As a new bride I took my responsibilities for the house very seriously. I didn't want my Japanese MotherInLaw, Oka-san to find fault with me. The house we had bought was two stories..partly western style, part oriental with tatami mats, all doors were sliding pocket door, shoes were left at the door and slippers were donned.
We were married in April, with plenty of spring showers and in Japan the humidity leads to mildew rather quickly. We had a wrap around porch-like walkway on the second story with a heavy wooden banister that I used to dry some clothes up there.
Anyway, one morning it was sunny, my husband says "oh, I spoke to Oka-san yesterday and she asked if you could put the futons out over the banister to air so that they will not get mildew.?" So sure why not? So I dutifully emptied the sliding closet, lifting, hauling these heavy futons outside and hung them one by one over the rail. There were alot of soft covers too, so I put them out also.
Later in the day I returned upstairs to retrieve the futons, I started folding the covers and eventually got everything placed neatly back in the sliding closet. Whew! I felt I had accomplished something.
Early that evening Oba-san showed up unexpectedly, and even though she didn't speak English I wanted to show her that I had done as she had asked. So I motioned for her to follow me upstairs, we entered, I slid open the door to the closet...she took one look and burst into tears! I'm thinking Oh My God! What did I do? Maybe they are sunburnt..I didn't think so.
Thankfully, Tom came home at that precise moment, poor man he took one look at his mother one look at my face and looked like he wanted to run the other way.
They went back and forth in Japanese for a few moments inbetween the tears.....and Tom turned to face me so his mother could not see his face...he rolled his eyes, furrowed his brow and made faces no respectable Japanese guy would ever do..saying at the same time "She's upset because you didn't put them back in the same order that she had them"
Well, I had been raised to respect my elders by my parents and I knew that I could not laugh it would never be forgiven....I really didn't want to fight with her..so I told Tom "please tell your Mom that I am sorry I didn't know the proper way to return them to the closet, could SHE be so kind as to show me?" She did.
From that point on we got along great. Oka-san passed on and so has her son..but the memory of his face as a new husband caught between his wife & his mother is priceless....I just have to laugh.