“Guilt is the price we pay for doing what we are going to do anyway.”
– Isabelle Holland
We went to dinner with J.’s parents over the weekend and afterwards, after shooing the men off, my mother-in-law and I took in some shopping and talked a bit about friends, family, and the upcoming move to grad school.
It was good to get her take on it all, because I appreciate her points of view – usually she’s right. But at one point, when talking about the move itself, which will be across the country/state, she started to tear up…and I froze, like the culturally confused, emotionally stunted useless lump that I am. Because naturally I felt that somehow it was all my fault. That I had lured her son into my bizarre world of regular continent-hopping, complicated familial relationship, and wanderlust, and out of a stable clan homestead away from all he holds dear. Heavy, Catholic-style-self-flagellating, corrosive guilt swamped me.
Of course I know that this is purely in my head. Both my in-laws are extremely supportive, fantastic people and they are just sad because most of their kids have already moved further away than is convenient, and now J. is too, and J.’s the baby, etc. But still, somehow I feel as if I’ve mucked up. Actually, technically, J. did . He picked the schools, but that didn’t matter. If he hadn’t married me he’d never have been encouraged in this rash sort of behavior like leaving native states – to say nothing of countries! “This,” my inner demon cackles, “is All Your Fault. Homewrecker.”
J. of course finds my angst hilarious.
” I made her cry,” I exploded the second we left my godparents house where we’d been visiting.
“No you didn’t.”
“I contributed! I’m a horrible daughter-in-law! I’m encouraging you to go to some of the top schools in the world, supporting your decision fully, and I’m awful because of it!”
“Not exactly,” he soothed.
I was not to be dissuaded. When debating whether to buy gas we decided against it because it was raining. “Like your mother’s tears!” I wailed. “She’s just going to miss us,” J. offered. “Because I’m an academic Jezebel who’s lured you away,” I cried, digging around in my purse for a hair shirt. “We’re close and it’s hard to see us move away,” he tried finally. “But I want to go somewhere else…I hate myself for it!” I probably would have leapt from the car to a quick death had the idea occurred to me then instead of just now.
Nearly two years as an exemplary daughter-in-law, torpedoed by a single crushing failure: I made my mother-in-law cry.
*Not really. But still!