PAT MCDERMOTT: her guilty treasures
Sitting in a small café recently, I inadvertently overheard a conversation between two well-dressed older women. “I know it’s no fun being told you have a fatty liver,” said one to the other, “but you have to look on the bright side.”
“What’s the bright side?”
“Nobody can see it! I mean it’s not like you have to buy your liver a plussize dress to wear to the wedding!” They both fell about laughing. “What am I going to wear?” asked the first woman. “I’m the grandmother of the bride. Beige lace or red satin?” “Red satin,” I said to myself. “Red satin!” said her friend. “Done – now for the gift. I was thinking of giving them my dining room table,” said the grandmother. “But I don’t know if anybody wants this stuff any more.”
“You have to ‘guilt’ them into it,” said her friend. I pricked up my ears.
“Here’s what you do. Take the groom aside during the wedding reception. Make sure it’s somewhere noisy so he can’t hear you properly. Tell him you’re giving them… mumble, mumble, mumble. He wants to get back to his mates at the bar. He’ll agree to anything! He won’t remember a thing until the table arrives at their door.”
“You’re terrible!” the bride’s grandmother said admiringly. The barista and I exchanged raised eyebrows. We had to agree.
Almost a year after the MOTH (The Man of the House) and I “downsized”, I’m still trying to offload furniture, books and memorabilia to our children and children-in-law. I thought I might line all nine of them up in height order like the Von Trapp family and march them smartly down to our storage unit in the basement car park. We could sing as we went. Do-Re-Mi comes to mind but Climb Every Mountain probably says it better. Then I’d deliver an ultimatum. Take your prized belongings now or forever hold your peace. Yes, I will take 20 years of hard-won netball, hockey, soccer, rugby and tennis trophies to the tip.
And there’s so much more. How can they resist the grey sofa bed (slept on by 250 overnight guests, each one of them toilet trained) or a cedar desk that requires a team of oxen to move? They are also welcome to one or more of 2679 books from Chess for Beginners to Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat.
Hands in the air please for the “elephant” wing chair! Large and green, it’s tastefully embossed with gold lions, giraffes and elephants. Buddha the cat perched on its back. Jack the dog slept on the seat. It has history, people! Someone must want it.
Underneath that pile of packing cases over there is our original kitchen table. Everyone in the family has cried over spilt milk at that table. Remember how the milk dripped silently through the cracks and puddled on the floor.
I had a quiet think about getting on with adult children and came up with some guidelines for myself.
1. They are like wild animals on the plains of Africa. Don’t make sudden movements or suggestions. Always approach slowly and quietly.
2. Don’t try to give an adult child an old teddy bear, a framed photo of themselves aged four-and-a-half or a certificate that says they can swim 25 metres unaided. They find this stuff alarming.
3. Millenials move often. They prefer lightweight furniture that falls apart on command.
4. Never say “we need to talk” to an adult child. It sounds as if a) you have a terminal illness; b) you’re going to jail; c) you’ve put their inheritance through the pokies.
5. Nothing you or I have, however valuable, is cool.*
*Except maybe my elephant chair. I hear the Guggenheim Museum in New York is interested.
“Don’t try to give an adult child an old teddy bear... they find this stuff alarming.”