My mother-in-law has bad hearing and is a wee bit insecure and as a result of not being able to hear much of what gets said and feeling already uncomfortable in social gatherings, she tends to speak frequently in varying inflections of the phrase, “Aw jeez.”
Her “aw jeez-es” come in all shapes, sizes and tones. There is the “aw jeez!” of excitement, the “aw jeez.” of disappointment and the “aw…jeez…” of sadness and empathy, usually reserved for a conversation about either elderly dying relatives or September 11. There is the “aw JEEZ!” of a funny story and the head-shaking “Awwww! Jeez…” of Isn’t My Son Just The Greatest Thing Ever And Hearing Him Talk About Taking A Cab In New York Is JUST LIKE WATCHING SEINFELD.
It makes me want to bang my head against a brick wall.
As you can probably imagine, Thanksgiving was filled with many Aw Jeez moments, from my sister-in-law’s disclosure of a new boyfriend (Aw! Jeez!) to my explanation of where my various siblings were spending the holiday (Awwww…jeez.) to Kent’s description of our turbulent flight (awjeez). Thanksgiving Day, for me, was really one giant Aw Fucking JEEZ of a day, aw jeez that we were expected to go to church, aw jeez that there was a giant jug of white merlot (ew.) at 10:30 in the morning, aw jeez at the green bean casserole and aw jeez at Kent’s 94-year old grandfather kissing me on the lips and then farting.
Before we went to bed the night before Thanksgiving, Kent’s dad said that they were planning on going to sunrise Mass the next morning. I drunkenly countered, “Uh-UH, this is a no-church holiday!” My words came back to humiliate me when I woke up on Thanksgiving and discovered that no, my father-in-law wasn’t making a joke and yes, Thanksgiving is in fact a church holiday in their household. Separation of church and state be dammed, my in-laws went to church and came home buzzing about their priest’s push for making Thanksgiving a Holy Day. Aw jeez.
Once my in-laws returned from church, we all set out for brunch with my mother-in-law’s side of the family. By ‘all’, I mean me, Kent, Amy and my mother- and father-in-law. And by ‘set out for’, I mean stood around playing “Who’s On First” while we figured out who would ride in which car. The Mom Tears threatened to make an appearance at the idea of not arriving as A Family (and everyone KNOWS that A Family rides in A Family Car and does not take separate vehicles even if the children are in fact, grown adults), but five people in one car seemed unnecessarily cramped, so this New York bitch spoke up and said, Hey, let’s all go separately so we can leave whenever we want. A reasonable enough suggestion, considering Kent and I had our rental car and plans to meet up with his friend Jeff, Amy had her car and plans to meet up with a friend, and Kent’s parents had their car and no plans whatsoever. But as my mother-in-law clucked about, wondering “Which car am I in, which car am I in?” I realized the error of my ways and went upstairs to fix my hair [read: sit on Kent’s bed and breath deeply and remember that I cannot yell at my in-laws after less than two years of marriage] while Kent’s family attempted to reinvent the wheel of carpooling. Finally, Kent came up for me and said, We’re leaving, and we dashed for the Monte Carlo while Amy and my in-laws went back and forth between whose car they’d take. Aw JEEZ.
At Kent’s Uncle Jack’s house, we were greeted by approximately 362 children who all looked identical and all RAN CONSTANTLY EVEN WHEN EATING and all simultaneously caused my uterus to clench up and holler to my lady parts to Yo! Raise the drawbridge already. We made our way to the brunch spread (and by brunch spread I mean donuts with plastic turkeys stuck in them and some eggy-cheesy slop), stopping every two seconds to answer that Yup, we’re still in New York, and Good, New York is good. And I got to hear OVER AND OVER AGAIN, “Hey, Kent looks skinny…what, doesn’t your wife feed you?” Over and over again. Heh heh heh, aren’t you feeding your husband, heh heh heh, not letting him eat, eh? Heh heh heh. HEH HEH HEH. Were it not only 10:30 a.m., I might have poured myself a glass of wine. Because yes, at 10:30 a.m. there was a jug of wine, and no I am not kidding about the jug or the time, and yes, it was pink. It was white merlot, and AW JEEZ I could have died happily without ever knowing that such a beverage exists.
Eventually the brunch ended (no more donuts!) and we headed for our separate cars and drove back to my in-laws’ house. And at every traffic light, they waved at us from Amy’s car. I wish that weren’t true, but aw jeez, it is.
I took a “nap” for a while before dinner, meaning I checked email and read and basically hid in Kent’s room while Kent spent time with his parents discussing local high school football and Seinfeld reruns. I walked downstairs in time to hear my mother-in-law saying to Kent, “I should give you kids some of our family recipes to make up in New York! Some of my Thanksgiving recipes! For you to make! Like my green bean casserole! It’s reeeaaaal easy!” She says this as I hear the microwave beeping in the background, and I feel it is my duty as the snotty daughter-in-law to point out how much I hate hate HATE her use of ‘real’ when she means to use ‘really,’ which isn’t even the right use of ‘really’ but is still not as grating as ‘real’ good or ‘real’ sick or ‘real’ easy. But the green bean casserole is the REAL issue: it is a vile and disgusting thing and I am sure that I am offending someone by saying so, but ick ick ICK, a can of cream of mushroom soup does not a family recipe make. And gray slop is not my preferred Thanksgiving side dish, besides which, HOW CAN IT BE A FAMILY RECIPE WHEN YOU ARE SHOWING IT TO ME FROM THE BACK OF A CAN? “I can’t eat that,” I whispered to Kent. “Aw jeez…” he said.
Soon it was time to leave for dinner, which involved another round of Who Goes In What Car, as dinner was hosted by Kent’s aunt and uncle. Amy left first in order to pick up an elderly family friend on her way to dinner, and we clearly left too soon after her, because as we were walking up the pathway towards the front door, Kent’s cell phone rang. It was his sister, already inside, and when we walked in, she snapped her phone shut with a glare. Kent’s uncle took my coat and his younger cousins crowed around to say hello. The oldest of them – Jack – is 23, and greeted me with a lingering hug. He offered me wine or beer and I chose the former. I quickly learned what Amy’s call had been for when Jack walked through the living room doorway with a box under his arm. Yes, a box. “Iwastryingtotellyouthatthereisnowinehere,” hissed Amy, sipping her Diet Coke. “Here, let me tap it for you,” offered Jack, gesturing to the offending box with a wink. Aw jeez indeed.
The last time I drank Franzia white zinfandel from a box was on a sorority retreat in college during a game of I Never. Back then I had Never a lot of things (Eeew! No way would I ever do that…that’s where POO comes from!), so I had my fair share of Franzia and pretty much assumed I would never encounter it again, along with apple bongs and the Dave Matthews Band. But nearly ten years later, Franzia found me, and I accepted my glass of the alcoholic Capri Sun from Kent’s cousin begrudgingly, wishing I had asked for a beer. I stood there and sipped the swill and tap-tap-tapped the toe of my pointy flats with annoyance as Kent’s relatives joked about the “wine snob” drinking boxed wine (No cork for you to sniff, Molly…can’t send this one back! Har har har.) I tap-tap-tapped the toe of my shoes faster, incredulous that I was drinking pink wine and getting ready to eat canned vegetables for Thanksgiving. Um, HELLO! Don’t they SEE that I’m wearing Marc Jacobs shoes?, I fumed to myself. I put on $175 jeans for these people! Clearly I need a real bottle of wine because LOOK AT MY HANDBAG IT IS PRETTY AND FANCY AND AW FUCKING JEEZ I WANT PINOT NOIR NOOOOOWWWWWW!
Horny Cousin Jack talked to me for a while about college and sports and movies, and then we sat down for dinner where we talked more about college and sports and movies. Oh, and cars too. The “grown-ups table” was talking about laser eye surgery, so I think I got the better deal on that one. Horny Cousin Jack kept drinking, I kept pushing the cauliflower-and-Velveeta casserole around my plate, and Kent kept eating pie. Once dinner was over I wished even harder for more wine, as we all started talking Wal-Mart (me: EVIL, them: So cheap!), politics (me: I love Hilary, them: Woohoo for Dubya), more politics (me: pro-choice; them: ignoring me and all hoping my mother-in-law’s hearing was bad enough to miss all of what I said), movies (me: Sideways!; them: do you know anyone who saw that 9/11 movie? Me: uh…only EVERYONE, including us, and the whole theater cheered and clapped; them: wha?; my mother-in-law: Aw jeez, why would you want to see a movie about 9/11 since you were there for 9/11, I mean, jeez; me: Actually it’s not about 9/11 but is a damning critique of the Bush administration blah blah blah; them: We hate her and wish she were not here but she confirms everything we ever thought about people from California AND New York, pass the beer nuts please).
When it came time for family photos (and of COURSE that time came), Horny Cousin Jack pounded the last of his beer and complained, How come Kent gets to stand next to Molly and then told me he liked my shoes and the way they made my feet look. (Finally! Someone with taste!) Then we took 856,234 pictures. And then a few more for good measure (I think I blinked! Me too! Wait, is there film in that?!), and began the long, looooong process of saying our goodbyes. Before we left, Kent’s aunt and uncle (who are dear, kind people that I like very much but who have horrible taste) gave us an early Christmas gift: a clock that plays a different Christmas carol every hour. And you know a gift is bad if even my mother-in-law wrinkles her nose at it, which she did the following morning, when we showed it to her, up close and personal, just before leaving for the airport.
“Aw jeez,” she chuckled. “What were they thinking?”