-Mom! Mom! My husband just became the President of the United States! The first black president! We’re going to live in The White House!
-So what? Don’t you ever forget, girl, that he failed to give you a million-dollar wedding and a bucketful of gold and jewels at the betrothal. Plus his mother failed to slit the throat of his sister at your nupitals as a sign of respect and gratitude for marrying into Our Family. So now he’s taking you to the White House? (mother burst into sobs) my poor girl, my poor poor girl, she has become slave to the egomaniacal ambition of That Man, forced to sacrifice her own ambitions…
-but Mom, I want to go to the White House too…and I actually didn’t want a wedding, remember? (although it’s about 15 years ago, so why should you remember?)
-…if only you had never married him! Look at your cousin’s wife- she doesn’t have to go to the White House and sacrifice her own life and comfort for her selfish husband! If only I had stopped your marriage! (more sobbing. Michelle bangs her head against the wall.)
This imaginary conversation between Michelle Obama and her mother floated in my mind as I watched her first exclusive interview. She goes on for most the interview about how wonderful her mother is, how much support she is giving the family as they have settled into their new life in Washington, how much involved with the girls she is, and how much she is “unimpressed by all this” , and how she is “helping the family remain on the ground”- presumably by frequently puncturing the ego of her son-in-law which is in danger of becoming as big as the Sun, if not the entire Galaxy.
Poor Barack, I couldn’t help thinking. I never realised he owed his presidency to his mother-in-law (I bet he didn’t either, though it sounds as if he’s being reminded of it fifty times a day). Michelle’s depiction of her mother and her role in their lives reminded me a lot about mothers Back Home- the undoubted valuable service they provide in the family, coupled with continual naggings and put-downs, which more or less comes as a result of their intense involvement with every little detail of their children’s lives (whether married, not married, children, no children, working, not working.)
Oh well. There’s always Canada if it doesn’t work out, Barack and Michelle. And then you can spend the most of your emotional energy on arranging for The Mother to come and visit you.