I am writing this on the cusp of the first anniversary of my mother in law’s passing. This picture was taken in our back yard in Whittier, California on Mother’s Day. I’m going to guess that I was 35ish and she was 68ish. My own mother had died five years prior so the two of us were the guests of honor on this day. She came over looking glamorous and rested and I wrestled three little boys all week, grocery shopped, cleaned the house and made an exquisite brunch for all of us. I’m not quite sure I liked her in this picture but this well bred obedient Catholic school girl respected her and honored her on this special day.
The definition of mother-in-law in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is as follows: The mother of someone’s husband or wife. (No mystery here…) But when I scrolled down on the page there was a question! “What made you want to look up mother-in-law?”
Mostly the answers had to do with the spelling of mother-in-law and the plural of mother-in-law. Also why is it called a mother-in-law quarters? But down near the end of the comments, a woman by the name of Liz Mayott wrote:
“I love my mother-in-law ❤️.”
Ah.. just why do mother-in-laws get such a bad rap? I’m sorry to report that the Urban Dictionary defines mother-in-law as “a horrible beast”. And father-in-law as the sainted man who lives with one’s mother-in-law!
Here’s my best guess… Mother-in-laws have to learn to play second fiddle to mothers. When each of my three sons was born I wanted nothing more than my mother to come over and cook for us, swaddle our babies and take care of us and I totally let her. My mother-in-law waited patiently in the wings until she was invited. Mother-in-laws know their place.
And MY mother-in-law worked it!
First it was the home cooked meal she delivered when I came home from the hospital with my first son. It was called “Luxury Stew” and it was so delicious and nurturing that I wrote down the recipe to make again. But it was so much better when she made it.
Then came the home made blankets. Beautiful cross stitched kittens on soft cotton batting. Crocheted pastel coverlets and tiny baby sweaters. The homemade Christmas stockings that I still stuff every year- now with things like lottery tickets and hand sanitizer and other accoutrements of young men. And the handmade Christmas ornaments that I swear multiplied in the storage boxes between Decembers!
She wormed her way into my heart.
The last time I visited my mother-in-law was two years ago. I was 62ish and she was 93ish. The two of us had learned a lot in the last 25ish years. Basically, neither of us had changed much but certainly we both had softened in our appreciation for each other. And we had some important things in common that bonded our relationship.
Both of us mothers of three grown sons.
Both of us now mother-in-laws.
(Interesting how the generation gap between a 35ish year old and a 68ish year old can shrink in 25ish or so years.)
I might not have had a lot of good feelings for my mother-in-law, Louise, on that Mother’s Day in my backyard in Whittier, California. But I hung in there with her. She kept her boundaries and played second fiddle like all mother-in-laws have to do. She knew her place with me. I respected her. And I grew to love her. She stole my heart when I was not looking. I’m sure you won’t find that in any dictionary.
She passed away a year ago on April 16th. Her sons are planning a celebration of her life this summer as restrictions open up with Covid 19.
It seems appropriate to post a picture here of me and my two beautiful daughter-in-laws.
Nazaneen and Brianna, please forgive me in advance for all my mother-in-law indiscretions!! 😱