Friday, December 19, 2008

Suck it up

I hop between jobs, peel potatoes, knead bread, prepare supper, finish the nightgown with the aid of a persuasive iron and lay the table. Nonna is at a loose end and ever so slightly expectant. As I jump from the sewing machine to turn the bread over in the oven, Nonna reaches for the bundle of sewing, “so wot you do wiv dis den?”
“I’m just about to put the other sleeve in and then with a bit of luck I’ll be able to finish it up before she gets home.”
“Right, well I’ll put the sleeve in for you den,” she announces as she turns on her heel back to the table and sewing machine. I stand with a tea towel in my hand ready to protest but suddenly wordless. I pause. How to stall her politely? Why the sewing? Why not the potatoes or something useful? I don’t really want someone else sewing my gift for my daughter. I pout. I crash around the kitchen and my other chores, which are chores, rather that fun relief from the tedium, trying to think. Nobody does other people’s sewing, mid-sew. I mentally list Nonna’s other interventions, reading the half read book, somebody else’s book, usually my book, apparently because I make good choices, drying up one cup when there are half a dozen on the drainer, the extra row on the knitting, the last entry on the cross-word puzzle, an endless litany of minor irritations.

My ire rises as I storm around the kitchen. The nerve of the woman. I am slightly relieved by the thought that few people can fathom other people’s sewing machines, but mine is both ancient and basic. I think other evil thoughts because as always, I’ve yanked the power cord from the wall, a habit provoked by numerous small people in the vicinity. She’ll never notice, merely thwarted.

This is payback for my anal retentive nature. What does it matter anyway? Surely her showing enthusiasm is a plus? She used to sew, back in the day, but lost interest in the interim. Perhaps I should buy some knitting for her, take her to the sewing shop, pop a crossword puzzle book in her stocking? I need to be more pro-active.

This is a crash course in ‘how to be easy going’ or ‘how to let go’ or ‘how to live harmoniously.’ I swear I shall snap through my retainer if I continue to grind my teeth so viciously. I mash potatoes with venom and narrowly avoid a squirt of vented spleen. For forty minutes I tarry in the kitchen as Nonna tangles with the threads. I could have had the whole thing finished by now if only I’d had the bottle to usurp her. Instead I grow gall stones of bile. All I want to do is hide it before my daughter comes home, as I grow weary of lying to everyone about what I am making for whom, like a badly executed shell game.

Oh just say something you lilly livered land lubber, she won’t mind. But she might mind. She might not mind when I say something the first time, but the second time I’ll have to yell and it’s hard to hide annoyance if I’m also yelling at the same time. The two seem to meld together. I might burst a blood vessel just to relieve the strain. Nonna splattered with not so sanguine.

“There! All done!” she beams extending her handiwork for my inspection. I dry my hands to receive the offering. She is as pleased as punch. I’m so tempted to sit down and finish the whole thing in 7 minutes flat, but I can tell that she’s staying, has no intention of leaving. I refuse to let my petty mindedness get the better of me. How humiliating and galling to watch your daughter in law complete something with a fraction of the effort and time. Just plain mean. “That’s great, thank you so much.” I attempt a weak smile in the reflexion of more radiant beams. “I shall start dah neck now….” but I break in as I see the headlights in the driveway, “no that’s o.k., I need to hide it as she’ll be in the door any minute.” We both turn to face the entrance, shoulder to shoulder with the nightgown bundled behind her back.

1 comment:

DJ Kirkby said...

This was such a lovely post. Remined me of my own feelings about such things. You write beautifully.