Mothers-in-laws are a favorite butt of jokes for stand-up comedians. Rumble seats in the old coupes and roadsters were called mother-in-law seats because those who rode in them were out of the passenger compartment, and presumably out of the driver’s hair. If you google “mother-in-law jokes” you will have page after page of sites listed. A few of the less offensive ones are listed below:
Adam the happiest man who ever lived because he didn’t have a mother‑in‑law.
My mother‑in‑law’s second car is a broom.
A man in a bar says to his friend, “My mother-in-law is an angel.” His friend replies, “You’re lucky. Mine’s still alive.”
Q: What’s the difference between an outlaw and my mother-in‑law? A: An outlaw is wanted!
The definition of mixed emotions is seeing your mother‑in‑law drive over the cliff in your new Porsche.
So is Mother-In-Law Day a joke, too? Absolutely not. Started in 1934 by a newspaper editor in Amaraillo, Texas, it is now observed on the fourth Sunday in October. Or not. Over the last eighty years it has not exactly caught fire. But do mothers-in-law deserve the almost universal vilification and lack of recognition they have received? Maybe some do, for there are both good ones and bad ones. Yet, if anyone suggested ignoring Mother’s Day and Father’s Day because some mothers and fathers have not deserved to be honored, they would be booed and driven from the stage in a shower of rotten tomatoes. In that spirit, some of us who had or have a great mother-in-law have written about them to honor them on Mother-In-Law Day.
From the moment we first met, my mother-in-law and I hit it off. She was attractive, lively and had an incredible wit. If she were angry with someone, that wit could have a razor edge. However, in the 36 years I knew her, she never turned her quick mind against me. In fact, my wife (an only child) used to say that she knew we had to work any disagreements out because she could never “run home to Mama.” She said that Mama would have sent her back to me, her buddy. After college, I ended up working in my in-laws’ family business. I ran one of two locations and had pretty much total control of its day-to-day operation. They also almost always had a house close to my wife and me. For 16 years, they even had one on the same property as ours. We went on a number of cruises as a family over the years. Normally, that would be a recipe for disaster: working, living and playing in such close proximity with family often causes friction. Such was not the case with my mother-in-law. While there were a few occasions when my father-in-law and I had problems, my mother-in-law stood as Horatio on the bridge against his angry outbursts (which he did have). Her rapier wit provided a great defense.
My mother-in-law thought that the term “in-law” was demeaning to me and seldom used it. At a dance at a country club to which my in-laws (sorry) belonged, we danced together. A woman who was also a member asked her who I was. “My son, Ron,” she replied without hesitation. The lady smiled. “Oh, I can see the resemblance.” We both had a hard time refraining from laughter until we were out of the woman’s earshot.
To say we were simpatico would be an understatement. We both enjoyed a similar sense of humor, oft considered warped by those who did not think in the same way we did. We both were avid readers, devouring books. We both enjoyed crossword puzzles. We both took Latin in high school, the “dead language.”
Sadly, she was stricken with Alzheimer’s. Even as this horrendous disease attacked her, she kept her sense of humor. “There’s one advantage,” she once told me. “I can read the same book over and over again.” As the disease progressed, she forgot my name, but she would look at me and say, “You’re a good man.” After her passing, I wrote her eulogy, which was sent to all who knew and loved her. It was a woeful duty and a great honor. As her son, it was also my right. So I now honor her memory on Mother-In-Law Day, although Altera Matris Diem, translated from Latin as “Other Mother’s Day,” would be much more appropriate and I am sure one she would prefer.
For about eight years, Ron Cherry has written a column about classic cars and street rods in The Union newspaper. His short stories have been in several online magazines, including The Dan O’Brien Project, Devilfish Review, Writing Raw, and Ineffective Ink. He has two book on Amazon, Christmas Cracker and Foul Shot, with another due before the end of the year.
My Altera Matris Diem and true friend.
We hadn’t expected that call, in the middle of the night, like in the movies. I answered. “What?” It took a moment to register. “How?” Then the news hit. “Oh, I’m so sorry!”
My father-in-law was on the phone. His words gurgled through tears. Isabel, his wife, my mother-in-law, was dead. She had gone into the hospital for a hip replacement and was coming out with toe tags. “An opportunistic fungal infection,” we were told.
After a few more hours of sleep—fitful at best—we packed and headed for Washington, where Sid, my father-in-law, awaited us.
While we packed, we talked about what we would need. Funerals and sitting shiva meant clothes we didn’t usually wear. My immediate reaction was to pack not a suit or sports jacket but sweaters,. Why? Because Isabel had knitted all my sweaters, and I had many. Actually, I still have plenty of them, even after all these years and having given some away to charity.
Isabel knitted with the same determination she brought to every task.
Some years earlier, my wife and I had joined Sid and Isabel for a trip up the Pacific Coast. While Sid drove nonstop, swinging into parking lots and right out again unless my wife or I demanded he let us jump out to actually see the sights, Isabel didn’t even glance out the window. She was knitting. A sweater for me, one for Jay, their son, perhaps one for Sid, on occasion one for my wife. The needles never stopped clicking, and the results were always gorgeous, but not as gorgeous as the giant redwoods or the coastal views she was too busy to appreciate. But, she was always determined to finish that sweater and get on to the next.
My wife Roz insisted I had to wear a suit, at least for the funeral. She was, of course, right. After all, Isabel was also a lady, a very proper lady. She would have been scandalized by me wearing a sweater, even one she had knitted. We compromised; a sweater would do for the house, when people came to offer their condolences.
After the service, we sat around and told stories about Isabel—yes, me in a sweater. We talked of the dinner parties she threw and the work that went into them; each dish carefully made, with the table groaning under properly garnished plates, always including the chopped liver that she made especially for me. We talked about the time she refused to leave work early even though there was a major snowstorm coming. That evening, her car got stuck and she had to walk the last mile home in high heels through deep snow. It never occurred to her to call a cab. She just trudged on. We talked about her reaction when Sid’s business had failed. Isabel had insisted on going to work and helping pay off every creditor, leaving no one holding the bag of their bankruptcy. Sid might have folded, but not Isabel. Isabel never folded. She was a strong woman, a lady, and, above all, determined.
Life itches and torments Kenneth Weene like pesky flies. Annoyed, he picks up a pile of paper to slap at the buzzing and often whacks himself on the head. Each whack is another story. At least having half-blinded himself, he has learned to not wave the pencil about. Ken will, however, write on until the last gray cell has retreated and there are no longer these strange ideas demanding his feeble efforts. So many poems, stories, novels; and more to come. http://www.kennethweene.com
Yes, this is one of the sweaters.
“Mom-in-law”— My True Mother
Our first meeting was, shall we say, rather rocky. Six months before, I had eloped with her son and the two of us were about to tell her and my father-in-law that we married outside the Church. Not only that, I was three months pregnant. She wept. Her husband muttered things in Italian whose meaning needed no translation. I was almost 18 and she was in her late 40s. At first, her tears flowed because marrying outside of the Church was a mortal sin. However, she rose to the occasion with dignity, compassion and an iron will.
Butch, my new husband, and I lived in his parents’ home but were placed in separate bedrooms until we were married “legally, in God’s eyes.” This lovely, persistent woman walked the hall nightly, making certain we never got together in the Biblical sense. Yet she liked me and I liked her. She was a health-food fanatic and I constantly slipped contraband like cookies, milk and the dreaded white bread into her home to compensate. She served us good steak, which she broiled into beef jerky, with boiled escarole.
….Graciously, “Mom” looked the other way on my junk-food smuggling. After all, she’d achieved her goal by coercing me into being tutored to raise my children Catholic in order to marry her son. That was difficult for a feisty Baptist, raised on “fire and brimstone.” After instructing me, the young priest was sent to a home for distressed clerics. I felt vindicated. Mom and I had a draw on this one
After the marriage in the Church rectory (at which time Butch fainted), Mom threw a huge reception with dozens of relatives, all Italian, all looking alike, all loving me unconditionally. After our first child was born, we moved to three hours away, where jobs were better. I remember Mom driving up to see our two room apartment over roach-infested dry-cleaners. She once more wept and begged us to come back to her home. We didn’t.
Over the next 10 years we had five more children and Mom babysat them whenever we were away. The kids worshipped her — I often thought more than me. Whenever I needed her, she drove to wherever we lived to help. My own mother was always “too busy.” The only time in my life that my mother-in-law couldn’t be there for me was when my 14-year-old Noelle was killed by a DWI. Her intense grief paralyzed her and, like my own family, she suffered alone for a long time. She had spent each night for ten days praying outside the ICU, hoping for a miracle for her granddaughter.
As my other children grew, married and gave her great-grandchildren, holiday celebrations were held at her home where she prepared delectable feasts, a far cry from her earlier disasters. She was the Matriarch, loving, patient, yet stern in her beliefs which she expounded upon whenever she felt that a family member had strayed off the path of righteousness.
After my father-in-law passed away at the age of 79, Mom devoted her life to the Church and helping others. She maintained her wonderful, 150-year-old house into her 90s and had the strength of ten women. Now, at 98, her blood tests are that of a 20-year-old. She’s often tired and doesn’t do much, but is still able to live in her beloved home.
I call her every day and together we reminisce the wonderful past days and years — the good and the bad. She has outlived her entire immediate family, older friends and a few doctors. I treasure our calls as I try to prod her memory which is failing; dreading the day when this woman, who’s been mother and friend for most of my life, passes on to another Realm — to meet her Creator whom she’s served devotedly all her life. She will leave a void within my heart that cannot be filled.
Micki Peluso is a journalist, book reviewer, editor and author of . And the Whippoorwill Sang. Her short stories are in several anthologies and her next book, Don’t Pluck the Duck, a collection of published essays, slice of life and short fiction will be released by December of 2014.
Mom-in-law with the Peluso family
VIRGIE AND HER OLD CHEVETTE
By Sal Buttaci
My mother-in-law Virgie Bateman poked along the winding roads of War Mountain in West Virginia on her way to do some food shopping at Jones & Spry. Her 1980 Chevette, once upon a time vibrant candy-apple red, now an almost dull orange, chugged its mechanical best to keep itself from stalling. When her husband died in August 1989, Virgie started driving again. Except for Sunday church, shopping, and an occasional visit to friends in the next holler, Virgie’s eyesore sat resting on the gravel outside her house.
Sharon and I shared the dream of one day cruising to Hawaii or lacing up and down the boot of Italy or buying first editions of bestsellers by one or more of our favorite 19th Century authors. With pleasure we could take that plunge and hopefully dive into one of those dreams. But then what about Virgie?
How would we feel dancing the night away in a Roman nightclub or lounging on the beach of Waikiki or walking out victors in an auction deal that net us an original Dickens, if Sharon’s mom had to tackle War Mountain in that old Chevette, shaky on its last wheels? Where would the joy be in that?
The grandest dream of my life has always been to realize the grandest dream of someone else. No way could Virgie Bateman’s dream come true unless Sharon and I won the Big Lottery, that in itself a dream, but if it had come to pass we would have laid aside our own wishes, and attended to hers.
Often we’d delight ourselves imagining the look on Virgie’s face when her blue eyes alighted on her sparkling white Toyota Corolla CE automatic sedan sitting like a miracle on the gravel her old Chevette no longer occupied. Could there be three happier people in all of West Virginia or anywhere else in the world?
Well, it never happened. We did not win the lottery. Virgie drove her old Chevette until it puttered its last, then, instead of returning to its graveled spot in front of Virgie’s house, it bummed a ride with a tow truck on its way to the county junkyard.
On January 14, 2013, brain cancer took Sharon’s mother away from us. She was eighty-three and we could hardly believe within days Virgie would be gone. She digressed from her usual cheery self to a hospital deathbed in Morgantown. How surreal it seemed!
Sometimes we hear comics cast aspersions on mothers-in-law. They label them meddlesome, demanding, opinionated, possessive, and a list of other negative name-calling. Virgie Bateman was none of these. I loved her as I loved my own mother. She was kind, affectionate, God-fearing, just, and everything good about a woman who had lived her life according to God’s Word and who loved her daughters and the spouses they chose with all her heart.
My dream for us now is to one day win for our souls life’s greatest fortune –– Heaven, where Sharon and I will meet Virgie again and stand with her in God’s glorious Light.
Sal Buttaci is the author of two flash-fiction collections Flashing My Shorts and 200 Shorts, both published by All Things That Matter Press and available athttp://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Salvatore%20Buttaci
His book A Family of Sicilians… which critics called “the best book written about Sicilians” is available at www.lulu.com/spotlight/ButtaciPublishing2008
He lives in West Virginia with Sharon the love of his life.
Virgie Bateman, Sharon’s mom in 2006