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!

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