They’re Coming (#238)

When my white family reunites, we plan. A year in advance, a cascade of emails about wedding beach houses, Christmas in New Hampshire, or running a 10K at Thanksgiving begin.

And then there’s my husband’s Chinese-American family. Near the end of October, Andy said, “So we haven’t seen my parents in a while.”

“Yes,” I agreed, smiling. And then stopped smiling. “Wait. Are you saying to want to go see them? Before your brother’s wedding next summer?” (Yes, Denny was finally getting married! But that’s another post.)


“Sorry, honey, no can do,” I said, smiling once more and patting my pregnant belly. “No flights after seven months. But you can go if you want. By yourself.”

“Yeah, but what if something happens while I’m gone?” Andy shook his head. “That’s no good.”

“Guess they’ll have to wait till June. Baby D will be about 5 months old by then.”

“But, uh, what if they came here?”

“When? Ex-Stepmother and First Newphew are coming in a few weeks to do Disneyland and visit Boyfriend-Stealing Baby Sister and her new man. Then we’re giving Baby Sister a lift to Utah for Thanksgiving with Dad and then we go to Utah at Christmas when my other siblings are also going to be there.”

“Well, Ma can never take off at the holidays anyway, but mid-November is pretty slow at the hotel.”

“But that’s when Ex-Stepmother and First Nephew are coming and our house is minuscule,” I objected “It’s been planned for ages.”

“I told them that and they insisted we can all squeeze in.”

“Honey, Baby D and I now take up entire rooms in this tiny house.”

“You know, we’ve seen your Dad like three times this year and my parents once.”

Andy doesn’t usually argue. It took me a minute to unravel why he was arguing now. I said, “They already bought tickets, didn’t they.”

“Yeah.” Andy had the grace to look sheepish. “There was a special deal and they had to buy right away–”

“Of course there was. If only there was some, I don’t know, FORM OF INSTANTANEOUS COMMUNICATION people in Hawaii could use to contact relatives in California and make sure it was a good time to visit before purchasing plane tickets,” I responded through gritted teeth.

Andy backed away, eyeing the exits.

“Don’t worry,” I told him. “It’s not like your waddling hippo of a wife could catch you right now.”

“You can still throw stuff, though.”

“I could, but I don’t want to pay to fix another window,” I retorted.  “Can’t your parents stay with your aunt and uncle?”

“Ah, no.”

“Why not?”

“Because Dad says they are staying here. They always stay with me. Even when I didn’t have beds or furniture, they slept on the floor instead of staying with other relatives. Other relatives who had beds.”

“And of course a hotel is out of the question.”

Andy nodded.

“Is this a Chinese face thing?” I asked. “Like the father has to be with his son or people will talk about how something must be really wrong or his son must be poor or the daughter-in-law is a horrible person?”

Andy shrugged. “Maybe. Or maybe they just don’t want to spend the money.”

“Ugh. Ugh. Ugh,” I moaned. And faced the inevitable. Once Andy’s parents were set on anything, they simply didn’t listen. They were like flood waters, flowing wherever they pleased, dikes and levees be damned. “Fine. When do they arrive?”

Multiple phone calls and a promise of Disneyland tickets later, Baby Sister and I had worked out that First Nephew and Ex-Stepmother would stay with Andy and me before my in-laws arrived. Once Jay and Sunny got here, our visitors would stay with Baby Sister’s New Man’s parents in Orange County. Andy and I would host a big BBQ in our backyard with Andy’s parents, local relatives, and my family on the weekend.

Hosting two sets of houseguests wasn’t ideal for a pregnant woman who’d just spent seven months puking and become severely anemic. First Nephew was a preschooler who went through my house and yard like a destructive dervish. On the plus side, though, he tired out my dogs so much that THEY didn’t have time to be destructive. By the time First Nephew left, I just wanted to lie down and sleep for a week. Instead, I had about four hours to clean the house, tidy the yard, and wash the sheets. I did it alone, too, because my husband was carefully hoarding his vacation time for Baby D’s birth.

Andy pulled into the garage with his parents just as I set a vase of flowers on the dresser in our guest room (also dog room, TV room, etc.).

I hurried waddled out to greet Jay, who walked into the house immediately. Jay isn’t a hugger, so I merely said, “Good to see you! Did you have a nice flight?”

Jay responded with, “You’re fat.”

“Your GRANDSON is fat, actually,” I retorted, pointing to my distended abdomen. “His last ultrasound shows he’s a big guy.”

Jay looked me up and down impassively and then shook his head. “No. You’re fat.” He marched to the guest room without another word.

I breathed and told myself that after an opening like that, surely my in-laws’ visit could only improve.


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Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

39 thoughts on “They’re Coming (#238)”

  1. That’s one of the million reasons I’ll only tell my in laws that I’ll present them a grandchild when it’s already born. Or is two years old.

      1. You are far more patient than I am. I have stories about in-laws (not parents-in-laws though) who used our home and generosity as their annual vacation until I stopped that. I can’t blog about it because they may read my blog. I wondered if they expected me to put a chocolate on their bed at night and fold the toilet paper.

        1. Or put a vase of flowers on their dresser? I totally do that.

          You need a pen name like mine for truthful blogging. Although my own family found me anyway. At least they are good sports about it.

  2. I’d say if anyone in my family would have said that to my wife we’d be dead by now 😮
    Thankfully my in-laws are far far away (saidly not another galaxy but close enough) so there won’t be any surprise visits + they need me to write invitation letters to even get a Visa for any European country.

  3. I have no words! I think I’d just freeze if my FIL told me that and then go stay with a friend until they left. Or refuse to drive them anywhere, you know cause I couldn’t fit behind the wheel.

  4. I really can’t picture that. He walks in the door and says, “You’re fat.”???

    My kids all have plenty of space for visitors now, but when my son-in-law was working on a doctorate at Berkeley and my daughter was having her first child, my husband and I slept on a futon under the kitchen table. It was most uncomfortable and lacking in privacy. I can’t imagine why we did that for 2 or 3 visits before we decided to book a B&B.

  5. When you publish this, your in laws will ask for their cut, after giving you all this material. Nothing comes free. And I doubt you’d be on their eulogy short list. Maybe they are so open because they love you and feel that’s their duty. You know, the Chinese tough love. Why beat around the bush making wheat grass smoothies for you? Or rice noodles…

      1. I visited Japan a couple of times and every time there was noise on the grounds of a temple, in a garden etc, invariably the tourists were Chinese. I have many coworkers from both countries and there is such a difference when it comes to being polite. The Japanese are so painfully polite, it’s quite difficult to understand what exactly they are trying to say, or not to say. The Chinese are so much more direct, many times I think “you don’t have to rub it in so much.” But I wonder, among themselves, are Chinese polite by our standards? Or maybe they are polite on an hierarchical scale: very polite with the elderly and superiors, less effort for peers and the younger generation? I’m originally from Romania and the elderly pride themselves on being direct, as if they’ve earned the right to be nasty for the reminder of their lives.
        It’s very sad that your in laws are not nicer to you. You know they are capable since they treat their Caucasian son in law much better. Oh, wait, he is a male, so… never mind. At least Andy makes up for it with his love and fabulous meals.

        1. The “too old to give a shit about being polite” also applies to elderly white people. I can’t decide if it also means they’ve forgot societal norms. Jay doesn’t really say anything to his son-in-law, but, yeah, by his standards, I suppose that is polite. Maybe Jay was still angry over how many years it took to get his grandson and he just wanted to get even. Or maybe that’s just Jay, with what I see as adult residual Aspergers, enabled by a Patriarchal culture — he doesn’t feel any need to be polite.

  6. In the words of terrible Republicans everywhere, “thoughts and prayers”. J/k. I find it shocking and fascinating to see how your in laws behave. I really do hope that they do have some positives to offer to you though.

    1. Well, they raised the man I love to not be an entitled, privileged male. And that’s huge. I think of that every time my female friends bitch about how their husband can’t manage to even put his clothes in the hamper, let alone fix the sprinklers, do the shopping, or cook a meal.

  7. Well. Jay has quite a mouth to be telling you how you look. Maybe your kid heard him and will give revenge on your behalf. I’ve had people in my family tell me that I’m fat…like you, it’s hard to tolerate that nonsense.

    1. It is hard to tolerate that drivel. I don’t understand why men a) feel entitled to comment on a woman’s appliance, or b) think we give a crap. Oh, wait, I do know why. Patriarchy — making men feel like their opinions are blessings to be bestowed upon women for millennia!

      1. To be honest I think we should all comment on everyone’s appearance and not take it too seriously or mean it all that seriously. But we are such a long way from that. Patriarchy indeed.

  8. Omg. I can relate. I just spent a week with my in-laws and I can SO relate (except for the being pregnant and waddling bit). That SUCKS you had to host so many house guests… especially pregnant! I can’t even imagine.

    My in-laws started talking about buying a house next to ours in the future and coming over everyday. My husband said ‘sure,’ and I gave him the death stare. Then father in law talked about property for 5 days straight and didn’t ask me one question about my life. When they said they wanted to visit my husband in Portland, I said “oh, there’s no furniture” and they replied “no problem! We’ll sleep on the floor.” And they were serious. My jaw dropped. I just can’t understand, Autumn, I can’t.

    Well, sounds like there’s a part 2 to this one–can’t wait! Mwahaha

    1. Live next door???! Maybe if you move to Mt. Washington Observatory where next door is miles down the mountain and the wind will blow them back home every time they try to visit…

      Seriously, the only reason we’re still married is because Andy’s parents are 3,000 miles away. They have no boundaries and it’s too hard for me to set them.

      Maybe your death stares needs actual laser beams.

  9. Reminds me of my grandad who would turn to my mum when we went to visit and say either ‘goodness you’ve put on weight’ or ‘what the bloody hell have you done to your hair?’ My brothers and I found it hilarious. My mum, less so.

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