Hopefully everyone made it through the long holiday weekend relatively unscathed. I hope that your football was as good as mine (Go Coogs!) and that you didn’t blow your healthy diet too much. (Isn’t pumpkin cheesecake in the fruit and vegetable category?) Maybe you even managed to snag a real bargain or two without having to stand in a Walmart Pick Up line where the employees appeared to be extras for a Dumb and Dumbersequence and the manager was right out of central casting for Bad Bosses. Unless you stayed home and didn’t attend a big family gathering you probably even missed all of the small talk and questions from dotty old aunts. Unfortunately I came to the conclusion this year that I have slowly become more and more likely to be thought of as the sweet but far too inquisitive relation who engages in the worst form of small talk.
We’ve all found ourselves sitting next to a beloved family member who begins conversations with jewels like “do you have a boyfriend yet?” This year I appalled myself when I heard my mouth asking my sixteen year old grandson what size shoe he now wears because his foot appears to be so large. He quite lovingly attempted to smile sheepishly to spare my feelings but I instantly knew by the expression on his face that I had just produced a classic senior moment. My cool factor was blown. I was a bonafide, first class, silly old lady. I had committed the ultimate grandmotherly mortal sin. My street cred was gone!
I suppose that I might be able to blame my error on the fact that I had a rather bad cold all last week that made my head feel two sizes larger than it really was but that would just be a way of shifting blame and besides I was guilty of other transgressions that were maybe even worse. My sister-in-law’s aunt and I engaged in a game of one-up-manship in which we compared our arthritic body parts. (She won.) I saw the glazed looks of disbelief and boredom around our table but like some crazed cretin I just kept encouraging the litany of ailments rather than easing the talk in a different direction.
My extended family seems to have appointed me the matriarch of the clan even though my sister-in-law is essentially the same age that I am give or take a month here or there and her sisters are both older. Somehow I am now the designated head, a role that I don’t carry off too well. I really do hate that moment when we gather in a circle and every one turns to me for a prayer. I’m a Catholic and grew up with canned versions of words with God for virtually every occasion. I’m not particularly well versed in the art of the impromptu blessing. I worry that one day I will freeze so badly at that second when I am supposed to provide words of wisdom that I’ll just shout out, “Play ball!”
I think that in my attempt to be the cool grandmother I overstepped my boundaries a bit here and there this weekend. I even joked with a grandson that I had seen three beautiful young ladies in the Barnes and Noble Bookseller who would have made ideal girlfriends for him. If he had seen them and heard them talking among themselves he might actually have agreed with my observation but the fact that I brought it up publicly made me an official member of the silly senior set. I may be inching closer to my future home at Terrytown than I realized.
I’m also worried that my stamina is on the wane. Yesterday I took down all of my fall decorations and put the house back in order after the visitors and dogs had left. I worked for seven straight hours and then had to drop on the couch from exhaustion. In past years I would have kept going until I had set up my Christmas tree and decked my halls with holly and mistletoe while creating a gourmet meal in between projects. Somehow I just could not muster the energy that I needed to continue on a marathon of activity. My right knee hurt (not the one that was fixed by surgery this summer) and I was just plain exhausted. I sent Mike out for food and spent the remainder of the evening sitting like a lump on the couch catching up with episodes of Homeland. It was so uncharacteristic of me that Mike even thought that I was not feeling well.
I suppose that I have hung out with teenagers for so much of my lifetime that I had begun to believe that I still was one. I wanted to be able to do everything that they can do. I suppose that there really is a season for everything and now it is time for me to be more willing to accept my proper role in the world. I noticed on Facebook that my very smartest cousin, who is a few years older than I, employed his grandchildren to decorate his home for Christmas. He made it a family affair to hang lights on the eaves and put stockings on the mantle.
I hear of friends who have made special occasions easier by asking everyone to bring a covered dish. They use paper plates and cleanup becomes only a matter of stashing everything into big garbage bags. They long ago gave up on the idea of formal settings with mountains of china to wash and silver to polish. They follow the lead of Mary in the Bible and just have fun with their guests rather than spending hours waiting on everyone. I really should take a cue from them or else I will one day reach a point where I don’t want to entertain anymore.
My poor dear mother-in-law literally had family dinners fit for the Queen of England. She cleaned and dusted every nook and cranny of her home until it fairly gleamed. She brought out her finest china and ironed her lovely white tablecloths. She once remarked that she began preparing for Christmas on the first of December and carried out tasks every single day in order to be ready when the guests arrived on December 25. Eventually she became so exhausted from the annual rituals that she had to admit that she was no longer up to the job. When I suggested that I might relieve her of the duties she jumped at the chance to be rid of all of the work. She had done what she had seen her mother and her aunt do for all of their lives without noting that both of those ladies had died fairly young. She was taking on a yeoman’s responsibilities long after she should have been simply enjoying her golden years.
I’m not quite at the point where I sense that I should turn over the reigns to the younger generation but I think that maybe it’s time to work smarter rather than harder. I doubt that anyone will even notice if there is a bit of dust in the corner or if I use disposable dishes rather than the formal ones. Being with family is more about the company and the love than rigid traditions. I need to learn how to relax a bit and then I will be less likely to be so fuzzy brained that I embarrass my grandchildren. I know that they will love me even when I am a goober but I always promised myself that I would never become the weird woman who made everyone run for the exits.
I’ll give myself a pass for this one time. I was not quite myself. It must have been the effects of the Nyquil that I have been taking for my cold. I’ll do some reparation and hopefully redeem myself. God bless the generations of young people who have sat next to the inquisitive old biddies through the centuries. We’ve all been there. You’d think we would learn. Somehow the brain tricks us and we become the very people about whom we used to laugh. Maybe it is inevitable. Maybe it’s just another part of life. Still, I’m going to do my best not to go there even if it means talking less. That foot in mouth disease is a killer and I don’t intend to be its victim ever again.