Serendipity sent me to your site and I have ever thanked her for it. I’d like to take this opportunity to share the tale of my in-laws–well, the tale of my mother-in-law, at least.
“Devon” was the youngest of his family, spoiled by all his sisters and particularly by his mother. I met him when we were both nineteen and attending the same college (a long time ago!!). That summer I had a falling-out with my parents about him, which resulted in my packing my bags and moving in with him. Devon’s mother took me out for lunch less than a week after I moved in, chatted endlessly about her work and her family and then, one bite into the strawberry shortcake I’d ordered for dessert, she informed me in no uncertain terms that if I ever hurt Devon, she would hunt me down and kill me.
Devon and I got engaged and with our limited means–we were putting ourselves through school–we bought a nice ring for me which served as engagement ring and wedding band (a small sapphire, with diamond chips set to either side of it), which we both liked. His mother never stopped making clear to me in a loud voice and as often as possible that I had no taste, that if I’d had any class I would have held out for a proper diamond (never mind that I don’t care for diamonds).
Naturally, as a couple of starving students we had a mishmash of things–two mismatched half-sets of dishes, maybe five glasses and two mugs, none of them identical. One day I came home from school to discover that Devon’s mother had taken him shopping, and had bought us new dishes. “Aren’t they lovely?” she asked me, as she showed me some hideous art-deco plates. She never did understand why I was upset about that. I guess I just wasn’t classy enough to appreciate them. (I should note that I wasn’t upset that she’d bought us dishes per se–I was upset that she’d gone behind my back to do it, and didn’t understand why I didn’t like the pattern, when I’d had no say in the matter).
Devon’s sisters were the two-faced kind that would be all smiles to my face and then would talk about me behind my back, knowing that what they said would get back to me–things like, “She really needs to learn to put makeup on!”, when they knew as well that I didn’t wear makeup at all, simply because that’s not my thing. (I’m not much of a “girlie” girl in general.) I can only think that they genuinely hoped to influence me to start wearing it. I have no sisters of my own, only one younger brother who was in high school at the time most of this occurred. My parents run a very small farm and don’t make money off it; and at that time even though we had reconciled, I couldn’t and didn’t expect my parents to fork out for a large wedding. So Devon and I planned for something simple, that would include our parents and siblings and a few friends, with no obligation for gifts (since our friends weren’t all that well off at the time, either; and we’d already set up house together so we didn’t need any of the basics a lot of new couples get. And hey, we had a new set of DISHES already).
Then I found out that his mother had registered me at several expensive gift shops around the city. And I found out she’d already started tentatively booking large venues. She’d already made up a guest list, had picked out bridesmaids for me from among Devon’s cousins and nieces, and had determined that one of Devon’s sisters would serve as my matron of honour. Never mind that I might have friends, or cousins of my own. Devon and I confronted her about this and she said it was only what Devon deserved, that he couldn’t have a “hillbilly” wedding and that if left to my own devices that was what I would provide him. Worst of all–she had no intention of paying for all this; she expected us to come up with a bunch of money, and fully expected my parents to shoulder at least half the bills that she intended to incur on our behalf. We told her that we didn’t want this. We told her we didn’t want a big wedding at all, and probably not even a church wedding. She said that not a single one of her other children had been married like a pauper and her prince wasn’t going to be married like a pauper just so he could marry–well, me, but she said it with many unpleasant adjectives. The whole thing devolved into a screaming match and she and I called one another unflattering names and finally Devon dragged me out of there before it came to throwing furniture.
Back home, we knew we had to circumvent the woman before she drove us into bankruptcy even before our life together had really gotten started. We called up our two best friends, made a reservation at a tiny resort out in the woods; I made up a bunch of cards and addressed them; we went down to the courthouse on a Thursday morning and were married civilly with our two friends as witnesses. We went out for a lovely lunch together, just the four of us. We mailed the cards, that informed the recipients that we had gotten married on Thursday morning, and that we would be out of town for a few days. Then Devon and I took our “honeymoon” out in the woods, for four days. His family never forgave me for that (because of course it was my fault that the matriarch had been thwarted), and I was treated quite badly for the next seven years.
Devon was coming home one night from a business meeting, and his car was crushed against a concrete divider by a tractor-trailer whose driver had fallen asleep. He was killed instantly. I remember very little about the next few days (next few months, really); but I recall very clearly the phone call I received from Devon’s mother, the day after the funeral. “You’d better not try to sell that table I gave you,” she said (referring to a tiny console she’d given us because she hadn’t wanted it). “I want it back.”
No condolences, no greeting, just “give me the table”. Nice! 09-11-08
A “Gimme” of the Macabre Kind
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