Thursday, June 5, 2008

forewarned is forearmed

Asbestos boots? Check. Military spec pith helmet? Check. Class 2 rubber insulator gloves? Check.

This weekend, I'm going to visit my mother. It'll be the first time I've seen her since last summer's traumatic (though unblogged) Fourth of July fiasco. My mother has many good points. She's charming, brilliant, and funny. She was a star student and a star athlete at a time when it wasn't fashionable for a girl to be either. She has a red kayak and a backyard full of daylilies. But -- for those of you might be tempted to suggest that I attempt a heart-to-heart about our, um, differences -- there are two sentences that I've never heard and never expect to hear from my mother. One is "I was wrong." The other is "I'm sorry."

In preparation for my visit, I've been trying to generate a list of conversational topics that are unlikely to result in unpleasantnesses. So far, I've come up with: the diplomatic contretemps between the Democratic Republic of the Congo* and Belgium, the potential impact of the Lakers' off-season addition of Derek Fisher and . . . the weather.

Other suggestions for innocuous stuff to talk about?



*Not to be confused with the neighboring Republic of the Congo.

45 comments:

LAS said...

Oh boy. I relate to this. I relate to the feeling - or I should say, reading the first paragraph and then realizing that you are talking about visiting your mother - evokes in me a feeling of dread that is totally familiar and totally associated with my mother. The two things I've always wanted to hear from my mother are just as you said - "I was wrong" and "I'm sorry." The best I have ever gotten is, "I know I was a terrible mother, but that's your problem now and I am not going to apologize for it."

Good luck. I'll be thinking about you.

Tash said...

Sounds like my visits with the IL's, although usually a fire extinguisher is packed as well. (For me.) And I get not talking about it, now. Because we tried as nicely as we could and were chopped off for half a year. Some people just don't talk, and I guess I just need to lower my expectations. Or something. Anyway, g'luck.

Lessee: When is a good time to divide daylilies -- spring, fall, or neither? What are the chances of other NHL teams employing possession-(European) style hockey instead of dump and skate so someone other than Detroit can win this f'r? Big Brown -- run him hurt?

Aunt Becky said...

Oh yes, yes, yes, yes. Oh do I understand this. But it would take me 400 blog posts to explain why.

Okay, hmm...gardening? Always a good innocuous topic.

Mrs. Spit said...

wow, I see your pain, but you raise me in courage, I just wouldn't go.

Does she have a hobby like Golf?

cinnamon gurl said...

synonyms for obscure insults?

Good luck! May the force be with you...

niobe said...

Cinnamon Gurl: Since it's a family joke that my mother can't make it through an entire meal without excusing herself to consult the dictionary, that's a definite possibility.

Jenny F. Scientist said...

Recipes for food you don't care about? Where you ate the best brownies?

Caro said...

Good luck.

Julia said...

All the yummy macarons you got in Paris? The new spate of airline announcements about shutting down flight routes, grounding planes, and laying off workers? Similar news from car plants making SUVs? How much it's cost you in gas to get there and back? Ugh.. the last one may be impolitic. I was just on a roll...

Good luck, anyway. Maybe bring some alcohol? For her, you, or both...

Elizabeth said...

I relate very much as well. My last visit with my mother was so appalling that I'm putting off a follow-up visit for as long as possible.

Innocuous topics: the Olympics? Books you both are reading? Movies you've seen recently? Pets? The effectiveness of urine vs. human hair to keep deer out of roses? New additions to the dictionary?

Bon said...

mmmm...day lilies and kayaks sound fairly safe? other than that, um, i personally find conversations about grammar relatively innocuous so long as your mother has good grammar, which i assume - star student - she does. and you do. why, think of the bonhomie!

basically, good luck. and i'm sorry, in advance. :)

Andrea said...

I sympathize. She sounds like mine. Good luck.

Hmm. TV shows neither of you like? It's always good to be able to gang up on something together. Atrocious books neither of you have read?

Magpie said...

Where to go kayaking. Amy Winehouse and her troubles. Lobster rolls. Paint colors for the guest room. Paris.

Or spend all your time in the kitchen making meals, or in the backyard digging daylilies, and don't talk to anyone.

I hope it's okay.

debbie said...

sports, shows, movies, and new restaurants, and the fail-safe . . . other people. sad, but usually helpful at distracting everyone from talking about themselves.

thirtysomething said...

Eeeek. Sounds like you have all appropriate accoutrements packed and ready to go.
Perhaps you could amuse yourself by speaking so bluntly about everything, then sitting back to watch the drama unfold, while smiling and remaining CC&C yourself, as if a mere bystander. Just a thought.
Good Luck!

Lori said...

The pros and cons and methods for giving up diet soda? Oh... wait... that's a personal issue. Still, it might make for a rather lively, yet bland thing to talk about. Feel free to use my addiction as necessary conversation filler! You could start with, "I know this gal who...."

slouching mom said...

oh, dear. sigh. sounds all too familiar.

umm, how about the upcoming Democratic convention? the fact that bees are dying in record numbers? the fall (or rise, depending on your perspective) of the new york times?

niobe said...

These are great! I'm going to have to put together a crib sheet. Or maybe write a list on my hand for easy reference.

Virginia said...

Freeze or don't freeze your coffee beans? (Assuming you grind from fresh.)
American or Belgian chocolate? (You could have a tasting.)
How about you have to go out for a run/walk/stroll because you have a new exercise routine?

Plot twists on "Lost"?

Crossword puzzles? Sudoku? Both of which need to be done in silence but can result in a small bit of conversation regarding answers. And they can take a while, too.

Good luck, truly. Here's hoping it goes better than you fear. Pack a flask full of gin...my ultimate solution.

Furrow said...

Funny. We have to do the same thing to prepare for a visit with my grandmother. We've yet to find a topic that doesn't have the potential to enrage her, so instead, we lace her appetizers with xanax (her own prescription). But then someone has to water down her wine, or we'll spend the rest of the evening in the ER, and THAT would piss her off.

(I'm taking only mild license with the truth, here).

Furrow said...

Oh, and best of luck.

Rachel said...

The weather usually works for me. Rarely do people argue about weather, well unless you get into global warming.

I hope the trip goes well for you, I know it will not be easy.

Beck said...

Novels? Popular recent novels?
A tv show you both watch?
You could ask her lots of questions about gardening. ASk if she has any perennials that need dividing and could go home with you.
You could bring a prop - an interesting something to talk about. I'm always bringing interesting-yet-innocuous books with lots of pictures to family gatherings.

Lisa b said...

I have recently discovered that not speaking keeps unpleasantness at bay.
Just smile and don't say anything. I haven't had a fight with my mother in months.

Monica H said...

Play Scrabble or Boggle- ooh, that sounds like fun, but could turn bad.

I'd talk about daylilies, kayaks, the color red, dictionaries, words in the dictionary, and pastries you got in Paris. Who wouldn't want to talk about that?

Rent her favorite movies and sit in the dark so you don't have to talk.

I like Virginia's suggestions.

Kymberli said...

Toilet paper: unroll over or under?

Seriously though - I hope your visit goes well and without a toilet paper necessary $hitstorm.

missing_one said...

How about global warming? overpopulation?
national economy?
presidential race?

Usually people who love to be right, love having their opinions heard about these, even if the two people in the conversation see eye to eye on the subjects.

Also 'my mother has many good points'..yes, and being an actual mother in the sense of the word may not be one...but i don't know.

passingwindows said...

Heart to hearts with my mother? Just not going to happen. As for innocuous stuff, how about TV programmes? Books?

Hope it's a good weekend.

delphi said...

Her obvious efforts at daylily propogation should be innocuous teritory?

Awake said...

You can never go wrong with the weather.

Portraits In Sepia said...

ok, I loved LisaB's comment. I thought that was hilarious. I always turn everything into a joke. My family, one side of them anyway, is very negative and getting together is a huge downer. So I use my acerbic wit, sarcasm and unappreciated charm to sprinkle the conversation with unexpected, sometimes shocking comments...but ones that always punch home the truth.
I like LisaB's suggestion better though!

flutter said...

food? Is food safe?

Rachel said...

How about talking about gardens? Or kayaking or canoing?

Good luck. I hope it goes well.

Eva said...

Cleaning techniques for various problem areas--stovetops, blinds, etc.

Yardwork/gardening

The tax code and how it is complex

Read the technology/science sections of various newsmagazines (The Economist, The Week, etc.) and report.

Best wishes!

Which Box said...

With my inlaws (and even my family) I just decide I won't truly express my own opinions. I try to put my mother in law center (though let's face it my strategy has it's flaws) - her work, gossip over her neighbors, gossip over how bad/stupid/screwed up/selfish everyone else is.

I once ducked out of an awkward conversation with an avowed libertarian and a psychiatrist by bringing up Britney Spears. Should she have been committed against her will? Should her father be her guardian even though she's 25? Should crazy people be allowed to make their own mistakes?

Robyn said...

Oh Niobe,I hear you on all this and remember too well the sense of doom and foreboding that preceded any contact

Since the weather has proved to be a popular suggestion you could discuss the reasons for five days of fog over Melbourne and the subsequent chaos of cancelled airline flights. Or the taxi rank queue jumping that resulted in 30 taxi drivers having a punchup at the airport canteen. Or the large pay rises being given to our local councillors causing our property rates to climb to new height. Boring and safe - all of them.

susan said...

Don't forget the problems bats are having in Vermont and NY:
http://tinyurl.com/5wlqe2 if you want to crib.

LawMommy said...

Hmmm...Cuban restaurants, where to find them and what to eat when you get there?

The looming Great Lakes water crisis?

Fun things to contemplate ordering from the Archie McPhee catalogue? (archiemcphee.com)

Good luck...

m said...

I am totally shit at small talk - I vote just drink LOTS.

Good luck

x

CLC said...

Oh, crap, I hate small talk. I think I would just drink. Or eat. Or both.

kate said...

gardening. That's what i talk about with my mother -- the weather, and gardening.

Robyn said...

Hi.

My 2nd baby was stillborn. Anily. I've had 2 more since we lost her. My Mother-in-Law can't say Anily's name right no matter how many times I correct her. She calls her Anna Lee. Not Emily with an An. My mother pretends it didn't happen and refuses to put up the picures of Anily I gave her so I do appriciate my MIL even giving Anily a proper place in the family. Mothers are weird but you can't do anything about it. I hope it goes OK for you.

painted maypole said...

the new indiana jones movie? ;)

good luck!

Pamela Jeanne said...

Hmmm...tough one. Mac vs. PC? Plans for the summer solstice?

Kami said...

OMG! The whole weekend? Are you mad? I am hoping that you are surviving . . .maybe even enjoying it.

Sorry for not being more supportive. I had lunch with my mom yesterday. See was very well behaved, but I still thing my b/p shot up to dangerous levels.