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When they sat on a clean baby blanket, covering the couch, my therapist told me one day I’d be putting out the blanket for them.  When we came home one night to find our babysitters  sitting on their book jackets and tote bags pressed flat, I rolled my eyes, and Mr. Apron confronted the absurdity of it all.  We’d replaced the cushion covers, and no dog had ever sat on that surface.

So knock it off, he told his parents.

Later, we’d return to my father-in-law sitting on a dining room chair pulled a few feet from the television, using the kids’ Fisher Price activity station as a coffee table.  That I could excuse, as we have a tiny TV, he wanted the sound low so as not to wake the babies, and he needed to see the action of The Game.

But the night we came home to find both of my in laws seated in plastic patio chairs in the middle of our living room was the epitome of the lengths to which my in laws have gone to avoid any “contamination” of dog-related materials on their person or their home.

“We have bad backs,” they said. But then followed up with, “We waited until you’d left to take the chairs out of the trunk, because we knew you’d get mad.”

Mad about their “bad backs”?  Hardly.

Mad that they treat our home, our clothing, our very children like infectious waste?  That’s more our speed.

At their home, our coats must be laid across a wrought iron banister, not placed in the coat closet.

After they leave our house, they go home and shower and change.

They refused to let us wash clothing at their house when our laundry room blew a fuse.  Not clothing – cloth diapers.  White pieces of microfiber and PUL that touch our babies’ bottoms.  The dog doesn’t wear diapers. And washing machines are for cleaning things.

I could understand that the vacuum my mother-in-law used to clean out my husband’s first apartment couldn’t be taken back to her home.  We got a free vacuum cleaner out of the deal.  But this?  Ridiculous.  Especially considering that, a few months earlier, my father-in-law had washed a load of our baby laundry in his home for us when our old washer died.  Back before he considered all the contaminants that might have been clinging to my daughter’s dresses and my son’s polo shirts.  Never mind the baby socks!

I had to go to a neighbor’s house and ask to use her machine so my children could have clean diapers for another few days.   Thankfully no one in her house is allergic to dogs, peanuts, or logic.

Now I realize none of it is based in reason, but my in-laws are guided by intense anxiety.  My sister-in-law, a 45-year-old woman with no real severe health issues, lives at home with her parents.  Yes, she has a condo of her own, but a snowstorm 3 years ago plus a mouse problem sent her packing, and she has once again moved into her childhood home.  Where her alleged allergies dictate everything that comes into the home.  While in the beginning of my relationship with my future husband, I took her at her word that she was actually allergic to dogs, I now doubt the intensity as well as the veracity of her allergy.  My own husband had allergy tests recently that revealed that he, too, is allergic to dogs.  And he takes a small pill every morning to combat the fact that he’s allergic to most things that grow outdoors, and we have a dog.

We were dog-free for a number of months, after our previous mutt passed away, and toyed briefly with the idea of staying dog-free. Maybe she’d come in our home.   Maybe she’d interact more with (e.g., hold) our children.  We hosted the kids’ first birthday party in our home (as opposed to a dog-free “neutral zone”) as a way to call her bluff.  And she came.  Then, a few months later, we adopted a basset hound, a “low-shed”, short-hair dog who is an absolute delight, and the perfect hound for our family.

“Why didn’t you get a dog that doesn’t shed this time?” my sister-in-law asked.

“This breed didn’t come in that style,” I answered.

Later, we realized the ego-centrism of her question, and my husband revised our collective response.

“Because it wasn’t for you.”

Between the laundry, the couch cushions, the fact that our kids don’t know her when they look at photographs, as well as her myriad other health “issues”, it’s clear to me that she’s literally chosen her veil of sickness/allergy over her relationship with my children.

Initially, my therapist said that it wasn’t personal, that there was no commentary on my housekeeping skills woven into the fibers of the couch cover.

I’m torn, of course, because it is personal.  It’s a reflection of their disdain for our chosen animal companion, their choice to subscribe to the lifestyle of Extreme Allergic Reaction, and their preference for anxiety over family.  I don’t want to lose our local, free babysitting services, along with the family connections.  I don’t want my children to know the fuming rage I have towards those patio chairs and what they represent.

But I can’t make them feel comfortable in our home, can’t make them understand the lunacy of their proceedings, can’t make them realize it’s all manufactured bullshit.

So we accept their limitations, we accept them into our home, and help them unload their fucking patio chairs.  We roll out the allergy red carpet.  Am I putting a blanket on the couch for them, as my therapist predicted?

Not yet, but I’m this close to putting a “decontamination in progress” sign on the front door and supplying them with hazmat suits as a gesture of my good will and understanding.

Either that, or lighting a bag of dog hair on fire on their front step.

When it comes down to the reality, it’s not just my sister-in-law who’s sick.  They’re all feeding into the illness.  Before I asked my neighbor if I could wash our laundry at her house, my husband approached his other sister, one who lives less than 50 yds away, to see if she could help us out. Mr. Apron made the mistake of explaining why his parents had refused our request.

She, too, refused, siding with my parents-in-law, citing the obvious about her sister, “She’s sick.”

Yes, she is, we agreed, but not in the way you think.

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The phone calls never go as I plan.  It’s hard to have a mature conversation with a person who resists maturity with every stuffed-animal cushioned bone in her body.  Nevertheless, I keep trying.  Confronting my mother seems to be a necessary evil, lest I stew and breed resentment in myself.

My uncle, mom’s brother, is getting his tonsils out.  This is not the same procedure for a 50-something year old as it is for kids.  It’s not just ice cream, pudding, and a day off from school.  As I learned when I did my clinical rotation at the cancer hospital, getting tonsils removed when one is an adult is a little more serious.  Adults have actually become accustomed to using their tonsils as a first point of constriction for swallowing.  It’s what makes swallowing so painful post-tonsillectomy.  And the tissue is older, more at-home in its surroundings.  Mom has been talking up this surgery as if she’s going to be at bedside.  She complains her sister, who actually lives near my uncle, will do nothing to care for him, will just dump him off at home after the surgery and leave him to fend for himself among the hoarder’s cache of camera, National Geographics, and BetamaXXX pornos.  She herself is seemingly happy enough to disparage her sister, without volunteering to pick up the slack herself and fly out for the surgery.  It’s very convenient to complain, and very easy, without doing anything to fix the “problem”. 

But one thing she is very good at doing is sending gifts and cards, especially to people who are convalescing.  A packet arrived yesterday at my house.  In it were the usual assortment of newspaper clippings I might find “of interest”, a post card for some crafty person, some Spongebob paraphernalia, and a letter.  And one more thing – a stamped envelope with enclosed get-well card.  All she didn’t do was address the thing for me.  I wrote some bullshit in it about Jell-O and Ensure, crossed out the “Happy Birthday” message, and banished it from my house to the mailbox.  It was completely inappropriate.  Sure, her intent is kind-hearted – to make sure her poor baby brother gets get-well cards in his time of need, but the passive-aggressive way she went about doing it makes my blood boil.

“So who else do you think got these in my mail?” my husband asked. 

My brother and sister for sure.  I know for a fact she sends my brother cards for him to send to us sisters for our birthday, since he’s too incompetent or too important to seek out a gift shop on his own. 

So I called her.  If it’s so important to you, I said, or, if you think it would be so meaningful to him, just ask me, I said.  Like an adult.  Not that she’d ever cop to the passive-aggressive and condescending message of putting a pre-stamped card in the mail.  That strikes me as something you do for your child who’s away at sleep away camp for the first time.

And she can’t just say “okay.” She can’t just say that she’ll do that next time, that’s for letting her know, she appreciates that I’d take the time to send a card if it was important.  Why do I even try when I feel like I’m talking to a rubber wall and all my well-reasoned I-statements come back in my face, twisted, distorted, perverted so that it’s suddenly my fault for making my needs and feelings known?  At least I will know that I tried.  And hopefully it won’t keep building in me.

I have homework, and I really don’t want to do it.  I think I’ll put it off as long as possible.  It’s a familiar story, but I’m not in school.  There’s no grade, no lab report, no phone call home for missing work.  I’m accountable only to myself and my therapist.

I have to confront my sister-in-law.  No, not Bianca, the one whose very pseudonym causes bits of bile to rise, as I confront the impending doom of her arrival on my block.  She’s closing later this month on a house we can see from our living room window.  Not Bianca, whose misadventures cause the whole family to jump into action to swoop in and rescue her from her from herself. 

No, this time it’s Julia, my oldest sister-in-law.  It’s not even personal.  It’s more an issue of a habit Mr. Apron’s family has, and a behavior that makes me nuts.  Whereas my family beats around the bush, and usually adopts a don’t ask, don’t tell policy of extreme secrecy, prudishness, and shame, Mr. Apron’s family discusses things openly, to a point.  While no topics are truly off limits in general, many of them are safely discussed behind the backs of others, using as many middlemen as possible.  An issue between two family members may involve everyone in the family, plus in-laws. 

When it was suggested (by a 3rd party), that Bianca and her husband ought to go to counseling, to maybe save their marriage, or to learn how to behave like adults who have a child, they sort of agreed.  Somehow, though, I became involved.  Somehow, Mr. Apron became involved.  Somehow, Julia and my parents-in-law became involved.  I imagine it went something like this:  well, they really ought to go to counseling, and we don’t have the name of a therapist.  But Mrs. Apron, she sees someone!  I know: we’ll get Mr. Apron to call her therapist to ask her to recommend the name of a counselor for Bianca and her husband.   She will in turn recommend a name.  Unless, of course, she doesn’t know what their insurance will cover.  She said to print out a list of providers (from their insurance website), and Mrs. Apron can bring that list into her therapist, who will circle names she recommends.  Oh, but because Bianca can’t/won’t do this herself, Julia is again called into action to be the internet gopher.  Because she can only do this with Bianca’s cooperation, the entire strategic operation has stalled.  In the end, only Bianca can help herself, and if she won’t, no one else can. 

Luckily, my current “issue” with Julia is minor by comparison. It’s so minor, I’d rather just let it go, sweep it under the rug, and move on with my life.  But I need to start with something small, a baby step, in hopes that it leads to bigger things.   What happened was this: I asked Julia along on my doctor’s appointment 2 weeks ago.  She provided distraction and emotional support at the infertility doctor, as Mr. Apron could not be there, and I was out of my mind with frantic anxiety.  She did her job well; I was eternally grateful she was there. 

Last weekend, she asked Mr. Apron to come with her on one of their usual de-stressing sessions.  During this session, it was revealed that Julia had overheard 3 different couples/women with various complaints about the doctor to whom I was at that moment unloading my 18-month long voyage of non-pregnancy.  One complaint was from someone who was bitching about schedule procedures.  Someone was down here from the Lehigh Valley, grumbling about not being seen promptly, and when she was finally seen, she felt that the doctor had been brusque, rushing her, not listening.  Yet another woman bemoaned the fact that her insurance had not paid for some procedures.  I could take apart these complaints, one by one, in order to relieve my cognitive dissonance.  In fact, I shall.  I had found the doctor to be understanding of not only my medical history, but also my state of mind in pursuing treatment.  I had had to wait, yes, but that’s part of the pitfall of healthcare in general.  I’d rather she give me, and the person who came before me, the time we each need, then rush us all to be on time.  As for insurance coverage, after speaking with his sister, Mr. Apron begged me to call my insurance company to make sure they covered my upcoming blood work and procedures, something we never have done before.  It’s routine blood work, it’s an ultra-sound.  I’ve been through brain surgery, for fuck’s sake, and always known that my HMO would cover medically necessary procedures as long as I had the all-important referral or pre-authorization.  We have no idea if this was the woman’s 5th failed IVF, when her insurance only covered 4.  That’s an entirely different matter than just blood work and tests.  It’s an awful lot of conjecture to sour someone on a doctor they’ve never met.

But I won’t be concerning myself with her worries.  I can make an informed decision about my own doctor.  I’ve disliked doctors before.  I’ve sought out 2nd opinions and changed doctors, and reacted when I was displeased with their professionalism or medical advice.  What is most upsetting to me is that she could not/did not tell me herself.  She says (though my husband-interpreter) that she didn’t want to dampen my mood that day.  I had appeared to like the doctor, and I was rushing off to another appointment, anyway.  So she decided to pass along her burdensome worries to her brother. 

When he came home, I could sense his sullen mood.  Sometimes, post-family session, he has just borne witness to an intensive venting session about Bianca, or is depressed about his parents’ aging, or his own sadness.  This time, it was that Julia had unloaded all her worries about telling me her own doubts about my doctor, onto my husband.  And he got to be the messenger.  Not fair to him, not fair to me, not fair of Julia.

My homework this week is to talk to Julia.  No, not a full-out confrontation as I indicated, but a conversation between two (assumed) adults who hold jobs, pay bills, and are united in joint agony over Bianca’s child-rearing techniques.  I don’t have to refute the women in the waiting room; I don’t have to defend my good vibes about the doctor.  All I have to do is thank her for her concerns, and ask that, next time, she come talk to me about it. 

My therapist planted a metaphor in my mind, a very apt description of my internal state.  I have lists, masses, multitudes of things I want to do, need to do, ought to do.  They are insignificant, they are vital, they are dreadful, they are fun.  I want to try knitting again, to take a class this time.  I want to invite the neighbors over so I can start building my social circle.  I want to socialize with some of my coworkers.  I want to try out different synagogues and find one that fits, so I can rejoin the Jewish community.  I want to make a decision about window treatments and ditch the broken blinds.  I want to travel, I want to maintain our home.  I want to try to cook new things.  I am separated from all of these “want”s by a glass wall.  I can see them, I can want for them. But I cannot reach them. 

The hope is that by talking to Julia, I can make a small crack in this glass wall, and begin to break down the barrier to the want tos, need tos, ought tos.  

Like real dreaded homework, I am procrastinating.  Two days gone by, and all I have to show is mounting dread and anxiety.  All I have are excuses why I have not called her up, or scheduled a meeting, or gone over to my in-laws’ to get it over with.  I can’t do it Thursday because I’m tutoring.  I can’t do it Sunday because she volunteers at the museum.  I can’t do it Saturday because she watches my nephew.  I can’t do it over the phone because using the phone is one of the activities I dread the most.  I envision the conversation, I script my lines, I rehearse the script.  I sense it will go something like this: 

Me: Juliacanwetalk?

J: Um.  Sure?

Me:  UmokayIreallyappreciatethatyouwenttothedoctorwithmeokay

J: <blank stare>

Me: andumandumI’mreallygratefulthatyouwereconcernedwhatothepeoplewereuhuhuh

J: yeah?

Me: yeahwhattheyweresayingaboutthetdoctorso,um,so,nexttime…

J: yeah?

Me: couldyoujustImean,ifyoucouldjust,like,tellmedirectly,I’dappreciateityeah

J:okay

Me: <running away crying>

Or worse:

Me: Juliacanwetalk?

J: Sure.  Nothing is wrong, is it?

Me: No,notreally,okay,Ireallyappreciatethatyouwenttothedoctorwithmeokay?

J: What is this really about?

Me: andumandumI’mreallygratefulthatyouwereconcernedwhatothepeoplewereuhuhuh

J: Go on. Is there a point here? 

Me: yeahwhattheyweresayingaboutthetdoctorso,um,so,nexttime

J: Who?  Oh, the women in the waiting room? Yeah, they really reamed her out.  You’re not going back there, are you?  I mean, you can’t seriously think she’s a good doctor, can you?

Me: No,Imean,yeah,Imean,IcandecideformyselfandIlikedheranduh

J: I can’t believe you’re telling me this! 

Me: Seeit’sjustthatuh couldyoujustImean,ifyoucouldjust,like,tellmedirectlynexttime,I’dappreciateityeah

J: I’m never speaking to you again!

I’d rather write a 20-page paper on the Marxist tendencies of 17th century Norwegian peasant farmers with MLA documentation.  But we don’t get to choose our homework, do we?

While in many ways I think of myself as a gifted (or at least passably creative) writer, there are areas I still struggle to churn out something I’m comfortable associating with myself.  Sure, I agonize over employment-related correspondence, but with Mr. Apron as my proof-reader, I’m more confident.  Over the years, I’ve learned that less is more.  I’ve managed to score myself three big-girl jobs, so I must be doing something well.

In contrast to my cover letters, my thank-you notes have shown no growth or maturity since my Bat Mitzvah.  If they made fill-in-the-blank thank-yous with adult themes (no, not “adult” themes, just without the crayon scribbles and Thomas the Train), I’d use them. As it is my thank you notes still sound stilted and awkward.  This often happens because I am a crap lier.  And as gifts are usually from family members I haven’t seen in a decade, they are usually inappropriate and I have to lie. 

Here, then, is my standard thank you note format:

Dear Aunt Guzzy,

Thank you so much for remembering me on my birthday/anniversary/Hanukkah/Duwali.  I love the new fleece frog pajamas/oversize martini glasses/keychain flashlight/bucket of paper clips.  I will think of you fondly as I use them to donate to Goodwill/regift to someone else/feel guilty and keep them in my closet.  Thank you for thinking of me on my special day.

Love,

Mrs. Apron

My aunt sends me frog pajamas, alternating with alcohol accessories, every year.  She either thinks I am still 12 years old (when I was last into frogs), or a huge lush (we do not drink anything stronger than Manischewitz, twice a year).  My uncle, on the other hand, alternates between expensive, gorgeous, presents appropriate to my taste (sewing machine, printer, Birkenstocks, and a sumptuous leather coat), or hideously inappropriate, awkward, ill-fitting, clothing.  He is a hoarder and has filled up his house with Betamaxx porn tapes, clocks, National Geographics, and camera parts, so now he has taken to projectile hoarding on my mother, sister, and me.  He sends huge boxes of granny clothing from top old-lady designers, most of which ends up at Salvation Army. 

Still, thank you notes are important in my family.  Forget one, and you could be off the list, or, worse, be relegated to receiving donations in your honor to Save the Children, WWF, or United Way.

Imagine that thank you note.

My cousin Paul has died.  Paul was my grandmother’s first cousin.  He was 106 years old.  When I told people I had a cousin that old, they didn’t believe me.  Not that he wasn’t that old, but that he was my cousin.  Though my family isn’t gung-ho into genaeology, we do keep track of generations and know all the proper ways to call cousins and such.  I was never the type to grow up with thirteen women called “aunt”.  Not that we didn’t adopt people into the family; we just always knew who they were.  So Paul was my grandma’s first cousin.  His two daughters are my mother’s second cousins.  The next generation — my third cousins — are four men who are now in their 40s.  And they have, combined, 5 children, my first cousins once removed.  My children will be their fourth cousins.   And so Paul is my first cousin, twice removed. 

I love that we’ve kept track of these things, that I can feel almost as close to that branch of the family as I do to my own first cousins on either side.  I guess growing up geographically isolated from any family meant that I could appreciate and attach myself to family, no matter how distant — as the crow flies, or on the ancestor tree — they were.

When I think about Paul, I think of all he experienced in his 106 years.  He remembered, of course, the Titanic’s sinking.  He remembered all the wars of his lifetime.  More significantly, he remembered when my family came over from The Old Country.  Many many Eastern European Jews came through Ellis Island.  Two branches of my family we know for sure did not.  The branch of which I am speaking came through the port at Annapolis, and stayed with Paul and his family when they lived in Fels Point, a historic neighborhood of Baltimore.  Paul remained in Baltimore his entire life.  He remained independent his entire life. 

Last year, when I was mired in my hospital-based adult practicum for my speech pathology clinical work, Paul’s wife, Marian, died.  She was “only” 96 or so.  We’re not sure; at least, I’m not.  It’s easier to keep track of people once they reach 100.  Before that, the math is fuzzy.  They lived together in a condo of a predominantly Jewish suburb of Baltimore.  When my sister last went to go visit Paul and Marian, Marian was upset that her little sister, who lived across the hall, had been ill.  Seems there is longevity in that side of the family.  When Marian passed away, it tore me up inside.  I was facing death and disease on a daily basis at the hospital, and I was wrecked knowing that their partnership of nearly 80 years was finally over.  When I first met Paul and Marian (in my adult life, in recent memory), it was at Paul’s 100th birthday. He was unfortunately hospitalized, and Marian sat by his side, holding and stroking his hand, as we crowded into the hospital room to wish him a happy birthday.  Willard Scott did so on his broadcast on the Today show, and Paul mused that no one had seemed to care so much at his 99th birthday. 

Six years ago, as I sat there watching in that Baltimore hospital room, I was passing through on my way to Philly for a job interview.  Mr. Apron and I were just at the beginning of our relationship.  That job interview, and all subsequent happenings, have led to the last three years of our married happiness.  I remembered watching, and hoping that I will get to grow old with Mr. Apron, and still show as much kind, caring  affection towards each other as did my two elderly cousins.  When Marian passed away, I was upset for Paul. 

If I didn’t think about him for a while, I was sure he would live forever, the birthdays just clicking past till he was the world’s oldest human.  I figured, if he was alive and well, what mortal illness could possibly be his end?  But last spring Marian died, and I worried for Paul. 

I won’t be going to the funeral, but my mother is flying in.  I wonder what people are going to share of their memories.  I wonder how many facets of Paul’s 106 years will be represented, from his surgical career, to the 20 years he worked at the VA after he retired (finally retiring from full-time work at 85), to his family, his friends, the ghosts of his classmates, etc.  I wonder if they can remember half of what he remembered, half of what he witnessed and saw in his lifetime.  His immediate descendants all live in the Baltimore area, all are still close.  His daughters have each been married around 50 years each.  What a blessing to them it has been to have their anchors, their patriarch, their papa. 

In lieu of the trite RIP which I see emblazoned on car windshields and inked onto biceps, I much prefer to evoke the Jewish tradition of mourning and say, Let his memory be a blessing.  As his life was to all who knew him.

Looks like you get another break from brain surgery today, as I need a chance to unload about today’s events, and a certain family member.  I’ll likely return to brain surgery tomorrow, but for today, I leave you this tidbit about my sister-in-law.  Welcome to the family. 

Oh, how people whistle a different tune when they want something out of you!  ‘Twas not so long ago that Mr. Apron’s sister, whom I will call “Bianca” spotted Mr. Apron wearing a silk bowtie given to him in memoriam by his allergist’s widow.  It’s a long story, but, briefly, Dr. Greene collapsed and died a few years ago, in the prime of his life.  Mr. Apron, who had had a close relationship with his allergist, being an allergic, sniffling Jew with chronic post-nasal drip, was deeply moved and wrote a tribute, which eventually found its way to Mrs. Greene’s mailbox.  She was so touched by the essay that she chose one of the doctor’s distinctive bowties and gave it to Mr. Apron because she knew he’d appreciate and wear it.  It’s due to Dr. Greene that Mr. Apron started wearing bowties in the first place.  So on this particular day Mr. Apron was wearing the prized tie in question, and Bianca remarked, snidely, “That looks like something Mrs. Apron would make.”

To us crafters, that can either be the ultimate compliment, or it can send us reeling back to high school when no one appreciated what we sewed, knit, collaged, or crafted, and thought we were just freaks, crudely copying fashion trends we were too cheap/poor/uncool to buy at the mall.  Guess which way Bianca meant it?

Fast-forward.  Bianca is now 7 months pregnant with her boyfriend’s child.  After a freak-out session at Babies ‘R Us where she and the boyfriend were send into shock by all of the baby swag, she promptly texted Mr. Apron and asked him if I, alleged creator of knock-off schlock and assorted kitsch smacking of home-made, would do her the honor of making her a diaper bag.  Dear friends, how could I refuse?

So tonight we journeyed down to the fabric store where I dropped $50 on materials to make her a custom diaper bag out of some admittedly really cool fabric.  As we’re driving back to where she left her car, Mr. Apron asks how long she’s planning on working until she goes out on maternity leave.  She casually mentions the due date, September 7, and the planned C-section, which will be scheduled the 39th week of gestational age, assuming the baby’s not ahead of schedule, which it looks like he might be because he was pretty big during the last ultrasound, etc.  She’ll be out of work till late October when she’s planning on going back 2 days/week and just doing light-duty paperwork for a while.  It’s not like she’ll be unloading stock with the lifting restrictions and pain.  Though she’s such a champ with pain, who knows? 

I’m sorry, planned C-section?  I checked with Mr. Apron after we dropped her off at her car. 

“Is there any medical reason she’s having a C-section?” 

“Nope.  Apparently Dr. Kim tried to talk her out of it, but you know Bianca.”

I quoted Mr. Apron’s father/mother/sister/self: “Nobody can tell Bianca nothing.”

Well, I’m sure Dr. Kim did her darndest, and then wrote the cover-your-ass note in her file: “Pt counseled on risks and benefits of elective C-section.  Pt. verbalized understanding of all risks, but insisted on scheduled C-section vs. vaginal delivery.”  I’m sure that’s how it read.  It strikes me as odd that someone who admittedly doesn’t like kids and “wasn’t trying” to get pregnant in the first place, yet now is so gung-ho about becoming a mother, might have considered that whole Get-it-out-of-me dilemma before getting knocked up.  I guess this was her solution.  And, to quote the senior Mr. Apron once again, “Once Bianca gets an idea in her head…” 

“You know,” I countered, “she won’t be able to pick up her own baby or lift more than 5 pounds?”  Mr. Apron also tried to talk her out of it.  Want to guess how that went?

So for all her tough talk about how great she is with pain and how the only discomfort she’s had during the pregnancy is having a bulbous belly – no swelling, no fatigue, no weird cravings, no feet turning into flippers – she’d rather have her abdomen sliced open and have to recover from a C-section than suffer the normal childbirth pains (or not – hello?  Epidural?) from a regular vaginal delivery.  

Mr. Apron hit the nail on the head, though.  This way, it’ll be on her terms.  And that’s the theme, folks, on her terms.  She can schedule the birth, schedule the pain and time off of work.  She can control when and if she likes my home-made items, and whether home-made is a good thing.  All I can say is, she’d better decide she likes the diaper bag she picked out come September.

I understand the principles of buying in bulk — pay a smaller per-unit price, spend the next six months plowing through chicken parts, or cottage cheese, or Frosted Flakes, trying to beat the expiration date.  And I’ll usually spring for the larger package if I can save money.  However, there are those recipes that call for things you never need again:  exotic spices you’re hesitant to omit, for fear the curry won’t taste right; bizarre condiments such as horseradish, that we only use around Passover anyway; and anchovy paste.  Nuff said. 

Today, I needed mayonnaise.  Now, being a Jewish household, we are startlingly devoid of such products as Wonderbread, Kraft singles, and mayonnaise.  I understand these three form the ideal trifecta of the cheese sandwich, or, rather, the processed cheese food product sandwich.  Because, really, who needs gelatin in their sliced “cheese”?  And does Wonderbread ever grow mold on it?  And mayonnaise I happen to find most vile.  Most vile indeed.  I’d much rather Mr. Apron load up his sandwiches with horseradish dijon mustard, or vidalia onion spread, or red pepper hummus.  That slimy white condiment has no right to smell “tangy”, except that it’s made with vinegar and eggs.  What?  How does that make for an opaque white sandwich spread?  See?  It’s highly suspect.  And highly repulsive.  Your opinion may differ, but it’s wrong.  As my preschoolers would said, “Dat’s nasty, teacher”.   Of course, they’d be talking about any number of things.  I’m talking about mayo.

But I needed mayo today.  Needed.  As in, the dish I am making for Mr. Apron’s birthday meal contains mayo.  And though I had joyously purged our fridge of our 90% full jar when we moved (does mayo expire?), I needed it now.   Today.   In the smallest possible portion so I don’t have to stare at its deviant whiteness for the next year and a half, or however long it takes Mr. Apron to take one for the team and use it on his sandwiches.  They make an 8oz jar of real mayo, for $2.35.  Or you can buy the largest vat with the easy access flip-top lid sold in the store for $2.50.  That’s a full 32 oz of mayo.  So you can get 4 times the spread for $.15 more.  The really strange thing was that prices seemed to drop as I scanned down the shelves towards the larger vats.  I don’t mean unit price — I mean retail price.  The 15oz jar was $3.35, which seemed absurd to me.  And then you can more double it to 32 oz for less money.  Yes, yes, it was on sale.  And I felt like a total douche for not getting the 32oz swimming pool.  How much did my recipe call for, do you suppose?  1/3 cup.  1/3 x 8oz, or approximately a little less than 3 oz. 

I think what I should start doing is ransacking the fast food restaurants for their comdiment packets.  Then I can have all the mustard, relish, mayo, horseradish sauce (Arby’s), hot sauce, mild sauce, medium sauce (Taco Bell), barbecue sauce I need without the annoying wasted food.  Of the above condiments, we stock only mustard in our fridge.  That, and Heinz ketchup, which happens to be stocked in a 32oz squeeze bottle.  All for me.  Mr. Apron doesn’t like ketchup.  So it’s all mine.  In 32 oz.  Cause it’s cheaper by the ounce, and I’ll use it anyway, somehow, before the expiration date.  Don’t judge me. 

At least it’s not “Miracle Whip”. or “Cool Whip”.  What are those anyway?

Why did the parking lot at the Toys R Us where I bought my sister’s birthday present (shhh, I don’t think she reads often) smell of bacon?

It wasn’t just the elderly couple with wraparound sunglasses sitting in the car next to me eating with their windows down.  It wasn’t the wings place at the opposite end of the parking lot.  It wasn’t the shuttered JCPenney store next door to the Toys R Us.  It was just the air in that parking lot.  And it wasn’t just a slight whiff.  It was the unmistakable overwhelming odor of pork products recognized as only a Jewish vegetarian can do. 

I got the gift, though.  They were holding at the customer service the last one of these items in the store, and, possibly, in the greater Philadelphia area.  And now it’s all mine.  That is, it’s mine, until I give it to her. 

Happy Birthday Toto.