that bothersome on every level. By God, my gun is my best friend and no senator is going to take that away.

Remember Saturday's post? Being both pro and sociologist, the Matron was unabashedly observing.

Clang, clang! Grandma Sophie gets everyone's attention, fork to glass.

"I'll tell you what's destroying this country! It's one thing and I know it!"

She has everyone's complete attention.

"Premarital sex! You can trace every single problem in the country to premarital sex. Everything! Premarital sex!"

Then that room full of people debated this theory. Chewed on it from different angles, trying to see if had staying power, legs. The Matron had to pinch herself, just to make sure she wasn't dreaming.

And then that room full of people sat down to a sit-down dinner, all those 7 bright smiling child-faces glistening with ham grease and gravy.

Nobody asked about Merrick. Not one word.

There was a lot of this: "Mark! Did you eat a bite of that potato? Put some gravy on that and eat half before you get up."

"Scott! You cannot move until you have taken corn."

"Bennett! Where is your fruit salad? You can't stop eating until you've had fruit salad."

The Matron's children? Stryker took nothing but seven slices of Polish sausage, which he heartily enjoyed. Scarlett had mashed potatoes without gravy (two servings), one buttered roll and some fruit. The Matron and John had absolutely no comment on what their children ingested.

Grandma Sophie: "My goodness, I'll be glad when these kids learn to eat."

And when they were leaving --- four hours later -- Grandma Sophie said, "Where's that Merrick! I need to give him a hug."

"He's in the van," shot Stryker. "Just ran out."

And Grandma rolled her eyes, kissed the other two and made note that Merrick owed her a hug.


Anonymous said...

Don't feel bad about Easter. We attempted to educate our kids about it last year by watching Jesus Christ Superstar.

Grandma Sophie and my mother would get along very well. A heated Christmas dinner conversation this year included my mother shouting that people who are against the war in Iraq are dishonoring her brother, who died in WWII. No amount of argument could persuade her otherwise.

Suburban Correspondent said...

I love the "Where's Merrick?" game. I cannot wait to try that!

Anonymous said...

Lol crazy! You guys are so much fun.

As an *almost* practicing Buddhist, we took this weekend to sit the kiddos (except Maddy who was already in the loop) down, and explain about Easter, Christmas and the myth that is the Easter bunny and Santa. We told them we aren't doing Christmas anymore, instead we will be celebrating the New Year. It went well, except for Denver, who at 5 years of age totally refuses to let her parents destroy her illusions and refused to believe us. Even when the Easter bunny didn't come.

Liv said...

you guys are hysterical. you could only get lost in a catholic family. of this i know WELL!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. That ended up SOUNDING kinda mean spirited, and a bit haughty to me. Maybe you guys didn't mean it that way. Not sure why - but it made me sad.

Susan said...

hey folks, what the hell's wrong with christmas and the easter bunny? you folks obviously aren't aware that the easter bunny has the irs audit all non-believers and santa creates impossible in-laws for all non-believers. Jeeze.

Minnesota Matron said...

Becky - Haughty, probably. Sometimes the Matron gets an attitude because ignorance hurts people. Ignorance allows injustice to continue and rather than feel constant outrage, the Matron sometimes makes fun (and she also does this of her very own self, too). But she definitely did not strive for mean-spirited. Sorry she saddened your day.

But finally! Controversy on this blog! Ever since the Matron read about the woman who left her husband for a man who commented on her blog, she (M) has been eagerly awaiting some action, here.

Minnesota Matron said...

Oh - and yes, only in these big Catholic families. Friends (sit down) my husband has approximately 75 first cousins. I am not making that up. I have a lowly 27.

My kids? 14 on John's side, 2 on mine. We're off pace.

And G. Sophie would love to meet your, Mom, Amy.

Julie Pippert said...

Oh the subterfuge! I love it. That is hands down the funniest in-law story ever.

Next family get-together I want my family to love me enough that i get to be Merricked. ;)

K. said...

And with this, you officially become my hero.

Anonymous said...

I think you must have hit a nerve with me - I have relatives living in Boston who treat those of us living here in Minnesota as lowly country bumpkins. With up to 45 people in attendance at holiday gatherings their disdain and superior attitude has unnecessarily turned many a family dinner into an exercise in crowd management. A little tolerance would go along way. Yes, on both sides. The Boston crowd behave as if their opinions are the only valuable and carefully considered options. Anyone who disagrees with them is stupid and ill informed. What they fail to consider is that it is plain and simply bad form to spout antiwar rhetoric around the wife and mother of 4 loved ones currently serving. Thoughtless and mean. And while demanding that we attempt to understand and accept their religious choices - ours are deemed ridiculous and outdated. Unfair, wouldn’t you say? It hurts so badly to be devalued in such a way. Thank you for your kind response, I hope my comment did not seem unkind. I do enjoy your blog.

Karen Jensen said...

Families can be challenging. But seriously, Matron, not once have you been visited by a stripper? I'm guessin' you don't know what you're missing.

Anonymous said...

In the spirit of adding to the controversy:
I don't know which definition of the word rhetoric becky meant when she said "spouting antiwar rhetoric" around a mother of 4 serving in the war is thoughtless and mean, but I bet she didn't mean it as a compliment. There is nothing thoughtless or mean to be antiwar or to voice your opinion. People try to equate being antiwar to things that are completely unrelated. You can support the soldiers and not the war. You can be patriotic and not support the war. You can be antiwar (the war in Iraq) and non-pacifist. You can feel empathy for the mother of 4 serving in Iraq and be antiwar. You can be thoughtful and kind, and still voice your opinion about the war. And you can be a human caring that countless (estimated between 85000 and 600000, we don't even keep count)Iraquies have died and be against the war. That doesn't make you thoughtless and mean. That just means you can see beyond your little circle in the world.

Minnesota Matron said...

Becky: This discussion actually reflects the larger point you're trying to make. And you're right--it's incredibly demeaning to dismiss someone as ignorant and their opinions as invaluable (probably because they diverge). And, I totally understand what you mean by being on the other end. I have family members whose wealth and sophistication would crush me, should they choose to behave as the Boston relatives you describe do. Thankfully, they don't.

And I'll admit that your comments made me think hard about that haughty edge and tone of faint superiority to the post. Part of it is dramatic effect. Not everything plays in reality exactly as it's presented on the blog. But the other piece is that I really do love many of those people, even if I thoroughly disagree with (even feel righteous in that disagreement at times) the bulk of their opinions.

Not to par the Matron with the famous, but my feelings toward them might mirror those of Barack Obama to his relatives/minister who have made comments he considers inflammatory. He still loves them. they're part of him. I'm not sure if that came across sufficiently in the post.

While I see Sh8un's point, I think Becky's supersedes. For example, we had a sign that said "Stop the War In Iraq" in our yard. When Scarlett's 14 year old friend came up from Northfield to spend a week, we took that sign down. And hid it. Why? Her father was currently in Iraq, life on the line every day. I couldn't bear the thought of that child seeing that sign for one split second or hearing anything at all negative about the war in our home. And she didn't. She was loved and supported.

I'm all about starting the hard work toward peace by my personal interactions, first. I love you Sh8un and you go ahead and rabble rouse, but I think it's okay to see outside of the little circle of our lives and sometimes choose to set certain aspects of that aside, out of consideration precisely for that circle.

Mrs. G. said...

I am thinking I would like to play the where's Merrick game at all my family's future gatherings-since I rarely get to express a thought or opinion (my family is fond of monologues), I don't think I would be missed.

Great post. Family is family is family.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I loved the post--I think you captured what many of us feel about our extended families.

As for the tone, it's what I always tell my kids--"entirely true but exxagerated for comic effect!"

Heather said...

My in-laws often drive me crazy and I write about it on my blog. Doesn't make me love them any less. Just venting it so my head doesn't explode.

Love the Merrick game. Too funny.

Rima said...

Have you, as a family, considered starring in your own sitcom?

On second thought, have you tried your hand at screenwriting? The real estate market is tanking, but I hear the writers are back in bidness.

Irene said...

Oh goodness, that sounds very much like my ex family in law and I am very happy to say that they are ex, because I found them unbearable to be around with and could not abide with the amount of ignorance.

It would have been better had my ex husband been completely the opposite, but he did not fall too far away from the tree, as it turned out. A died hard republican with very conservative points of view.

A lot of that got lost in the translation when we first met, I being Dutch and he being an American. I found out too late about complete incompatibility and socially accepted ignorant points of view that remained largely unchallenged.

Thank goodness I managed to escape!

JCK said...

This did read like a movie script to me, MM! Perhaps you have a calling as yet untried. :) And yes, tone is everything. Exaggeration makes a more fun twist. Loved this story. Especially the "Where's Merrick" game.

I've got a small meme for you over at my blog. Please don't cry.

Tootsie Farklepants said...

I'm quite jealous that you get to blog this. Man do I have some stories.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to check in here this morning and say Thank you, Thank you, Thank you to the Matron. You did capture the heart of my comments and I appreciate that more than you can know.

And to put sh8un's mind at ease - the kind of rhetoric I was speaking of had escalated to the point of Uncle "A", under the influence of his favorite Johnny Walker Blue Label, calling Aunt "B's" husband "C", and children "D", "E", and "F" and I quote "idiotic, unthinking automatons, only capable of following orders - no better than Nazi's". Very, VERY, mean. Aunt B was terribly hurt, Grandma was in tears and we all felt heartsick. Dinner was ruined - and so I think that there ARE times when it's best just to be polite for a couple hours. Make sense now?

BTW - and this is funny - the Minnesota crowd has bragging rights to more advanced degrees than the Boston crowd - and snotty Uncle A was born, raised, and college educated in small town Iowa! Where does he get off being so condescending - it's laughable really.

Minnesota Matron said...

I'm glad everyone's okay :-). And Sh8un -- don't get me wrong. I think about that war every day and about all those absolutely innocent people who are suffering and dying, murdered. Then, after writing my comment yesterday I heard something dramatic on NPR about a father who said his son's life was just wasted, thrown away (he was killed in Iraq) and his whole life is now about ending that war and saving all lives. Which made me doubt myself and think about our moral obligation to always oppose war.

How do you do that without crushing people serving and the families they leave behind?

My nephew is in Iraq, so now when I'm around that part of the family, I say: nothing.

And that doesn't feel right.

Anonymous said...

Whoopsie! Yikes, I just reread that comment and I want to clarify - in NO WAY did I mean to insinuate that being born, raised and college educated in small town Iowa was a bad thing - Uncle A, who now lives in Boston, makes many MANY disparaging remarks about "those moronic Midwesterners". I only meant to point out his hypocrisy.
'kay? Phew!

Anonymous said...

"How do you do that without crushing people serving and the families they leave behind?"

VERY good question!

Maybe we need to ask them? "How best can I support you and yet be frustrated with the mess in Iraq at the same time?"

Even Aunt B would agree that those around her are not required to say nothing ... but when at Christmas dinner, with brimming eyes and quivering lip, she says "I miss C and the kids" equating C and the kids to Nazi's is not a good choice. :)

Ya'll get that my comment was not at all political to start with right?

Minnesota Matron said...

Becky -- Yes, I totally understand your clarifications. Communicating through blog posts is tricky but I think I've been interpreting your posts the way you mean them.

It's funny . . I do a lesson with my writing students in which they are to imagine -- picture -- a coat. Then we go around the room and report what we saw.

Everyone's 'coat' is different, from a coat of paint to biker jacket to a rain coat.

The letters C O A T are the signifier. But the signified, the meaning or image, comes in our head.

How we communicate at all with all those signifieds bounding about and not quite matching -- even though we know we're really talking about the same thing, is fascinating.

Anonymous said...

I feel like I've just finished a good workout. Tired but satisfied. I think this has been interesting and healthy. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Okay, Matron, your in-laws possibly trump mine. Your family's deviousness & skillful plotting and execution to protect Merrick is amazing and worthy of deep respect. I bow to you.

Brianne Hudgins Photography said...

I need to learn your family's art of "Hide the Merrick" game! I wonder if it would work to hide me at the in-law family functions!

Becky ~ Your comment made perfect sense to me. I was raised in Fort Bragg,NC. I am very anti war & still pro-military. I grew up with friends who's fathers were gone in the first Iraq war, I watched several friends loose family members and one who lost her father. I will never denegrate the work and their value to our country ~ but I cannot agree with sending our troops to fight an ill conceived war. I'm generally a pacifist though, I would much rather see the troops at home helping our citizens than anyone else. ;) Praying your people make it home safe & soon.

laurie said...

what a hilarious post. hiding merrick. i love it.

"i have no problem with that war."

i love it.

the matron may have been the only person at the dinner to have watched last night's "frontline," too, i'll wager.

Anonymous said...

I look forward to reading your blog (ALMOST) as much as I look forward to my morning coffee.

I love the "Where's Merrick" game. I want to be Merrick at all of my family gatherings. I love my in laws, they are all good people. My family... spare me PLEASE! I'd rather have a root canal.

Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

Excellent. My in-laws read my blog. *sigh*

Allmycke said...

I think I did one better than get 'merricked' this past Christmas.
I had just come home after a rather tough operation and hospital stay, so my SO and I were looking forward to a nice, quiet Christmas with only his Grandmother. That's when his least favorite aunt and uncle decided they would also like to spend Christmas with Grandma. Not only that, their idiot for a son would also be in attendance... There went my Holiday Cheer and any hopes for a nice celebration. To console myself and my SO I said 'Well, we can always say that I'm not feeling well, and go home just as soon as we've eaten' I also mentioned this to my sister...
So what happens?

On the 23rd I began having chills and ran a temperature - on the 24th I was rushed to the hospital with a post-operative infection.
My sister isn't totally convinced that I didn't somehow induce the infection myself...