Friday, October 3, 2008

guinea fowls never looked this pretty

My mother-in-law's place is so neat I feel my cells rearranging themselves guiltily whenever I step over the threshold.

My mother-in-law's place is so ordered that I'm never sure if its ok to put my bag on the floor. So colour coordinated, I feel as if I should get changed immediately to fit in with the scheme: plum cushions and cream backgrounds, russet and wine red detail and a thin line of black sewing it all together. Beaded mandalas in gold, silver and black on the cushions, matching the coasters that I'm afraid to put my coffee cup on, in case I leave a stain.

My mother-in-law's place smells so clean I'm scared to poo in her guest toilet, where the lavender-sprig toilet paper looks like it's been published by a reputable printing press.

My mother-in-law collects winged beings made of china, glass or wood. She has ducks frozen in flight across the wall, guinea fowls looking less ruffled than I've ever seen them, doves, hornbills, necking swans, gaggles of pert geese. There's a rooster nesting in a pot plant on the top shelf, and a pair of very satisfied looking ducks on either side of the bath salts. Only the teddy bears are wingless, huddling on top of the bookshelf in the guest bedroom, looking vertiginous.

My mother-in-law's little lawn is an extract from the oval grounds. Adventurous blades of grass would get snipped by nail clippers. Perfect ferns convene next to polished elephant ears, and wide-eyed pansies nod with neighbourly grace at the gentle cactuses. These plants love the Durban climate and never get that ragged brown thirsty look that Joburg plants get. The cactuses were her husband's. They have outlived him by 20 years.

My mother-in-law has a board near the phone, set about with oval frames. Each frame hugs something we have never quite managed to give her. Wedding photos and baby pics. Her other children have knitted the family lines together nicely, with their coiffed wedding hair and cute round offspring. This reveals the fact that strictly speaking, I cannot quite call her my mother-in-law. She's been decent about it these last 13 years, but it must niggle her pastor's wife sensibilities. We sleep in one room, dorm-style on single beds.

My mother-in-law's place is so neat that every time her youngest son crosses the threshold, he makes a spectacular mess - accident with coffee machine sprays grounds across white kitchen. Exploding coke bottle makes rorschach test on pale carpet. A display shelf knocked sideways - see those geese fly!

A pair of owls frown down at him as he spills his peas. This son-of-a-preacher-man is neither tidy nor punctual. He suffers from alarming bouts of lateness. I have seen him make snowstorms in his sock drawer, pant over missing keys, daily. When it's sit-down-meal time he's nowhere to be found, still fleeing the Sunday morning bells of his Lutheran childhood.

My son-of-a-preacher-man has taught me stuff, though, I can tell you. Well. Not here I can't. It wouldn't be polite.

His Mama is a wonderful woman by the way. She is devout and kind. It's just that, well, generally I'm more comfortable with a lot more chaos around me. Luckily, I have her son for that.

7 comments:

Reya Mellicker said...

OMG - what a fabulous post. As always I feel I am right there with you, gazing around nervously in case I make a mess.

Houses that are so perfect seem more like museums than homes to me. But that said, my room is in general very clean. Not perfect though. It's funky. If you walked through the front door right now I'm sure you'd flop down on the couch and put your feet up on the coffee table. Clean but relaxed. That's what I like.

Miranda said...

GREAT post, Tam. Love it. Oooh I can just picture it...And the harder you try the more things you'll drop

Adrianne said...

I'll bet that your mother-in-law is not a "pet person!"

My living space once was obsessively neat and coordinated before I started adding cats and dogs to the mix, and before I moved to a bigger space and started putting "non-matching" furniture together out of necessity. Now my surroundings are much more eclectic and laid back. I'm a lot happier now that I'm not so insistent on a "perfection" that's made according to rigid, and totally arbitrary, rules.

Janelle said...

whoa. i wanna be her, man. on a sunday. xxx janelle

Chimera said...

Lovely post and i so happy your son of a preacher man is unconstrained by glass mounts and perfect frames!
T xx

Val said...

Tam, if you like chaos you'd be so comfortable here :-)
i bought some toilet paper with superman on it the other day .... now that was odd I thought. what kind of a statement....? those over tidy houses just stimulate my natural clumsiness i'm afraid. its not good xx

tam said...

Reya, I'd love to have a cup of tea with you on your couch.
Miranda, you would probably fart within minutes.
Adrianne - she definitely does not have pets. Unless you count the ducks..
Janelle what you want is for her to come and visit - she leaves order in her wake.
Thanks Tanvir, I am also glad that he plays a somewhat Dionysian role in all that - funny about sons of preachermen, they do tend to have a slightly dual nature - hedonism fighting with the vestiges of church morality. B has done rather well, I think.
Val, so Superman has bowel movements too? Or ... or what???!!!