After putting a load of laundry on in the basement, I sat down across from my husband at the dining room table.
“It looks like a Crate and Barrel down there.”
My husband politely put his bookmark in the book he was reading and set it on the table, readying himself to humor me.
“Yesterday, the kids broke that statue I got from my grandmother while playing dodge ball in the living room. You know, the one you’ve had to glue back together twice already?”
“Anyway, after they broke it again, I finally just put the remainder of the statues downstairs.”
“I noticed,” he said.
“And with Fulton going through his Jackson Pollock with Sharpie phase, I boxed up the pictures and paintings and put them downstairs too.”
“Probably a wise decision,” he said.
“And then while doing laundry just now, I was thinking of your mother’s birthday coming up.”
“Go on,” he said. I could tell I had his attention.
“I was thinking about how she never really likes anything we get her.”
“Okay,” he said, knowing this was all leading to something.
“And we have all these lovely things in our basement.”
“You want to give my mother our stuff as a birthday present?” he asked.
“No, no, no,” I said. “My idea is so much more brilliant than that.”
“You certainly have me on the edge of my seat,” he said.
“Here’s what I was thinking,” I said. “These things are not safe in our house right now. The kids are going to destroy them.”
“True,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean the danger will exist forever. The kids will grow out of this phase. Decorative objects and children will one day be able to coexist in our house.”
“I know, but that will be years down the line. In the meantime, we need gifts for your mother and we need to free up room in our basement.”
“And your parents have that big house, it’s climate-controlled, they don’t smoke, they keep that place like a museum.”
“And therefore, you want to give them all of our stuff.”
“Yes. We give them all of our stuff. Over time. This will save us money on birthday and Christmas gifts. They get years of enjoyment out of it. It stays safe. We free up much needed real estate in our basement. And here’s the brilliant part,” I paused for dramatic effect. “When they go to their reward, we’ll get it all back.”
“Are you out of your mind?” he asked.
“I know it seems a little morbid at first, but once you toss the idea around for a little bit and get past the whole idea of your parents’ death being a big payoff for us, it’s really quite genius.”
“So you want to use my parents’ house as some sort of free, climate-controlled storage for our breakable decor?” he asked. I couldn’t be sure, but he may have been making a face of disgust.
“First of all, it’s not free storage,” I said, making air quotes at the word free. “Spending every holiday and many weekends with my in-laws is a pretty steep payment. In fact, I would argue this storage is pretty expensive. I may not be paying in cash, but I certainly pay in spirit.”
“It’s not that bad,” he said.
“Easy for you to say,” I said. “Your parents like you.”
“My parents like you,” he said. “-ish.”
“They like to sit around and point out my flaws.”
“They don’t know they’re doing it,” he said. “Mostly.”
“It wouldn’t bother me as much if we weren’t squandering a bunch of our budget on the gifts they never like.”
Silence from him because he knew I had a point.
“And maybe the holidays with them wouldn’t be as soul-sucking if, while I was hearing about all my inadequacies during Christmas dinner, I could be looking at our lovely stuff that will one day be bequeathed back to us.”
“I don’t know,” he said. I could tell his resolve was softening.
“It’s win-win for everyone,” I said. “They get beautiful, though slightly-used gifts. Our pretty items will be safe and when they pass on, we’ll inherit splendid things by which to remember them.”
“Well, when you put it that way, it doesn’t seem so bad.”
“I know,” I said. “Given enough mental gymnastics, practically anything seems less awful.”
“But won’t they know it’s our stuff?”
“I don’t think they will,” I said. “We’ve had some of it packed away for years, they don’t come over much and when they do, they kind of just make a beeline for the dining room. I’ve never seen them look at anything in the other rooms.”
“Now that you mention it,” he said, “I don’t think I’ve seen them look at anything in our house either.”
“You haven’t. It’s uncanny.”
“What if my siblings lay claim to our stuff?” he asked.
“You and I both know your siblings have no interest in anything that isn’t electronic.”
“What if my parents don’t like the gifts and throw them away?”
We both laughed at the idea of his parents throwing anything away.
“This might just work,” he said.
“I told you it was brilliant.”
“See, this is why I married you,” he said. “No other woman could make such a convincing case for something as deranged as using her in-laws house for free storage.”
“It’s a gift,” I said. “And one I can’t repackage and give to your mother in order to get it back when she expires.”