I feel a bit like a new parent home with a baby: every day is so different from any previous. I find it really hard to believe we haven't even been here a week yet.
Yesterday was the day I put the microwave on top of the fridge to reclaim a bit more of the extremely limited counter space in the kitchen (that the fridge and the microwave are not even in the kitchen should give you some idea of the limitations). And the one where I first hung clothes outside to dry (do not buy clothespins from a pound shop; they are too flimsy to be any good for anything), and thus naturally where I had to run outside in the drizzle collecting them again before they got too wet. It's the one where the internet was connected, finally (though the phone still doesn't work). It's the one where Andrew first saw a mouse, and got the stereo working after saying for months he was definitely going to measure up and order a belt to replace the broken one on the turntable.
It was a day not like any other day, and no other day will be like it. Just like Tuesday, and Monday, and Sunday, and Saturday. And this is why they all seem like they've lasted about a year.
I have been working so bloody hard. Not just to pack, and unpack, which has been so much work for me that I have to remind myself that I still need to think about cooking and laundry and doing the dishes and all this normal stuff, too. I have hardly spared a thought for work in a week, which is really bad. I was hoping that'd improve today now that I've got the internet back, but it turns out the new CRM my boss is making us use because he's heard of it (after having asking me to look around and find what's good and then deciding he didn't like it because it was "weird" and open-source and he hadn't heard of it and it didn't automatically do everything he wanted it to, even though he had only the vaguest idea of what he wanted to do) won't even let me log in, so that'll be a fun conversation with my not-as-techie-as-he-thinks-he-is boss tomorrow.
I really want a holiday. I really really
want a holiday. And I don't see how I'll get anything longer than a weekend away here and there -- and I've already had a couple of those this year and now might have to wait until BiCon in August.
Now that we're at the new house, too, my parents' visit is looming over me. I can't help but worry what they'll think about everything. Or say. I'm trying to decide if what they'll say will be worse, because it will negatively impact me right away, or if what they'll think is worse because the ramifications of their silent judgment might not come out for years -- like when my mom told me she hated to think of me drying trousers on radiators, years after she'd have last seen that.
When Andrew's family turned up with furniture for us on Sunday, the very first thing his dad said when he walked into the house was "You'll have to replace the carpet!" He kept at it, "You have to get new carpet, Holly," as matter-of-factly as if he was saying "You have to breathe oxygen to stay alive." It really irritated me. I hadn't noticed anything wrong with the carpet, not compared to the squillion things that do need sorting out -- damp, roof, mice, radiators, curtains, shelves, furniture... -- and what the hell kind of way is that to greet someone's new bloody house? Not least because, having owned the house all of a week, it's hardly set up to our liking (as the wallpapper in our bedroom will attest!) and it's not as if we're perfectly happy with everything. I actually had to ask Andrew and James later that day, after everyone else left, whether I was going mad or just being too blind or something and there was really something awful wrong with the carpet. They said it was a bit dingy, but no, there was nothing really wrong with it.
I'm sure I was overreacting because of the immense mental, emotional and physical stress I'd been under (and I ended up with a migraine that day, too, which never helps) but I can still remember how enraged I was at this harping on about the damn carpets. And I'm really worried at this happening one million times
while my parents are here. Because at least this house fits the basic idea of what houses are like, for his parents -- it's a perfectly okay mid-terrace two-bedroom house -- but to my parents it will be tiny, and too close to the other houses, and weird, and...a house that I know they'd never put up with
. And I worry they'll feel sorry for me because of that, but conversely that they won't be able to keep from pointing out how weird it is and how they couldn't live like this. The fridge is next to the kitchen rather than in the kitchen! There are hardly any plug sockets! The backyard is so tiny! And right next to other people's! And these are just the ones I can anticipate... The ones I can't, like the carpet or like drying clothes on radiators, are always the worst.
It reminded me of something my friend Jon told me the other day, about when he bought his first house and his mother came around and started trying to nitpick things, and he said, "mum, look, I value your opinion but when you're here you're in my home
and I will do things my own way." At the time I nodded along politely, but already on our first day here I found myself really feeling it
. Lying side by side in our new bed that first night, Andrew and I were chatting about new-house things, and he said I should tell his dad that we're replacing the carpet with laminate which is more expensive so it'll take us a while to get it. I wrinkled up my face and told Andrew I didn't really want to do that -- I wasn't sure it was true, for one thing and for another, I thought this is none of your damn business, do I tell you how to fix up your house?
should suffice (albeit in politer words, like "We've got a lot of things to think about sorting out in the new house," something vague that can be repeated, unchanged, until he finally stops talking because that's my only real goal here, to make this stop). I know he means well; I know he thinks that since we've never had a house before we don't know anything, and in many ways that could not be more true. But also: this is not helping, and it can fuck off.
I've been a bit surprised at how adamant my reaction has been, actually. I'm still not feeling happy or excited about this new-house lark, but I am feeling something
about it: maybe protective of it, and starting to identify with it, to the extent that unhelpful criticism like that gets my hackles up. And I think buying a house marks a change in parent/adult-child relationships, too; anything that puts us on a more equal footing with them makes their unsolicited advice and opinions, however well-meaning, chafe a little bit more. It must be weird for the parents, to have this person that you started out doing everything
for, to ensure their health, survival and comfort, one day turn around and snap at you for your innocent comment about the carpet (or the girlfriend, job, car, choice of college, friends, drinking habits, etc.). It must be weird to go from dictating a small person's life to remembering there are limits to your power and influence eventually.
And of course my parents and I have always been so crap at that parent/adult-child dynamic anyway, that no wonder I'm kinda dreading their visit.
Though if Andrew's dad has anything to say about it, they won't be seeing much of our house anyway! He rang me yesterday and asked what I thought of his new plan, which was no longer to rent a narrowboat in Middlewich (where they live) but to go to Llangollen and rent a narrowboat there for the day. I love Llangollen (which, I kept telling him though it didn't stop him dadsplaining to me at all, I have been to, a couple of times, including on a narrowboat
all the way from Middlewich!) but I was aware that he was talking about doing this on the Monday, having already monopolized the weekend my parents first get here, and for some reason he wants to take us/them to the Welsh Mountain Zoo too, and there's this mad London idea of my parents' to fit in somewhere...
I really think Andrew's parents should just take my parents on vacation and leave me out of it, but of course as they'll say a million times they're here to see me. But they're only here for a week, and it sounds like Andrew's dad's trying to fill it with Cheshire and Wales, neither of which I have any problem with, but I simultaneously don't want them to feel cheated out of their time in London...and don't want to spend any more time in London than absolutely necessary, because being a tourist in London seems nothing but miserable and expensive. Their visits here just get more difficult for me and Andrew -- we still speak of Cornwall
like it's an evil curse word -- and I'm sure this won't be any exception. Apart from his dad taking over the whole week with his moronic plans, I'm also quite committed to going to London on the Monday because Andrew couldn't get the Monday off, and I see no reason to subject him to the misery of the sightseeing buses and the London Eye -- he hates London at least as much as I do, and if he's there I'll end up having to create more than usual of a buffer between him and the autistic-unfriendly world, as well as having to field a million questions from my parents (past examples including "does that pub you've never been to sell food?"
and "why didn't we go to Whitehall and Trafalgar Square when we were in London?" when they have pictures that could only have been taken in those places).
In looking back at what I wrote about my parents' previous visits, I just realized that the one about the naked cyclists (which is a story all my friends seem to love; I'm amazed how many still remember it) contains possibly the most Garrison-Keillor like thing I have ever written:
My dad, as usual, was much quieter. "That's something you won't see in Minnesota," he commented mildly. I didn't want to argue; it'd mean admitting to knowing about things that go on in Minneapolis that they just wouldn't like me to know about.