Wednesday, November 18, 2009

18 November 1955 “Why I like my Mother in Law: Book Two”

Well, as I mentioned in a comment on yesterday’s blog, I am really now realizing just how much I actually do admire my MIL. I have mentioned why, through her child rearing, I respect and thank her for making my dear hubby the person he is today. I had also forgot to mention that none of what I know of her child rearing came from her mouth. There were never conversations such as, “Well, when I was raising the kids, I did this.” Or, “We always had meals on time and this was how it was done.” In fact, my MIL is rather modest in most she does. She is never boastful and lives in  a sort of natural quiet state amongst the things I really think of as amazing. Her organized and beautiful home, her boating abilities, her amazing gardens and yard, her cooking and even her cherished display of her family pride. She does this all with a sort of subdued grace that would never seem boastful or prideful. That is why I can see that some of you might think, “Oh, she was just saying she did this or that” when in actually she has never mentioned the subject unless I ask, and only then will she begrudgingly reply, brushing off what she did as ‘no big deal’.

It is from my Hubby and my SIL’s lips that I know the real story. In fact this morning at breakfast hubby thanked me for the wonderful post about his mum. He said he read the comments and said, “You know, it really was that way. We had only a few cherished toys and they were not always strewn about. My mum always kept our rooms neat and tidy for us, but because she did so, we just sort of followed suit. We never had the ‘Get in there and clean up your room’ talk because if we didn’t do it she did and we often did it, so she wouldn’t have to. It was a definite give and take. Also, the rest of the house was always clean and orderly so it would have seemed odd to not ‘pick up when we were done’.”

This really got me thinking, it seems that honestly the example seems such a powerful teaching tool to your child. I mean if a parent lives in a messy room with clothes on the floor and things piled all over, how could they honestly ask their child to tidy up their room? I am not saying it probably doesn’t happen, but it does seem a bit unfair. Again, please don’t think I am trying to tell anyone what to do or how to live, it is hardly any of my business, only I live with a result of a mother who probably spent more time ‘teaching by example’ than ever ‘telling what to do’.

Now, I admire my MIL in her own right and not just for her being a good mother. She was an only child. She grew up in a sort of sad dark cloud, as her father, whom she loved and doted upon her, died when she was 9 of cancer.

He, probably even more so, became a distant God in her mind, as she recalled him as the wonderful handsome man speeding about in his fast boats, sailing, dancing, just being that sort of Cary Grant-esque sort of figure a man with some means in the 1940’s could be. There are pictures of him, handsome and tan, hair slicked back standing in one of his boats. He was sadly replaced with a man we all have come to loathe in my hubby’s family.

When my MIL had to be in the wedding of her mother and new step father, she was so saddened and unhappy, she walked half way down the aisle, threw her basket of rose petals and ran away crying! The resulting years with the step-father (whom my husband often refers to as the ‘evil grandfather’) were not happy years.

Yet, despite all the contention and abuse my MIL witnessed at her own mother, she managed to turn out rather well. The point where my MIL grew up is a small jutting pennisula that slips out into the Atlantic. We often laugh, when we hear the old stories of that ‘point’ from the 40s-ealry 60’s as it sounds much like the Great Gatsby. There are stories of a wives sneaking out of windows for dalliance with the neighbors, late night cocktail parties and you can imagine.

My MIL had to openly witness her step-father’s adulteries and even when I was first married to my hubby we openly spoke of ‘Del’ or ‘Mack’ two current concubines of the evil grandfather, though my MIL mother was still alive. So, in a nutshell, my MIL grew up in privilege but in a very sordid way that she wanted to remove herself from as soon as she could. This resulted in her going away to fashion school in Boston as soon as she was done with high school.

She has had quite a few adventures in her life. When she was young and first married to her first husband, she traveled around a bit with him, living in everything from nice apartment in Paris to a trailer park in the states.

After she met my hubby’s father, she came into her inheritence and gave up her dress shop and nice home on Cape Cod to go live on a farm in Maine. The spirit of adventure called her to it. She, unfortunately, soon found my hubby’s father was not willing to help, and she was left to run a farm, hand milking, killing chickens, making butter and cream and raising a child, while her new husband did little to help. She loved the farm and speaks fondly of it now.

I once asked her, “If things had worked out with you and hubby’s father, do you think you would have stayed”.' Without skipping a beat, with a twinkle in her eye, she said. “Oh, yes. I loved the farm and the animals. The fresh cream and butter.” But, things were not meant to be, so she had to sell the farm, giving what she could afford to my hubby’s father and moved back home with her parents. Shortly after that, my husband’s father took the money, moved to Alaska and eventually committed suicide. All my hubby ever knew of him were his writings and poetry. From the sounds of him, though it might sound harsh, he was better without his influence.

When my MIL returned home with her child to the family home, her parents were kind enough to buy a plot of land down the road from them on the water. They began to build a house for her, which she got to have some say in the design. When it was near completion, there was an argument with the the ‘evil grandfather’ about a dog my MIL had that had been attacked by the evil grandfather’s dog and had to be put down. He blamed my MIL for having to have her own dog put down and kicked her out. The family still owns that house, but she and my hubby never once lived in it.

So, she had to start all over again. But, I think having had some say in the design of that house intrigued her for she was to design and build two other houses that she and my hubby and SIL lived in, including the one she now has, that my hubby mostly grew up in.

I also admire my MIL take on the hippies. She was born in 1942 so was really there at the first cusp of the hippie generation, but her response to it was more about the freedoms and color of fashion and the new ‘return to nature’ ideals that lead her to a farm. She never got into the mindless drug binges and orgies that she saw around her. In fact, I love the story of her trip to Woodstock. While most hitchhiked or took the VW bus, my MIL went in her Jaguar, found it too muddy and stayed in a hotel. That was the end of that scene for her. And, quite honestly, I don’t blame her, I might have done the same thing!

As I have said, my MIL is the opposite of a braggart. Though she could go on about the things she has done and seen, most of it we get from asking or stories from others. She even recently, though she is in her 60’s, sailed their 45’ boat down to Florida from MA, which is an amazing adventure that took weeks. She will tell you of her white knuckled fear at the swell of some of the big waves, but for the most part takes it all in stride as ‘no big deal’. So, I think what I most love about my MIL is her ability to do things well because she felt she wanted to, that she needed to make a safe comforting trusting home for her children because she did NOT have it, yet never played the “I never had it like that when I was a kid” to her children. Perhaps those are the best role models, those who quietly live amazingly, but would scoff at your admiring her for anything. So, I am lucky in my MIL. She is a fine woman indeed.

I hope, in my hubby’s choice of me, that I hold some of those very same qualities and perhaps that is why he was drawn to me. I do know I love talking plants and gardening with her. She is always praising me for my various own crazy adventures with cooking, or raising chickens, or building a barn. She gives me praise and credit as if she could never imagine doing it herself, when I know, for a fact, she has done more and done it well. But, really, that is a sign of a good mother figure, to praise and encourage through your own abilities and attempts and help along the way.

Mum and Than Here is one of my favorite pictures of my MIL with my Hubby as a boy on their boat. I just think it shows the love and adventure she instilled in her children.

Well, that is the saga of my MIL. My hubby is on vacation this week and we had originally planned a big trip. We decided it was silly to waste the money and have been having a lovely time enjoying our home here on Cape. Yesterday we went to a wonderful old used book store we hadn’t been to in awhile and I found two lovely books that I will share with you tomorrow. I will also share my Fish chowder recipe. It was the first time I have ever made homemade chowder and was happy with the results.

Until, then, happy homemaking!


  1. I admire women like your mother-in-law greatly. It is my dream to live a life of adventure, in my own way. She surely is inspirational!


  2. Thank you LPM-I didn't realize how much I admired her until I began to write about her!

  3. I just love how you are living in 1955...kinda reminds me of what I have going on out here in California...pretending I am living in New England....

    I'll check back later,

  4. What an interesting life your MIL has led. You should consider getting her to share some of these tales and write them down. Eventually, should you and Mr. 50's decide to have children, they would be such a blessing to pass on.

    I had an aunt who led such an adventurous life, and was such a neat person. I am sorry I didn't get a chance to spend more time with her prior to her passing. She drove taxi in Chicago and ran with Al Capone's gang for a while. I wish I could have heard all of her stories.

  5. Wow, what a story!! It's so inspiring that she has overcome so much!!

    It reminds me a bit of what my MIL went through. She's one of 8 kids from parents that were alcoholic and party goers. She remembers being left in the car with her siblings for hours while her parents were at the bar...So she really desired to have a stable family home after that. She got married and had two kids, and is a housewife who sometimes had jobs like at the library. She's a good MIL, I love her dearly. She hates cooking so it's always been canned or frozen foods, or she takes us out to eat.

    She lives with an anxiety disorder and she won't get help for it (she's anxious to get help!!), so I find it hard to watch her never being able to relax and being very nervous about everything because I know she deserves so much better!!

  6. Lori-WOW Al Capone! I bet she had some great stories! After thinking about her lately, I have been thinking how nice it would be to write the story of my hubby's family. It does make one want SOMEONE to pass it all down to, non?

  7. housewife 07-that is sad, I hope you can, somehow, coax her to get the help. I hate to think of anyone wasting the life we are given. Though, perhaps she is happy with 'at home' visits and things. Maybe there is a way to make her at home time more enjoyable, does she do crafts, sewing etc?

  8. Wow 50'sgal what an INTERESTING story! What a marvellous woman your MIL seems to be. We have much to learn from faithful, competent, quiet-achieving women like her. We should never forget the power and effects on others because of a life lived well with love. Individuals affect many people and touch others with kindness, adventure and beauty like your MIL or the contrast influence of the 'evil grandfather'. Each of us is significant with the wonderful privilege of being able to be a blessing others... or not. We should try to always endeavour to choose right and good. Thanks for the inspiration. (Oui, someone, little and cute to pass this rich history down to...):)

    (Hotels and not mud, my choice too.) :)

    I hope you and your hubby enjoy your home holiday. I love it when my husband's home on holidays!

    I'm glad I asked you the question. I knew you wouldn't disappoint! Your phenomenal answer makes me determined to continue on my path of showing much love, acceptance and support to my daughter-in-law and look for broader ways to even improve on my current practices. "..praise and encourage through your own abilities and attempts and help along the way." Thanks for the inspiration to live quietly amazing lives with 'subdued grace'. Linda

  9. Thanks, 50s gal! She does some crafts and housework. We are guessing her anxiety comes from her childhood...She is very stubborn and wants to control things, so we haven't been able to figure out how to help...Her doctor once prescribed anxiety pills but she had anxiety about taking them!! She's always been like that and it's just getting worse as se gets older...

    I love the picture with your MIL and hubby! I love how she showed good manners to her kids by showing the right examples, as they say, actions speak louder than words! :) And don't worry, I'm opiniated too about child rearing even though I don't have kids yet. It bothers me to see he impoliteness of kids I see everywhere and the parents can be worse...Of course, I won't be a perfect mother, but there are just sone parenting approaches I don't agree with and will be conscious about not doing them. I think the beginning of the "teenager" led to this, and I do believe kids decades ago were more polite (I'm generalizing here, growing up I was not alloed to make scenes! :) ).

  10. Wow, I can't type! Sorry about the typos!!

  11. Texas Accent In SydneyNovember 18, 2009 at 5:13 PM

    50s Gal, today you speak of wanting someone to pass your family stories down to, and during this year you seem to have moved from a definite "no" about children to a "maybe" ... I've been hesitant to mention the topic, but I keep thinking that if you were using 1955 contraception you might be looking for patterns for vintage maternity dresses! ... I'm not actually asking what method you use, but The Pill was not around in 1955, and there's the old joke about the rhythm method: ... "Mommy, does the rhythm method work?" ... "Ask your little brothers, dear." ... we can thank modern medicine for more options and almost 100 percent reliability.

  12. So true, Texas accent, I don't think the pill was available until 1960. It is true that NO has become a more grey area. I suppose it is that the more I am home and interested in my nesting and thinking about the importance of making 'good future adults' has affected me somewhat.

  13. Your MIL sounds like a real salt-of-the-earth're so lucky to have her! My husband's mother has alzheimers and no longer knows who he is; and since we lived in a different state I only got to meet her a handful of times before the disease truly kicked in.

    Now, I was married before, and had an awesome MIL. I got along better with her than I do my own mother...I miss having her in my life but it felt too awkward after the divorce and my remarriage, even though I know she was more than willing to stay connected with me.

    By the way, please stop by my blog, you have a blog award waiting for you. :)

  14. I doubted whether I should comment on the topic, but IUD were around way before the Pill, and they are quite reliable. There were other methods as well.
    Rhythm method was for Catholics as their Church forbids using other methods (nowadays they have NFP).

  15. And of course the ever faithful condom, as I do believe they were avialable. I did not know about the IUD, very interesting indeed.
    I do find this rather interesting as well, because certainly ladies, alone in the kitchen, coffee and buns, must have whispered about contraception, don't you think?

  16. I'd bet women talked about contraception, as you said, alone with just other women. I would think a 50's woman would be concerned about pregnancy for financial reasons as well as all the other reasons an unplanned pregnancy could shake up a family.

    My sister in law was born in 1972, conceived while her mother was using an IUD. Thankfully my sister in law was born perfectly healthy. Now that she's done having children her hubby had a vasectomy, though. My mother in law, treating me as a daughter, advised me not to get an IUD. She said she was terrified during the whole pregnancy.


  17. IUD don't always work as intended, it's true, but the Pill doesn't, either. I remember reading an article in Daily Mail about a woman who became pregnant while using the Pill.
    There is a Wiki article on IUD, according to which they were around since the beginning of the 20th century. Condoms were available as well. And, of course, (since our hostess doesn't mind talking about such things:), withdrawal was known already in the biblical times.

    Of course, all the methods apart from sterilisation/vasectomy do have their failure rate. Still, according to Wiki, IUD stay the most widespread contraception device. They can cause health problems, but the Pill can cause health problems as well. From what I read, the revised rhythm method nowadays called NFP gives good results and has no negative consequences as far as the health goes.

    Anyway, I wrote my post not to promote any particular form of anticonception or to be divisive, since it's such a sensitive topic, I just wanted to say women still had options even before the Pill.

  18. All I know is that I cannot take the pill, and I have 4 kids...two of which were "failures" of condoms. My hubby has this phobia about getting a vasectomy, so I am not sure where we are headed. However, I am 38 and I speculate (judging from my mom) that within 5 year I will be going thru the God knows what will happen, LOL.

    Since we are on the topic, the reason I cannot take the pill is it causes MASSIVE issues of insomnia for me. I would go 6 days with about 3 hours of sleep. NOT healthy. Doc blew me off when I said so, but after I stopped taking the pill, the insomnia went away. Anyone else have that prob.?

  19. My mother fell pregnant while having the IUD fitted and as a happy result I have a wonderful sister 12 years my junior. Throughout her life she has been a Godsend to my parents who years after her birth experienced tradegy. Even now my sister and her husband share a large divided house with them and are much support to each other. :) Linda

  20. Wow, here I have been out all day playing 'i'm on holiday' and have missed the bulk of this discussion. It is so interesting. Certainly women did and were concerned about pregnancy,as though the economy was booming post war, there was enough memory of the Depression and War to merit people to be 'careful' how many chicks filled their nests.
    I am happy and proud that we women, here, are able to discuss everything from recipes, stain removal, corporate greed to contraception. What a lovely well-mannered bunch, we ladies are. As I have said, I have seen some horrible things writ on simply commnets to Youtube videos. Somehow people feel since they cannot be seen they can be as rude, heartless, and cruel as ever. I am glad that we are able to discuss anything under the sun, even disagree or change opinions all with aplomb, decorum, and downright neighborliness! BRAVA! All of us!

  21. I am suprised none of you ladies have discussed the furniture. My realitives (good catholics ) All had twin beds. The pill isn't the only answer my husband and I only have two sons,and We share the same bed.

  22. What a extremely interesting life your MIL has led, thank you for sharing a little glimpse into the life of a true role model! You are lucky to have her. Just love your blog, look forward to every post!

  23. Sounds like a great woman. I love my mother in law too and enjoy a great relationship with her. She is a wonderful example and I hope too that my hubby sees some of the same great qualities in me. Continue to enjoy the blessing because there are many wives who don't have that privilege.

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