Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Critical Mom and The Relative Who Won't Take No For An Answer, Part Two

The first glimmer of understanding dawns when you have a child yourself--or when you are pregnant.  When I was pregnant, the relative sent a package:  "by accident I ordered maternity clothes for myself."  At seventy-eight?  I pulled a few tents, apparently designed for an obese pregnant giantess, out of the package--then stuffed them them back in the bag.  At the relative's second marriage, she'd somehow known my size and taste exactly and presented me with a gorgeous Anne Klein cocktail dress and scarf to match.  At her wedding I naturally had to look good.  Then came the visit:  in the changing room of a swimming pool the relative observed my belly, seven months along:
"My, what a big tummy you have!"  The look on her face reminded me of a story a friend had told about preparing her two-year-old for the birth of his brother.  Once her pregnancy was visible, she informed him that a baby was growing inside her and got the predictable response:  "We don't need one!  Send it back!"  My friend explained that she could not do so, and tried all the usual tricks:  "you'll get to take care of him, he will look up to you, you can teach him things because you're so much bigger and stronger . . . " and got the usual responses:  "We don't need it!  Take it back!"  Finally, when the mother to be was about to go to the hospital, she explained that she'd be coming home with his baby brother and he burst out: "Well, if you bring it, I'll take it to the market and trade it for an elephant!"  The sadness on the relative's face, which quickly reverted to a somewhat malicious glee as she discoursed on my "fat tummy" developed along with my pregnancy.  Allowed to hold the baby, she seemed about to burst with the thrill:  "Are you SURE?" Eyes very wide open.  "I don't want to drop him!"  We hovered as she held him.  Things improved when he was old enough to be her playmate, but she never got the hang of asking what size he was or buying appropriate clothes.   But one day she did ask if we needed anything.  "Oh, no," I said.  But she really wanted to get something.  "Surely there's something you need!!"  Well, indeed, but did I dare ask her?  Back in the days before internet shopping you couldn't get heavy waterproof snowsuits where I lived, in a village in Bavaria, and when she inquired about Christmas I suggested one of those.  Along came a package and my heart soared:  she'd really gotten the snowsuit!  I opened it.  Inside I found a thin felt garment in the shape of a star:  as the package said, "for your little star."  Just as I was feeling the material and realizing he'd never be able to wear it outside in winter, my normally calm husband took one look and yelled, "He can never wear that!"  And then I saw what I hadn't noticed before:  a prominent gold star, remarkably similar to those that during the Third Reich, Jews were forced to wear in Germany--which is where we were living.  As my best friend said:  "she just thought hmmmmm--stars, Germany--they have something to do with each other.  I'll get that!"


  1. Great story. What a relative!

  2. She is rather challenging! Actually, should you ever encounter such a relative I can recommend a wonderful website:

  3. Just wanted to update: that great website I recommended above may now be found at: