LUCY BURDETTE: I was clearing out some overstuffed folders on my desk when I came across this photo. You will see immediately why I had to blog about it. The dilemma became, is this a blog about mothers-in-law? Or hats? With Mother's Day on the horizon, I opted for mothers-in-law.
This photo is early in my relationship with Dorothy. John and I had each been married before--I know she was worried about whether I'd be good for him. Whether this time he'd picked the right woman. Two years after we were married, I invited Dorothy to a member-guest golf tournament at our club. I was a very new golfer and nervous about everything. Would we get along? Would I play well enough to avoid humiliation? (Apparently I wasn't worried about the hat.)
That morning at breakfast we exchanged dreams. I dreamed that we got hopelessly lost on the golf course. She dreamed that they told her she was too old to play. We laughed and laughed. And then we were assigned to play with elderly twins, who were dreadful golfers but quite entertaining. We still love reliving that day--it definitely cemented our friendship.
She is almost 101 now (can you imagine) and still sharp as a tack. She keeps tabs on her seven kids and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren and has lots of opinions about life. (One of my other favorite memories was arriving at her apartment during the last presidential race. She was so relieved to have another Obama supporter in the room to help the president make it through the last debate.) I consider myself very lucky in the mother-in-law department!
What about you Reds, mother in law or even daughter in law stories? It's not an easy job either way...
HALLIE EPHRON: My mother-in-law, Freda, was a lovely woman and a terrific grandma to our two girls. Even in her 90s she could walk my feet off in the mall. She'd been quite a looker in her youth, and took a long time to settle down and get married. Her mother used to sew her outfits -- she'd bring her a picture of what she wanted and her mother would whip it up. Her mother was a terrific cook.
Neither cooking nor sewing got passed down to Freda. Her one culinary success was meatballs. Easiest recipe ever. 1 pound of chopped meat rolled into 1" balls. Put them in a sauce pan. Dump over them 8-12 ounces of canned Hunts Tomato Sauce, a good handful of brown sugar, and about 1/4 cup of vinegar. Cook slowly for about an hour and serve over rice. Yummy.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I loved my mother-in-law, Ida, but she was truly fierce, and quite the piece of work. She was assistant principal at VanBuren High School in New York City, and also a licensed marriage and family counselor. (You'll see why that's funny in a moment.) Like all intellectuals at the time (in the fifties), she and her husband flirted with Communism. I asked her, fascinated, about the "meetings." Did they really advocate the overthrow of the US Government?" She said "Mostly the women made coffee."
She was a wonderful poet, truly gifted. She took classes in French (she was fluent) and in Human Sexuality (no comment) at Hunter College when she was well into her nineties, and died at 94.
However. She could be so opinionated that after the weekend I met her, Jonathan's friends all called him to see if I had survived. Everyone knew about "Black Thanksgiving," after which, as a result of Ida's inability to see the other side of any question or to believe that she might be wrong, the entire family and a whole group of friends stopped talking to each other for a year. Once, when a family member (not me), failed to send her a thank you note, she also stopped talking to them. (I'm not sure the person was upset by that.)
When she first saw me, she said "My, you're a big one, aren't you?" I absolutely miss her.
|Shirley Dale Wilson, dancing with Dr. Paul Kincaid Wilson.|
Now, mother-in-law #2, Lee, I have known since I was a teenager. I also envy the fact that she was incredibly glamorous when she was young! She puts up with the fact that I'm always busy and never have as much time as I'd like to spend with the family. This Christmas, the first without my mom, she gave me a huge hug and said, "Deb, I'm your mother now."
RHYS BOWEN: I was terrified to meet my mother-in-law. I married John in Australia and then moved to California so it was over a year before I met my new relatives. But I heard enough about her--what a wonderful cook she was, how organized she was, what a gracious hostess--pictures of how elegant she looked when she attended high level functions around the world, and wintered in Barbados, and had ancestors who owned Sutton Place and various other stately homes. When I met her she turned out to be gracious but sensitive. They came over for the birth of our first child and she said, "Let me know what you'd like me to handle while you're resting. Shall I just take over the cooking and leave you time with the baby?"
And she was a fabulous cook. Absolutely fabulous. It was her raison d'etre. She had a housekeeper and so all her energy and creativity was focused on her cooking. For lunch she would make one sauce for the meat, one for the vegetables, brilliant desserts, little cakes for tea. My mouth still waters when I think about her food. And I have a big book of recipes that she wrote out for me. I don't make them often because they are all complicated and require zillions of ingredients and hours of preparation.
It was only after she died, rather young, that I realized what a lonely life she led. My father-in-law had a distinguished career and was involved in a life that didn't usually include her. Her children went to boarding school. She had no real friends. No wonder cooking made her feel useful during those long days. The other thing I discovered about her was that she looked so distinguished and upper class but she loved dirty jokes and had this barmaid's laugh. She was also a lovely grandma, although she never let me really get close to her.
SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: My mother-in-law, Miss Edna, has had a difficult week, but is doing much better now. She says "Cheers, darlings" — and is busy reading
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I've never had a mother-in-law. Ross's mother died shortly after he and I started dating - she had been in a nursing home due to her multiple sclerosis and passed on from pneumonia. But I did have the most fabulous father-in-law a bride could ask for. Victor was funny, opinionated, high-handed and generous to a fault. He loved me and his grandkids (and his sons, of course.) Thanks to his desire to combine his two passions, family and travel, we went to Cancun regularly, to Key West, skiing in Montreal, on safari to Africa, and twice to Hawaii. When he died, too young, at 68, he didn't leave us much in the way of money or possessions. He had already given away what was most valuable: his time and his company. When I become a mother-in-law (someday in the future, I hasten to add!) I plan to model myself on Victor.