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What My Mother-In-Law Gave Me

A reflection on past times.

By Stephanie Van OrmanPublished 21 days ago 6 min read
What My Mother-In-Law Gave Me
Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

I knew my father-in-law liked me the moment he saw me. He was sitting at his computer desk when his son introduced me to him. He glanced at me over his shoulder and then dropped his mouse and swiveled around, giving me his full attention. Contrary-wise, my mother-in-law did not look at me. She looked at everything and everyone but me. It seemed like she was too preoccupied to notice that her son was trying to introduce a girl to her.

I didn't understand that. If my son was introducing me to a teenage girl in a kilt, a jean jacket, and black high heels, I'd straighten up and focus. I'd notice everything about her from her measurements to the length of her hair, to what she wore over her eyes, to what she wore on her feet. I'd notice how much makeup she was wearing and if she had a callous on the middle finger of her right hand (a sure sign that she's addicted to writing... and therefore more likely to write about the exchange later in life). But, she didn't notice anything about me because she did not look at me.

My mother-in-law and I had a difficult time.

You see, I was taking her youngest son from her and I was not letting him slip between her fingers so slowly that she could never really put her finger on the day or time when she had lost him. I was taking him like a robber who doesn't wait for nightfall, who doesn't wait for your house to quiet, or for you to go to sleep. No gun, no knife, but I was robbing her as surely as if I had both. To this day, she still seems like she feels a little naked from the shock of having what was hers taken with zero recourse.

Now, of course, I didn't take over her son completely. He has always been a man who knew his own mind and who rarely experiences embarrassment or shame for being what he is. I'm sure he gets some of that from her. But he got other things too... Wonderful things. Let me share some of them with you.

Firstly, my mother-in-law is a stylish woman. It has always been such a blessing that my husband feels no need whatsoever for me to tone down my style. He was taught that fashion was one of the fun parts of life and to deny it was to make people sad for no reason. He'll let me wear anything. Sometimes, he even tells me to stop being conservative and to go for something crazier. One time, I was getting ready for a company party at his work and he came in and asked me why I wasn't wearing a ball gown. I said I was shy to wear something that bold when I knew the other women would not go over the top like that. He reminded me that I told him I was going to wear a ball gown and then he confessed unabashedly that he had told a few people from work what I was going to wear. So, the ball gown went back on (he's very good at tying the stays). If nothing else, the flirty looks he gave me all night made any spectacle completely worth it.

Secondly, my mother-in-law is a substandard cook. Praises be! It's not a joke. Being married to a man whose mother was not a good cook is THE BEST. My husband never gets in my face all owly saying that whatever I made isn't as good as what his mother made. His standards are fabulously low. Her thing was to make a big pot of something and then let everyone pick on it until either it all got eaten or it went bad in the fridge. Then she'd cook again. Before I married her son, I used to open the fridge at her house and stare in like I was looking inside the fridge from the Ghostbusters with the monster growling. I was like, "How is anyone going to turn what's in here into food?" I still don't know. The only thing I know is that my husband praises my cooking like I'm a goddess and when I can't cook for whatever reason, he's more than capable of fending for himself as he had to that plenty while he was growing up. He has never complained to me once. That, girls, is a real find.

Thirdly, my mother-in-law is an average housekeeper. I am not going to keep a spotless house. I'm grateful to her on a daily basis that she did not train her son to believe that a house could not be lived in unless it was as curated as a museum. She didn't raise a pig either. It's all just too fantastic. There is so much room to live, really live, between those two lines.

Fourthly, my mother-in-law believes in art. She doesn't think that making something is a waste of time. Being a fashion fiend, she makes clothes. She used to make her granddaughters different dresses to wear to church each Sunday. I don't know how long she kept it up, but she figured out that dresses for little girls use WAY less fabric and thus you can experiment and make a million different dresses for a fraction of the price of fabric like making dresses for dolls. She did that too. In any case, her ingenuity was truly astounding and when I neglect housework or let some regularly scheduled items fall off the calendar because I'm absorbed in making art, I don't hear boo out of my man. He knows women are little mad geniuses who need to EXPERIMENT!

The very last thing I need to thank my mother-in-law for is that she taught her son to be generous. He really knows that the people in his home need to be spoiled a little bit, given a little too much praise, a little too much encouragement, and a little too much devil-may-care attitude to try something outlandish whether it works out or not.

Her son is a joy to live with and even though I robbed her (I'm still not sorry and I'm not giving him back), she managed to forget completely that she was ever at odds with me. If you speak to her today, she'll say she has always loved me. Now, I know that's not true. I know it was a regular ritual at her house to try to convince her son to break up with me. All the same, he did not. And, in the years since then, he's kidnapped me a few times to keep everything fair and square.

P.S. One time I read an article about a woman and her husband who were trying to recreate a 1950s marriage. She cooked in high heels and had to call him when she wanted to spend over $100. I read it with my eyes bugged out and then scanned the article like a maniac. How long had these crazies been trying this experiment? It was two months. I fell on the floor and then read it to my hubby, who also had to hold his sides in. For that reason, I'll also share that we have been married for over 20 years.

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About the Creator

Stephanie Van Orman

I write novels like I am part-printer, part book factory, and a little girl running away with a balloon. I'm here as an experiment and I'm unsure if this is a place where I can fit in. We'll see.

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