Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Christmas in Luxembourg, Part 7


Everything is so personal with her. Every disagreement must be personal.

As Jill drove back to the Inn, she pondered how Heath and Garrett, two very different men, had given almost identical assessments of her mother. Heath’s was vaguer, which was not out of character for a man who had rarely lived the examined life. Garrett’s analysis was a bit more honed, although limited; he’d probably never had an agreement with Mother or he would have known that agreement was also personal with her. 

All her life, Jill had known that staying in Mother’s good graces meant agreeing with her. And not just agreeing with her, but agreeing in the way that Mother wanted to be agreed with. How much any particular person did this depended on how much they wanted to stay in Mother’s good graces, of course. Jill had spent most of her teenage years thinking that asserting her individuality meant crossing Mother loudly and often. Even after all these years, as she looked back on the damage that approach had caused to her family relationship, she still reflexively wanted to push back at anything Mother wanted to do. She wanted to make disagreement personal.

Well, not this time. She was an adult, here on business that was the very definition of adulting: figuring out the family finances, saving the family business. If the Luxembourg Inn could be kept in the family, she would keep in the family. But it was increasingly looking like the only way to save the Inn itself would be to sell it, and selling it was going to be tricky if she didn’t get the books cleaned up, and soon. It would be helpful if Mother could adult right alongside with her, without getting defensive when Jill asked questions. But the only thing Mother could understand about Daddy’s whole bookkeeping mess was that he’d done a lot of things under the table, which was just how you did business. 

Daddy’s instinct for money was different than Jill’s. Jill was good at clarity and bookkeeping. After all, accounting was the only profession in the world where creativity was a crime. But Daddy was creative with his money — not necessarily illegal, but maximizing its potential.   Clarity was what Daddy had not wanted. His accounts were a masterful work of redirection. He had a novelistic flare for creating the illusion of a family business scraping by, paying nothing but expenses. If those expenses included all the family cars, Mother’s new kitchen, housekeeping, and agricultural exemption — which itself allowed writing off various pieces of equipment that couldn’t be justified by other means — what could a struggling business owner do? 

Leave a headache for his accountant daughter, that’s what he could do. Oh Daddy, I wish we had talked about all this while you were still alive.


She wished that even more as she sat in her mother’s office at the Luxembourg.

“Why didn’t Daddy just create a trust?” Jill asked, as Mother sat behind her computer, watching the feeds from the security cameras. “That would have saved us some of these tax woes.”

“Because he didn’t think he was going to die, of course,” said Mother. “Maria at the front desk is doing her online shopping on the registration computer. She doesn’t know I can see her. When I’ve documented 10 hours of it, I’m going to fire her.”

“Why don’t you just talk to her and give her a warning? What’s your policy on internet use during work hours?”

“I shouldn’t have to give her a warning. Employees of the Luxembourg Inn ought to hold themselves to a higher standard.”

“Higher than what?” Jill asked. “The Motel 6 by the highway?”

“Jill, it never fails to disappoint me how uncommitted you are to our family traditions of excellence. We strive to uphold your father’s legacy here, and you want to mock it.” Mother pursed her lips and scrutinized the screen.

This was almost too pompous a piece of manipulation to be worth getting angry over. Perhaps Mother really was losing her touch. In the old days, a sermon like this would have had fewer buzzwords and much cleaner evisceration. This was almost too ridiculous to be worth deflecting.

Still, Jill was working up a comeback, just to keep in practice, when Mother jumped up and exclaimed at her security feeds, her face contorted with genuine anger this time, and rushed out into the lobby. At the sound of her raised voice, Jill jumped up and followed.

Mother was by the Christmas tree, berating a young woman who had set up a ladder by the Christmas tree.

“What do you think you’re doing? How dare you mess with my Christmas tree? I’ve set the position of every ornament on here. Every ornament is significant. We hang the same ones year after year, in the same places. Perhaps you aren’t aware of our tradition? Perhaps it isn’t important to you?”

“But ma’am,” said the girl meekly, “what about this box? It was in the storage room. I just thought I’d put them on the tree…”

“You just thought.” Mother’s voice became deceptively gentle. “You just thought you’d fix my design? You just thought you’d take it on yourself to improve my lobby?”

“No, ma’am, I just…”

“Here’s what I want you to do. I want to get off this ladder. I want you to walk out those doors. I want you to go home.”

“Oh ma’am, please don’t fire me,” the girl begged, her voice beginning to break. “I really need this job. Please…”

“Who said anything about firing? I want you to go home for the rest of the day and think about whether the Luxembourg Inn is the right place for you to be working, if you can’t follow simple procedures.”

Sobbing now, the girl left. 

“Mother, can I talk to you in your office?” said Jill, appalled.

“No, you may not,” said Mother. “I am going home. I am worn out, Jill, worn out with responsibilities and with trying to maintain a standard of hospitality that no one else seems to care about. I wonder why I still work so hard when my friends have all retired to Florida.”

“Mother, you can not speak to employees like that, especially when…”

“I cannot?” Mother wrapped herself in her coat as in a royal mantel. “I own this place. I can do whatever I want.”

The queen of Luxembourg swept out the doors into the swirling snow.



Antoinette said...

Wow. Poor Jill trying with a mother who won't adult.

Steve Berke said...

I enjoyed reading your article. Please make more interesting topics like this on.
I'll come back for more :)

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