The word “Mixed” by definition means; containing a mixture of both favorable and negative elements. While the word “Blessing” means; a beneficial thing for which one is grateful; something that brings well-being. I have had a bit of experience with mixed blessings. You?
I hear interesting conversations about in-laws. Sometimes I think that they were put here to make holidays stressful. When discussing this sensitive subject with several girlfriends I asked how different their lives would be if they didn’t have a mother-in-law. This brought a smile to most of their faces. (If you’re a mother-in-law who’s already feeling offended, just hang with me.)
I then asked how it would change things had they never met their husband’s mother. They agreed that they have learned a great deal about their man from talking with his mother.
The truth is, I have never met my mother-in-law. We talked on the phone when I was a teenager, but she passed away before I was able to sit down and share in conversation over a cup of coffee or give her a hug and breathe in her unique smell that would later bring her to memory when a passerby was wearing the same scent. I was not able to ask her how she survived being a full-time working single mother.
When Chris and I were apart for a time I would have dreams about Lou Ann. We would be sitting in a cafe having conversations about life. I would wake up the next morning with her on my mind and throughout the day I felt a closeness to her.
Weird, I know. Especially for someone I had never even met. Eventually the relentless persuasion of thoughts to write Christopher a letter about his mother, whom he loved dearly and I had never met, led me to a pen and paper. My hand could not move as quickly as the words formed in my mind.
Suddenly, I was speaking of this woman I had never known as if we had been in each others company on a regular basis. I explained in the letter that I knew it sounded crazy, but there were things I felt she would want him to know. I then held on to it.
The next time I was in New York Chris and I had dinner and talked about our lives over the last couple of years. I nervously gave him the letter knowingly that he would probably think I was nuts. I asked him not to read it until the day I left. It was April 17th, two years to the day that his mother had passed away. I was not aware of that at the time.
I was never able to ask her about Chris’ childhood…when he cut his first tooth or if he tried to climb out of his crib the way our oldest son did.
“What was his first word?” “When was the first time he tried rice cereal?” “Did he like sweet potatoes as much as my boys did?”
“What was his favorite lullaby when he awoke afraid in the middle of the night?” “Did she rock him to sleep?” “When was his first haircut? Did she cut it or take him somewhere to have it cut? Did he scream the way our youngest does?” “Did he have a favorite blanket or toy?” “How old was he when he took his first step?” “When did he lose his first tooth?” “What was his favorite thing to do?” “Do our boys look like him?” “Do they have the same mannerisms?” “When did he skin his knee for the first time?” “What is your favorite memory from his childhood?” “Has he always loved to draw and create?”
So many questions unanswered. So many moments missed that I know she would have cherished.
Our children know her as “Lulu.” And as far as they’re concerned, heaven is filled with balloons released from their little hands while blowing kisses to the sky.
It’s been some time since I have found her on the other side of sleep, waiting in a cafe, to talk about my boys and compare notes over coffee and hot tea, I can only hope that I will find her there again sometime.
I am incredibly grateful to her for taking care of the love of my life. For making sure that he was provided for and prepared to face a world of both disappointment and triumph, ugliness and beauty.
I know, in-laws can be rather challenging (to say the least.) But they can also be a wonderful resource into the things that made our spouse who they are today. They are much like, “mixed blessings.”
I would love to hear your thoughts on extended family. What’s the craziest thing that has ever happened at a “family” event or around your diner table? Do you get along with your mother-in-law?