My mother-in-law once tried to teach me how to make a pie crust. There was no recipe. She measured the lard using a scale. I was both fascinated and disgusted by the huge amount of “bad stuff” that went into her flaky crusts. She was deft, smooth and practiced. Her pies seemed to form themselves. Let’s just say I have never been able to come anywhere close to making even one of those crusts or tasty pies. In fact, some of us have committed the sacrilege of using a store-bought pies for holidays.
I miss my mother-in-law. [ I still have my wonderful mother. She knows she rocks and I will continue to tell her so] It remember how strange it was to wonder how to win the approval of another important female figure in my life.
It continues to surprise me how much my mother-in-law had to give in the short amount of time I had with her. She fed me, welcomed me into her home, called me her other daughter, and tried to teach me how to make the gooey sweet rolls and treats people in her life so enjoyed.
She was a nurse. She spoke some Finnish. She could read a medical book or pharmaceutical dictionary with ease. She was the true “super mom” who worked full time, ran shifts as director of nursing, and assisted the running of the family farm. She could drive a tractor and raise the best tomatoes. She could just look at you and tell if you needed more sleep or a bit of Tylenol. She raised six children, and she had the ability to hear her grandchildren’s voices even when she became quite deaf. She survived the death of her much-loved husband. She beat breast cancer for a time, despite its grueling treatments.
After my son’s wedding, I am further amazed by how she and my mother planned a wedding for my husband and me in only a few short months. Our parents worked out the majority of the details for the two of us. My own parents helped me cover a large portion of my educational expenses, but, as my husband and I were married and had a family before I finished my degree, it was my mother-in-law’s idea for us to live on the farm in order to save enough money to finish my degree.
We women were similar and dissimilar. She liked sciences, I the arts. She liked the quiet, I love loud music. She was careful with speech (unless teasing family members), but I have a tendency to blurt out or talk over others. She loved cooking, whereas I still struggle with having a recipe turn out. She enjoyed hunting, I would rather take photos of wildlife. On the other hand, we both value education, are careful with who we will call a “friend,” are dedicated to careers, and we love family traditions.
I will always be grateful for her reaction to the night I cooked chicken. It looked like a murder scene–still bloody and mostly frozen. She did not complain that it had to be microwaved until it was warm and rubbery enough to eat. Since I was merely adequate in the kitchen (my sister got the “cooking gene” ) I helped out where I could with the endless cycle of clothing voyages from washer to dryer. I could see her grateful smile when I insisted my husband put his clothing away, instead of leaving items on the stairs. She was happy to leave much of the bathroom cleaning to me. Even when our son was born, she was helpful, but did not try to tell me how to raise a the ever-squalling babe.
I hope I too can measure up. I would like to be there for advice, but give it only when asked. I am good at cleaning and organizing, but I would never do so without permission.
I feel horribly inadequate with my new European family. I feel like I have to speak “Caveman English” to people who are highly intelligent. They did their upmost to welcome us to their family; they fed us, entertained us, and showed off their beautiful Germany. I continue to be amazed by the princess my son has married. She is truly beautiful, inside and out.
I hope I can some day come close to being enough for my son’s new family. They have welcomed him into their lives, though he speaks only mediocre German. They have fed him (he has ample appetite) and given him one of the biggest treasures–my daughter-in-law.
When we had our second child (my mother-in-law died before her birth), I have no doubt my second mom had a lot to do with the successful birth. We waited over a decade to have child number two, and we had to go through many fertility treatments to have this success. I can almost see her in heaven chatting with God and making the necessary heavenly medical arrangements.
I don’t want to be on a scale as my in-laws are everything I already wanted for my son. I cannot compare. I cannot be someone else. I do hope I can be all that is needed in the time that I have with them. Maybe, someday if and when I am a grandmother, I can try to learn again from my mother and mother-in-law. I hope someday soon my new daughter will feel equally as blessed.