We celebrate on Christmas Eve, not the next day, as a fine Finnish tradition I introduced way back when. It made the shuffle between in-laws less tedious, and our overindulgences less indulgent. For good or no, the tradition has stuck and while WordPress might record this as something I wrote on the eve of Eve, trust me when I say that today is the day. Stupid time zones aside, what lies in wait?

The only relative outside my immediate family that I like is my mother-in-law (the MIL). We fly her to Sydney each year, and her Christmases are spent as the martriarch of the East Coast brood. It does her good to be around people who want her around, she plays Scrabble abominably but in good spirits, is a cheap drunk, and is endlessly and exhaustingly helpful. Plus, she won’t be around forever. But she’s here now, braving the COVID state closures, so that show a bit of moxie.

Her arrival always sends my wife into a flap. I call it The Royal Visit because things get cleaned that otherwise happily repose in squalor all year round. I mock a bit, but in truth the MIL does seem to have lost some social filters; she’ll innocently say something like “Would you like me to get up on a ladder and dust your ceiling fans dear?” From my prone position on the sofa I just wave her on, but my wife finds this exasperating, so she’s up the ladder a day before Her Highness arrives, sponging the ceiling fans.

Equally amusing are the MIL’s lapses into 1950’s racism. On a previous trip into the city, she suddenly cried out “It’s a bit ‘spot the Aussie’ here isn’t it!” We’re all innoculated against her innocent bigotry, there being no malice intended, but it can be a bit dicey in pubic places. She should have a small laminated card pinned to her lapel which says “Sorry! 84 years old!” Because age is a legit excuse. Like my son aged three loudly proclaiming, “Daddy! That lady has BIG boobies!” Damn babies and old people!

Older age is no barrier to vanity, mind you. Her hair has mysteriously retained the golden lustre of youth for as long as I can remember, and nothing gives her greater pleasure than when some canny saleswoman comments on how good she looks for 60 (just before pressing the latest magic elixir into her palm). My observation is that she’s a well-preserved octogenarian. No peach, but she’s not a prune either. But I’m sure whenever she looks in the mirror, though, she sees Carmen Dell’Orefice’s slightly shorter sister:

Yeah, no.

Anyway, it’s good having an old person around, because without her I’d have no idea what my wife MAY be like when she ages. And forewarned is forearmed, as they say. I like the MIL. This is a good thing, because there’s a 50:50 prospect she may end up living with us if she begins to dodder. I’m not sure the wife and I are ready for the daily spongebaths. When it’s my turn, I’d probably just prop her against the fence and hose her down with the Karcher.

Merry Christmas!

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