We got the phone call early in the morning. As soon as the phone rang I just knew. My Sister-in law, my husbands oldest brother's wife Rose had died after a very long, courageous and exhuasting battle with Cancer. Rose was possibly the world's loveliest woman. She was a teacher, and not just any teacher, but the kind of teacher whose students and their families showed up by the hundreds to mourn her passing. Many of them were college-age by then.
She was sick when Jim and I were engaged and was not well enough to make it to the wedding. I always feel sad when I think about what little time I had to get to know her. What I was fortunate enough to find out first-hand is that she was incredibly warm and kind.
We made plans to travel from Minneapolis to South Carolina to attend the funeral and offer our support to those who missed her most. We got a hotel with Jim' s younger brother and his wife and went directly to Bill and Rose's house which was the home-base for the weekend.
I was pretty new to the family and I was 4 months pregnant. Jim and I had only been married 6 months (see the math DOES work) and I did my best to help out and not get in the way. Emotions were running high, and the sense of loss was palpable. I was so sad for Bill and their two kids, who were both grown.
Being pregnant, I had a problem of sorts that is a common malady of pregnant women. I was terribly constipated. It's not a pleasant feeling. The airplane ride had exacerbated my condition, and I was really feeling all backed up.
Day II in South Carolina, at Bills and Rose's home, I trekked up to the bathroom to see what I could get done. Oh the sweet relief! The spring was back in my step. I felt like a new woman. I went to flush the toilet and realized that due to the amount of steady traffic through that particular facility, things were not working properly. I stood and watched in HORROR as the bowl ssslllloooowwwwllllyyy filled to the rim and spilled over the side. I started to sweat and panic as water flooded the floor. I ran out the door to grab some towels and my mother-in-law, possibly the worlds other loveliest woman, happened to be standing there. I quickly and urgently explained my predicament (like ripping off a band-aid really) and she offered to help. I was mortified and insisted that she stay outside while I sopped up the mess. I sprayed everything down with cleanser and was thinking I had done a pretty good job. The only person who knew was my mother in law. She said quietly "I am just sorry that happened to YOU." And I wanted to throw my arms around her for being so kind.
I trekked downstairs to help get dinner ready for the throngs of people that were expected.
As I arranged carrots on a tray I happened to look up and notice the swollen streaks that had emerged all over the kitchen ceiling. I am talking major damage.
Please God. PLEASEPLEASEPLEASEPLEASEPLEASE tell me that was there before... I was sick with embarassment. This was the first time I had met some of these people. I didn't want to be forever known as the fat lady who plugged up the toilet of the grieving widower. How inappropriate.
Although part of me knew that the damage to the ceiling had NOT been there before my washroom fiasco, I was still desperately clinging to the hope that the ceiling had been that way all along and I had just not noticed. That was until Bill walked in, looked up, and said "Hey. What happened to my ceiling?" Bill actually laughed. He is typically a jovial kind of a guy, and I think he had bigger issues on his mind, like grieving over the loss of his wife. My mother in-law gave a quick explanation and named no names. I love that woman.
So I plugged the toilet of a grieving widower and wrecked the ceiling of his lovely home.
Phase II: The minivan.
Now I am not sure how you all feel about minivans. I think we can all agree that they are not the coolest cars in the world. Most of us don't strive to become minivan owners like it's the golden goose or anything. Being in the Famb'ly way, I had planned to trade my Toyota two door in for something more practical with 4 doors. Jim and I had talked about it. I was thinking Subaru Forrester or small 4- wheel drive thingamajig.
I think every member of my husbands family owns a minivan or has owned one at some point. They are Dutch, they are tall, good-looking, exceedingly kind, and also extremely practical folks. Me on the other hand, well I am tall, I consider myself to be kind, but at times my vanity supercedes my sense of practicality. I admit it.
While we were in South Carolina, after I flooded the bathroom, Jim pulled me aside with a proposition. Bill had offered us his minivan. At a very good price. In fact, the price he was offering was well below what the car was worth. He just didn't want to deal with selling it, and under the circumstances I could respect that. As the words came out of his mouth I felt myself slowly backing away and getting smaller and smaller.
I did not want a minivan.
Many years ago, I was in the very painful process of breaking up with a boyfriend I had gone out with for over 3 years. I loved him. I shouldn't have loved him, but I loved him. I do think somewhere in there, he loved me too. However, he had lied to me repeatedly, cheated on me, and had bascially behaved like a total heathen practically every moment I was out of eyesight. I found out about things that had happened with women I knew and had considered friends, and I had been completely crushed. These were dark days. He had betrayed me and had caused me great pain. He had behaved like a total bastard, yet, I was still afraid to let go. Terrified. I figured I had forgiven him, and I figured that gave me the upper hand. After all, he had done me wrong. He had shamed me. Now he owed me big time. He would shape up and we would get married (if I could choose one time in my life go back in time and slap myself HARD for being a total imbecile this would be the time).
It was New Year's day. Circa 1996. This guy and I were nursing hangovers and were sharing a greasy meal. This relationship was limping along on it's last legs, held together only by my sick denial and my oblivious determination to not be left alone. He had just taken a job at a local department store as a buyer, and had gotten a little mack-daddy on me. He was in a new fast-paced world, and had befriended some high-fashion homosexuals and metrosexuals. He was telling me about how charming and witty these guys were.
"My friend (so and so) said something that just stuck with me. He just nailed it. I just don't want to be married to the fat lady driving a minivan. I want more out of life than that."
At this exact moment it struck me like a wall of bricks:
In his mind, I was the fat lady in the minivan. Probably with a bad perm. And bad skin. I was only 23 years old and I WAS THE FAT LADY IN THE MINIVAN.
He didn't want to marry me. He wanted to frolic with his new group of metrosexuals. He wanted to go to swanky cocktail parties and probably watch people snort coke and blow their trust funds on gay hookers. All while very sharply dressed.
I could not compete with metrosexuals. I could not compete with well dressed, witty, probably coke-snorting gay men. I lived with my parents and worked in a day-care center for crying out loud.
I WAS THE FAT LADY IN THE MINIVAN.
He thought I was pathetic and fat. He thought I lacked style. He thought I was boring. He thought I was on the path to becoming THE FAT LADY IN THE MINIVAN.
We broke up painfully shortly after. I silently resolved to NEVER be the fat lady in the minivan. NEVER!
The words are still hanging in the air: "We can't really say no.... Minivan... you wanted a new car... such a good deal.... can't turn it down...."
What was going through my mind at 4 months pregnant:
"I am the fat lady in the minivan. It is my destiny to be the fat lady in the minivan. I was a fool to think I would ever be anything BUT the fat lady in the minivan. Fat lady. Minivan. Fat lady. Minivan. Fat lady. Minivan."
Jim and I went back and forth. I couldn't say no. I didn't want to tell all of Jim's family that I loathed minivans. Practically all of them DROVE minivans. We resorted to an agreement. I would take the minivan if I could choose our baby's name if it was a boy.
Well we had a girl, we named her Margaret Rose (After Bill's wife Rose) , and I went home with a minvan.
We had to register for Minnesota plates. They arrived in the mail and we put them on.
The first three letters of the license plate are MLF.
I'll take what I can get.
And that, my friends is the story of how I went to South Carolina for a funeral, flooded the bathroom and came home with a minivan.