The first time my mother-in-law came to stay with us, she was sleeping on the floor.
It was awful. Not just on the floor, but on the living room floor. We were living in a small one-bedroom flat in San Francisco, we hadn’t been there long, and the move had cost us most of our meagre savings. She’d lie there and watch me eat dinner.
It’s hard to move away from your family. San Francisco is about six thousand miles from my home. I have all kinds of family back home: parents, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins. My wife has far fewer. I don’t know if that makes it easier for her, or harder. Anyway, we don’t see people often. It’s a little sad.
Kids just make the problem worse. We can’t just nip home for the holidays now. We need four plane tickets. We need car seats, luggage, and a week to cope with jet lag. Tantrums are frequent. Vomit is inevitable.
We’ve been home three times. Three times in eight years.
Luckily, we get visitors far more often. My brothers have been really good about visiting. My parents too. And of course, my mother-in-law.
The thing is, nobody is going to visit just for dinner. Nobody flies six thousand miles to just watch the kids while I pop out for a beer help yourself to whatever’s in the fridge thanks love. No.
They need to stay for a few weeks. Just to make it worthwhile. And a few weeks in a hotel is kind of pricey. Even in an AirBnB. It’s more than the cost of the flight.
So she’s lying on the floor, watching me eat my dinner. For weeks.
It’s not just that. You see, I’m pretty sure she’s a vampire.
It’s not just that she calls people “darlingk”. She once went to a playground and announced, in her thick Polish accent, “Look at aall the lovvely cheeldren!”, and I swear she licked her lips. She never seems to eat anything but ice cream, which suggests that food isn’t her main source of nutrition. She’s at least a thousand years old. She never seems to sleep. And when she goes outside in the daytime her eyes glow red and she begins to disintegrate.
Ok, I made that last one up.
It’s really intense having family over to stay for a long period. It’s also really intense going to stay with them. You go from the occasional monthly phone call with nothing to say, to good morning good afternoon good evening good night. IN YOUR FACE, TWENTY FOUR SEVEN. Ugh, it’s unbearable.
I even get frustrated with my mum, and she’s the nicest and least offensive person on the planet.
Anyway so we got this new place with a granny flat. We didn’t mean to. It’s just a place that had a beautiful backyard. And the granny flat became a playroom for the kids, and an office for dad (me), and yes we realise those two concepts don’t colocate brilliantly, but our schedules mostly don’t match and it’s fine.
But for this past visit, we’ve made it a granny flat. It’s granny’s flat. Sometimes (ok, every day) we send the kids up there to play with granny in her playroom. I set her up a sofa and television. It’s like she’s living next door, it’s not like she’s IN MY FACE, watching me eat. She visits us every day too.
And it’s been brilliant. She’s been brilliant. She can come to stay any time.
(Not any time of course, visas don’t actually work that way, which is either a shame or probably a good thing, because you don’t want to push it do you?)
Any time though. Welcome, Granny.