One of the rituals all H4 brides went through was the first in-laws’ visit. I was still dealing with the transition from single to married, doctor to housewife, financially independent to dependent, full service help (maid/ launderer/ gardener) to no servant at all, gas stove to electric coil, & private bathroom to shared. Just as I made an uneasy truce with this MAN in my life, guess who came along? Yes, his mother!

I was fresh from my parents’ home, where I was told to focus on studying, not chores. The realization that I was expected to clean & cook tarnished the #AmericanDream quite severely. I had no interest in playing house, buying furniture or dinnerware, & was perfectly willing to eat on paper plates forever if needed.

My poor mother in law, who was from a much more traditional, community oriented lifestyle was understandably aghast. She set about equipping my kitchen with all the requisite masala powders & utensils, and would hopefully smile at me as I hurried past to attend college & then work to pay for the #USMLEs and #MBA. Every evening, they would be waiting expectantly for our return, hoping for some conversation because they had been limited to the apartment grounds, with no other Indians around. My husband was working in a #startup preparing to go public, so neither of us had any energy or wish to socialize. They cut short their planned six month visit, & we felt guiltily relieved.

Over the years, both sets of parents visited us for 3-4 months at a time. My mother would diligently re-arrange my kitchen cabinets, insisting they were set up chaotically. Even when I neatly labeled the various lentils & flours, she would change them around, so I couldn’t find anything at all (on the rare occasions I wanted to). I learned to cede control over the meals, dutifully nodding at all the “suggestions” she made.

A few months later, my mother in law would visit & declare the kitchen irredeemably disorganized, & yet again the various ingredients would be changed around, the stained labels now just a mockery of my original effort.

Meanwhile the Dads would inspect the various gadgets, ask how much they had cost, & then exclaim in horror at the currency converted amount. That would be followed by extremely long discussions about money management & frugality.

The only thing they all were in accord about was #grandchildren, & every visit they would leave behind advice, secret remedies, rings with auspicious stones & once, a belt of magnets.

Each time they left, a little older, a little more frail, the immigrant worry about parents would settle in. We felt a little more alone, knowing we were missing weddings, births & festivals. The drive home from the airport was always very quiet.

1990s H4 Bride: In Laws’ Visits
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