I had the best weekend ever.
Thursday night we drove 5 hours down to Spouse’s parents’, arriving at 1 in the morning (yawn!). MIL was up waiting, even though she ordinarily goes to bed between 9 and 10, which started the whole weekend off on the wrong foot. (Few things are more irritating to the over-mothered child than mother biting her fingernails waiting up to see if it’s you or two somber police officers who show up on the doorstep, especially when the child is over 40 years old and accustomed to living his own life thank you very much.)
Friday was another driving day. Whoop! eeeeeee……
Saturday there was a huge family party to celebrate the 85th birthday of MIL’s aunt Seglinda. She turned out to be a nice but somewhat melancholy woman who understands that she has dementia and that she doesn’t always remember who people are and that almost all the family and friends she grew up with are pretty much all already gone. It had been 3 years since the last big family party Spouse and I had been invited to (which was also the first time I’d met these people) and it was surprising how many people since then had had life-changing heart attacks involving quintuple bypass surgery or the back-of-the-heart muscle almost entirely dying. And these people were not that much older than I am. Oh and I had to speak German the whole day long for the second day in a row only this was endless talking and that was exhausting. And embarrassing. (My German may be mostly fluent, but it isn’t really mostly correct.)
Then came Sunday, the super fun day. It started with MIL melting down just as we were getting ready to get into the car to drive back to her house. The problem was that the cousin (a retired German banker with a retired American serviceman from Alabama for a husband) that we’d stayed with had a house that was BIG, unbelievably CLEAN (even cleaner than my MIL’s house, which I did not think was humanly possible), and it was impeccably furnished with all sorts of shiny new things. And this caused GREAT ENVY.
But MIL does not feel covetous envy. She feels the sort of envy that makes a person feel like a miserable failure in life. Then she gets morose and snappy. And I was the person she snapped at in a very mean, totally uncalled for way. Then, to add insult to unasked for injury, she stomped off in a huff as if I’d been the one who’d said something nasty.
It really wasn’t nice, what she’d said to me. I fumed the entire 4 hour drive back. And I am still fuming, several days later. Because if that’s the way she really feels about me…well. For me, it’s kind of a deal breaker. Life is complicated enough without having to deal with the issues of someone you don’t actually care about. Can’t I just stay at home with the chickens and the cats for every single upcoming holiday and family birthday? At least the cats and chickens like me and never snit shitty comments into my face.
Little did I know Sunday was still only beginning.
Since MIL and I were now both in a you can all FOAD mood, we did not stop for lunch on the drive home. When we arrived at MIL’s house at 2, lunch still did not happen, even though I was starving, having had to survive the preceding several days on the emergency rice cakes I’d brought along and what boiled eggs and boiled vegetables were on offer (not many). (Non-dairy vegetarians who can’t eat wheat or rye need to bring their own food if they’re traveling/visiting people in Germany, even though doing so will piss the holy hell out of MIL, who can’t grasp what’s wrong with serving someone white rice with boiled potatoes for every meal. Also, eating the excessively fried food (German style, sigh) that she cooks has actually sent me to the doctor’s with extreme gastritis, which I have been kind enough not to tell her.) So I fumed some more and ate a furtive apple that made the back of my mouth tingle. So, oh, yeah, birch pollen time was over only a couple of weeks ago but my body is still primed to react against any protein vaguely resembling that of birch pollen. This includes all the good things to eat, like hazelnuts, peaches, and kiwifruit. And apples. So, bummer, no more apples for me for the couple of months it will take my immune system to unprime itself.
Then we went off and visited Spouse’s cousin who is recovering from the world’s worst slipped disk. She’s 7 months post-surgery and her toes are still numb and she’s still on sick leave and she still can’t sit in a car for more than about an hour at a time. (I tell you, I miss being young.)
When we got back it was dinnertime. MIL had cooked goulash and breadcrumb stuffed potato dumplings which she knows I not only don’t like, I can’t eat them with bread in them (well, it won’t kill me, but it’s inconvenient because it will give me hay fever and dandruff and make me snore at night). But anyway, she clearly was over me and she’s always decided that I don’t really have allergies, I’m just rejecting her cooking or being a drama queen or a little of both.
Did I mention I was starving? Unfortunately, I had none of the food I’d pre-prepared left. so I opened an emergency pack of smoked tofu that I’d brought along and grabbed some mustard and figured, well, it would be cold but at least it would be a high-protein meal. Then I remembered I’d cut up some carrot sticks a few days before and forgotten them in the fridge. So, yay! A raw vegetable to go with my cold slab of tofu!
And that’s when the big fight broke out between a still miserable and snappy MIL and Spouse over certain financial issues that she went behind his back about even though she’s in over her head. And while I can understand why she did what she did, she was in the wrong but instead of saying she was sorry, she dug in deep, getting snarly, lying to his face, and making up utterly stupid excuses. And so Spouse exploded (which is what his people do when they’re angry). And then everybody started shouting at everybody else and then everybody started shouting at me to mutter in German because goddammit this is Germany and why couldn’t I ever speak German (apparently the 20,000 consecutive sentences I spoke in German over the preceding three days didn’t earn me the right to speak 2 short sentences under my breath in English). And so I was like fuck it. This actually isn’t my argument. I don’t really care if she sells what would have been half of Spouse’s inheritance for totally under market rate because she’s doing it all wrong and being taken advantage of despite the fact that they could really use the money, so I’m just going to sit here and eat my carrot sticks.
And so I ate one after the other after the other after the other, uninterrupted by water or any other food while Spouse, FIL, and MIL kept yelling at each other.
And then I started to feel the itch at the back of my mouth.
But, goddammit, it wasn’t my argument, so I ate a few more carrot sticks.
And then it itched quite a bit more.
And the BOOM. My face exploded from the roof and back of my mouth all the way through my nose and sinuses up to my eyeballs. Massive allergic reaction! I’d never had one before. It was odd. Maybe even interesting. Like something unstoppably billowing.
I stumbled away from the table in search of an entire roll of paper towels because my nose and eyes were Niagara Falls and I was all politely like, excuse me, I need to go blow my nose, because I didn’t want them to think I was having a hissy fit about their argument and storming away in disgust. But they didn’t care at all. So I was just hanging out there just around the corner hacking and wheezing and coughing and swelling up and up and up and up and they were just yelling and arguing and not noticing me, like, DYING OVER HERE. It was a total Monty Python skit and I was the butt of the joke.
Of course I had no antihistamine tablets with me. Birch pollen time was over! And, fabulous, it was Sunday evening. Nothing is open on Sundays in Germany, and really especially not on Sunday evenings. But I really didn’t want to spend the night clawing my own eyeballs out, so I stumbled back to the table, let them all have a good look at my streaming eyeballs and swelling face and then I asked to be driven to an emergency pharmacy. Which then set them all off yelling at each other because Spouse asked MIL which pharmacy was the emergency pharmacy, which was a stupid question because they rotate and why would she know whose turn it is, but instead of saying she didn’t know she started yelling at him bout how the hell could he expect her to have any idea, etc. And I was busy DYING OVER HERE.
Anyway, internet, at least once MIL managed to stop yelling about how much of a jerk Spouse was for expecting MIL to know which pharmacy would be open. We figured it out and drove into town. Lutherstadt Wittenberg, if you were wondering. The pharmacy was just down the street (about half a mile) from the church the theses got nailed to. It also happened to be all but next door to another one of Spouse’s cousins. So of course while we were waiting there on the corner for our turn to yell our request in through the tiny window in the door of the pharmacy, cousin #2 drove by with his brand new girlfriend, whom I had never met before. It was kind of like oh hi, nice to meet you, please ignore my inflated face, streaming eyes, and gushing nose that I keep wiping on my sodden sleeve because the only other option is to let it stream into my mouth or drip all over the place.
Then it was my turn to shout in through the window at the pharmacist who’d drawn that Sunday’s short straw. And the pharmacists was just like whoa, what happened to you? I told her I ate some wrong thing. What, she wanted to know. Um, carrot sticks? This she did not believe at all. (Although I looked it up later and raw carrots are totally on the list of cross reactors with birch pollen.) But ultimately she decided I wasn’t going to die and sold me antihistamine tablets instead of sending me to the emergency room. But she did give me a scolding to go to an allergist to find out what (else) I might be allergic to and to have them tell me how to spiffy up my gut flora to calm my immune system down.
Then because we’d been seen, we had to stop in at the cousin’s house around the corner so the two XYs could drink a beer together. And so I had to sit there wiping my nose on my sleeve and making popping sounds with my nose every time I swallowed my water (because the nose was so clogged, that’s what the back pressure generated by swallowing made it do). It was really fabulous. I had so much fun. But at least I got to swallow an antihistamine tablet, and so after about 20 minutes I stopped wanting to claw out my own eyes. The puffiness didn’t go away though and my nose was still simultaneously totally clogged and flowing like a fountain.
When we finally got back to the in-laws’, FIL wandered over, had a look at my face, and gave me sympathetic pat on the back. MIL, who was still in her mood, never even asked if I was okay.
So that was it. I was so done for the day and I was so over being there. I made myself some tea and took it upstairs to bed. At 9pm.
And I left as soon as I could manage the next morning (Spouse is biking home via Poland because he does stuff like that), which was not before Spouse had a look at my eyes like little slits in my face puffed up like it had been pummeled and decided my new nickname is Mike Tyson.
When I got home home I ran into my across the street neighbor (she’d fed the cats and chickens and watered the seedlings in the garden) and learned that raw carrots do the exact same thing to her with the added bonus of a stomach ache and diarrhea.
So I guess the take home message from the weekend was: raw carrots are evil.
But the most exciting thing about getting home was opening the back door and hearing CHEEP! CHEEP! CHEEP! coming from the birdhouse that is right there. The sparrows managed to rebuild the nest and lay new eggs so quickly, they already have hatchlings! YAY! That made me super happy.
Animals are so much easier to deal with than people.