December 13, 2012
I was reading a book the other night and the author—in order to elicit sympathy for the hero—painted the mother-in-law as an extremely annoying…bitch. No other way to say it. It got me thinking about mother-in-laws and how they always seem to draw the short straw.
You can’t argue it. Mother-in-laws get a bad rap. They are fodder for comedians all over the world, in all languages. Even when the jokes are repeats they draws laughs. Everybody loves to beat up on mother-in-laws. I’m not here to jump on that bandwagon. I’m here to shout the praises of mother-in-laws, or at least one of them. No matter the stereotype, there is always at least one who breaks the mold. My mother-in-law was such a woman.
How It All Started
I met my mother-in-law when I was thirteen. At that time in my life I was a little wild and crazy. I was standing on a corner in downtown Wilmington, dressed like a pimp, and hanging out with some unsavory types. We were smoking and doing God knows what else. My girlfriend, Mikki, was walking up Market Street with her mother. I saw them and waved, and then I saw her mother duck into a store.
I learned later that her mother was mortified. First impressions do count, and at that time, first impressions counted for a lot. Thirteen-year olds didn’t dress that way, or smoke, or hang out on a corner in the city.
Later on, as I spent more time with Mikki, my mother-in-law came to see that I loved her daughter and treated her with respect. After that, it was all good, and for forty-three years it stayed that way. That’s the kind of woman my mother-in-law was. She was one of the few people who could look past what you appeared to be, and see who you really were. And she had no problems changing her opinion, even if that first impression was not favorable.
An Animal’s Friend
My mother-in-law was not a social bug. She spent most of her time with family or with animals. When her kids were grown she volunteered at the local zoo. No one was more in their glory than my mother-in-law when she was tasked with leading a group of youngsters on a field trip through the zoo. No one had more patience than her. She introduced each animal by name, and told the kids all about each animal’s personality. She told the kids what the animals liked and didn’t like, and which one might not be feeling well that day.
A Special Pride
We used to take our kids to see her at the zoo, and I swear, that woman would shine like a ray of sunlight. She was so proud to have her grandkids come see her at a place she loved. And she helped instill in my kids a wonderful love for animals.
Another area where my mother-in-law shone was in helping people. Her heart might have had a few defects physically, but she was always ready to help people. If there was ever something wrong, if anyone was in trouble, she was there to help them. People didn’t have to beg or plead, all they had to say was they needed help. She would drop whatever she was doing and lend a hand. It didn’t matter if it was money, or time, or love. She was ready to provide what was needed.
So that’s what I think of mother-in-laws. I’ve only had one, so I don’t have others to compare her to, but if that’s what a mother-in-law is, I’ll take a pass on the jokes and the derogatory remarks. My mother-in-law was top notch.
My mother-in-law passed away two years ago, but I think of her often, and when I do here’s what I miss:
- Her humor—delivered in sharp, sweet jabs.
- Her intentions—always good.
- Her heart—perfectly in the right place.
- Her love—undeniable.
So the next time you go to write about a character, be it a mother-in-law, or a drunkard, or any other stereotype, dig a little deeper and find the hidden parts of that person. It will make your writing fresh. It will make it shine.
Ciao, and thanks for listening,