By VARIA KARIPOFF
Last Christmas my mother-in-law gifted me a steam mop. It’s one of those shopping channel wonders that melts off crayons and bolognaise sauce in one sterile swoop. It comes with enough packaging to burn for about four hours, which will provide brief comfort next winter when my gas is finally cut off.
There are detachable heads, detachable fabric pieces and the thing itself weighs near a metric tonne making it an effective cardio work out. It takes up a lot of space in my tiny unit and I have a problem with plastic crap ending up in landfill.
But, my floors have never been cleaner. They are flipping radiant. The little mop wonder completely obliterated 21 years of my grandmother’s grease— she was into pastry baking; bagels, blini and bulochki, and she also made a version of KFC chicken. The evidence of her previously unerasable culinary excesses is all but gone.
The problem is, my mother-in-law ordered this bloody mop for me.
I’d love to say she was being helpful. But there was the time I was a few weeks pregnant and confessed it to her. She responded by speaking at length about her miscarriage, describing how she had opted to see her nine-week-old foetus.
“The doctors said it was very rare for it to come out in one piece, they could make out a tiny penis.”
There was the time I cooked rissoles and she stood behind me telling me what I was doing wrong, ‘helpfully’ suggesting I add more water into the mixture. I refused to so she poured it in herself, lunging across the room to do so.
I was sure the mop was a thinly veiled criticism of my housekeeping skills. There was the time when she was down here last summer and replaced our toilet seat.
I’m a busy woman. I have a two year old and I write for a crust. I’m not the tidiest person but I do vacuum two to three times a week and maintain a mostly clean, if not completely Jiffed and AirWicked home.
“Don’t yell at me,” she said, “but I bought you an early Christmas present.”
I am pretty sure she is a little bit disappointed with what she got for a daughter-in-law. Where she is glamourous and colour-coordinated – I am tangled and matted. Where she is shrewd and cunning and knows how to use her feminine wiles, I just say it like it is. And also, most regretably, I don’t ski and am reluctant to start.
Sometime before my wedding day I had decided that the only way I was going to survive was to downgrade the importance of my mother-in-law’s sonic output. Her sugar-laced voice that coated her meddling suggestions were to become background noise.
“Should your baby be rolling over yet? Is she speaking yet? Do you want to take her to the doctor for that?”
So I didn’t yell at her when she asked me not to. But mostly because I sort of love her. I love when her face melts when she sees my daughter who looks a bit like her. She’s pretty.
I am sorry for all the unfairness she endured— she was only ‘allowed’ a bank account of her own at forty and still isn’t permitted to have a mobile phone.
Learning a little about this woman I have been forced to spend holidays and milestones with, I realised that she is the way she is because she had to survive in a very unequal relationship.
I can disagree with my mother-in-law but I won’t tell her that she has Stockholm syndrome when she says my father-in-law is the love of her life. They’ve worked it out somehow and who am I to judge?
I won’t yell at her when I pick up the phone to call her. I will listen to her suggestions and I will turn off my mother-in-law voice silencer. She wants to be part of my life and also know her granddaughter. She tries.
I will tell her that actually, the mop is really freaking good and thank you.
So, what presents have you received from the in laws? Steam mop? Knife set?