Edna 56

She’s heard enough about mothers-in-law intruding, and she keeps a buttoned lip. In fact, the oddest thing about Edna is her silence. She does say, ‘Yes, thank you’ to a second cup of coffee and ‘Good night, sleep well,’ but that’s about it.

The second outstanding thing about Edna is her thriftiness. Little does she suspect that it gives Laura and Brian a pain in the neck, because they are also trying to make the best of it, trying to be polite, and would never dream of saying that her thriftiness gives them a pain in the neck. For one thing, thrift obviously gives Edna so much pleasure. She exhibits a huge ball of saved string as other mothers-in-law might show a quilt they had made. She puts every last orange pip into a plastic bag destined for the compost heap. It would cost Laura and Brian about three hundred dollars a month to set Edna up in a flat by herself. Edna has some money which she contributes to their household, but if she lived alone, Laura and Brian would have to contribute more than she costs them now, so they let well enough alone.

Edna is fifty-six, rather lean and wiry, with short curly hair of mixed grey and black. Due to her habit of scurrying about doing things, she has a humped posture and gait. She is never idle, and seldom sits. When she does sit, it is usually because someone has asked her to, then she flings herself into a chair, and folds her hands with an attentive expression. She nearly always has something useful stewing on the stove, like apple sauce. Or she has started to clean the oven with some chemical product, which means Laura can’t use the oven for at least the next hour.