Even though she has seen this childlike countenance that I can develop on occasion, she was momentarily stumped. I could tell she was not happy that I was so excited about this idea that she couldn’t say no to without running the risk of me taking back word to my husband about how she “crushed my feelings”. Like most astute and highly capable war generals and fashion critics, she doesn’t look me in the eye when she has a disagreement with me. She looks at her hands or out the window. In this particular instance though, just because this battle was probably the biggest she had ever battled with me, she changed her tactic and looked me square in the eyes and asked,
“What do you mean by throwing a party? Are you saying that we won’t be going on a hot balloon ride or fishing or sailing?”
Now it was my moment to reckon. Normally I’m intimidated by this reverse swing type of bowling technique. For those of you who aren’t aware of the perverse ways of international cricket, bowlers have devised a way of swinging a ball toward their opponent in a way that the ball looks like it’s moving away from you but is actually charging towards you. This is quite possibly the highest level of craft that a bowler in cricket aspires to achieve. It’s inspirational and dangerous and if not played right, can send the batsman back to the pavilion.
So I didn’t immediately answer. I weighed many possible responses to this seemingly innocuous question. I realized, despite my usual thickness in these matters, that my answer now would be the ultimate decision of this joint venture that my husband had entrusted us to. This was the moment where her or I could stamp this moment with our proud name. I couldn’t be cavalier about how I handled this moment. This was the most important and defining point of this upcoming birthday. I thought about it and three possible situations with their possible complications come up.
1. I could pretend I didn’t hear her which is something I personally find very unnerving when she does it to me. When she pretends she hasn’t heard me I back pedal and nervously try to salvage a burning building that I might have built with ill-chosen words. But I didn’t think I could do this with her. For one, she’s an extremely confident woman and was just going to repeat what she had said the first time and I’d have had to answer it authentically. And for another, I don’t think I could pretend deafness when she was sitting so close to me that our noses were virtually touching each other.
2. I could tell her point blank that I didn’t agree with any of her ideas and that my idea had really taken a good grip of me and there was no chance that I could abandon it now. I could do this but exactly because of my petulance and persistence over things that she calls “mundane” has she not been able to see me as an adult in all the years I’ve known her.
3. I could actually explain my question literally and tell her what throwing a party entailed. I knew she’d think it as me being sarcastic but she had left me with no options so I decided to go with this one. I thought that this would make her feel simple and dumb and might make her feel so stupid that she’d agree to my idea.
So I cleared my throat and said,
“Dear MIL! I find that a strange question but would like to answer it to the best of my ability. A party is a celebration of sorts, a festivity by nature and usually a happy affair. It is associated with a purpose usually but some people throw parties for no apparent reason also. Like when they get a new home or a new car and want to draw some indirect attention to these life events. Sometimes a party means a political group of like-minded individuals. Sometimes people use the phrase “life’s a party” sarcastically to imply that their life is actually anything but. I suppose the word “party” could be a confusing one. I mean I can’t tell you how many times this term has been used by people for boring affairs like fund raisers and philanthropic charity work, both of which I do no endorse unless they have arranged for some truly high-end goody bags for their patrons. Lastly, my personal idea of a party in today’s context is a celebration of my husband’s life as it is today with him being married to a remarkably beautiful woman and has two amazingly gorgeous kids. I want people to see how we have built a super successful life together and care for one another. I hope to do that by having a garden party where fifty of our closest friends will be invited. I’m planning on ordering food from the best restaurant and as an homage to all that my dear husband does for me I’d like to sing at that party for him”.
MIL looked at me with a blank expression. She didn’t look the least bit impressed. Her eyes gave away nothing about what she was thinking. I was slightly annoyed. I expected her to be overwhelmed by my speech. Instead, she looked like she hadn’t heard a word of what I had said. Finally she said,
“I think that’s a fine idea”.
Oh! So she heard everything. I felt a tiny firecracker of victory pop in me.
“But”, she continued, “I don’t think we can invite just fifty close friends. Why, he’s turning forty this year. That’s a milestone if there’s one. I think this party should be grander and larger”.
“But….” I started.
“Let me finish, dear!”, she put up her hand to quiet me, “as much as some shortsighted people whom he keeps company with might think that the real reason he has a successful life is because of his remarkably beautiful wife and amazingly gorgeous kids, there are many more profoundly introspective people whom he knew long before he met those dummies who know the role his loving mother and dedicated father played in making him the man he is today. And I don’t know if it would be fair to those people or to me if they were deprived from bearing witness to a fantastic party in honor of the boy whom I so proudly call my son. Without them, I would feel invalidated. Without them the party would have a narrative of my son reaching this altitude in life without any sacrifice or compromise that myself and his father have had to make over the years. Since you’ve already decided to pay homage to my son by singing to him, it would be only fair that I ask him to pay homage to me by making a short speech about me and his relationship”.
What is she talking about? My husband would write an appreciation speech for her and deliver it on our garden? This was truly the most hurtful thing that she could do to me.
However, I let it go. I mean I knew my husband’s writing skills. If she wanted to be the recipient of his chicken scratch then she was more than welcome to it.
I could see that she had prepared her next monologue if I disagreed and could feel her visible deflation as I said,
“That’s totally reasonable, I think. I think this would be his contribution to the party. I would like to make the guest list tonight. May be we can meet same place, same time tomorrow morning with the guest list?”
I could see surprise etched in her face at my sudden conviction to be an adult. She agreed to meet me the next day, gracefully rose from her chair and left.