Aug 9, 2010

Le Weekend with the Belle-Familie

The French call their 'in-laws' la belle-familie, the beautiful family.  A sister-in-law is a beautiful sister and a father-in-law is a handsome father and so forth.  My MIL insists that the kids don't call her "grandmere" (grandmother) but bonne maman (good mother).  Grandmere and Mamie are what 'old people' are called, but bonne maman, well that is what is more acceptable to the baby-boomer grandmother.  I guess for my grandma, it didn't matter, she was happy to be a grandmother and didn't feel the need to dye her hair for hide her grandmaness... But bonne maman would not be caught sporting her natural grey do, but rather a sort of brown/bronze color.  For my FIL, Grandpere is ok.  Who cares really, for men getting old is ok.

For the weekend there were many things to accomplish.  First, we had to prove to the church that we were fine upstanding Catholics, so that my youngest could be baptized in 2 weeks.  Then we had to have a big awkward meal together, so that my MIL and FIL could prove that having a meal together with their significant others is totally normal.  On a side note before we arrive, my MIL and FIL negotiate, how many meal we will have with each and if there is an odd-number, then they negotiate a meal 'ensemble' (all together).

On Friday night there was the "preparation" for the baptism.  Our preparer (not a priest) wanted to know, why did we want children, why did we want them baptized, what did baptisms signify anyway.  "Why did I want children?", wouldn't that have been a better question 4 years ago when I had none?  Answering these sort of philosophical questions in English is tough, doing it in French is impossible.  I find that the Catholics in French are sort of 'a la carte' Catholics.  They don't usually go to church on Sunday and really have no use for the strict rules of the Catholic church  -- birthcontrol, sex before marriage, cohabitation before marriage,  going to church.  The Catholic church knows this and so instead of pulling out potential faux-believers who are prone to get married and have baptism in the Church, they sort of look the other way and ask for generous donations to make up for these indiscretions.  So in order to further prove our worthiness, we were told we 'must' attend church on Sunday.  Well this seemed highly annoying since we all had to bring our babies, who would surely cause the biggest ruckus ever during the 1 hour mass. 
And so on Sunday we went to church.  My MIL was sort of annoyed at this prospect of attending church and seemed disinterested in all of the standing, kneeling, singing and praying of the mass.  However in a strange twist, she happily took communion and did the 'holy water sign of the cross' while leaving the church.  Well I suppose we all have our comforts.  Honestly, I am not a huge church goer either, but in the end, I believe, that children should be raised with some religious beliefs it seems better than the alternative (my brother and sister were never taken to church as kids and are seem rather likely to join a cult given the chance)

But before we could prove our worthiness to the priest of Pessac, Saturday night we had to engage in a rather awkward dinner.  My FIL still loves my MIL and even though he doesn't believe in a 'one-woman policy', he didn't want the divorce.  I think that 10 years later, he would take her back in a heartbeat.  In the end, he got the house, b/c it was also his art studio and so whenever the MIL is there, it is like she is queen of the castle all over again.

MIL -  'Oh A what do we do about Z's baptism should we have it outside?, what if we bring in the table from the garden and put it on the patio?' 
FIL - 'Oh what a great idea S, you are so clever'
SO of FIL - grimace look on face
SO of MIL - what about those 'Mets', I heard they are going to take the World Series this year.

But then the winds quickly change and my FIL is insulting the SO of my MIL and things take a nasty turn...  the SO of my MIL is a constant victim of his children.  Since they weren't raised right, they are constantly unemployed and needing his assistance.  Poor him.  But for a man that changes his car every 2 years, how were they able to learn the value of money?

The SO of my FIL is nice enough, but she too is a constant victim.  Although I know one of her dirty little secrets, she is quite a firecracker when no one is around (except me, since that dumb American can't possible understand a word I say) and so I feel no sympathy when her and my FIL are involved in a passionate argument.  When others are around she usually says nothing, waiting until they are alone or in the same room as me... She is sad that a man that cheater on his wife with her, doesn't want to get remarried and probably still cheats a little.   SO of FIL -- 'How come he didn't change for me?'  I guess all mistresses have this fantasy, but since her guy didn't leave his wife for her after 5 years 'together' why we she really expect him to change? 
I guess I could say that it was better when I didn't understand and it is sometimes, but sometimes those arguments are almost comical (even though heated) and I just laugh afterwards, being happy that they made such as effort to spend one more meal with us...

Thank goodness the weekend ended with a hour at the beach and I was able to read a little, '1000 Years of Annoying the French' by Stephen Clarke, I am on the chapter about American colonization, which is pretty interesting because it turns out we learn nothing in the US about French colonization except that some fur trappers went to Quebec.

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