I Love My Mother-In-Law … Okay?

I do. I love Mom Bev. She’s the original farm woman. No, she’s never lived on a farm, was raised on the outskirts of Detroit, but at heart, she is a true farm woman. She always told me she was meant to be a farmer’s wife, but instead has lived in the California desert for over 50 years, loving the life she chose, while ever dreaming of the life that maybe should have been.

A relative once referred to her as the “homiest” woman she knew. And Bev is. She used to make her own mayonnaise. Which is admirable, but to me, the original City Girl, this is kind of like doing a paint-by-numbers over a Rembrandt. I mean, Best Foods has done an outstanding job of perfecting mayo for, what? A century or so? I would think they had the whole thing down pat.

Bev also made her own soap. Which she enthusiastically invited me to join her and learn the craft. I said “wow, that’s so cool” then turned to her son, my husband, Brad and whispered “I will NEVER do this, so let’s leave now before I’m stuck in the burning fires of soap-making hell.” City Girl certainly did not picture herself sweating and stirring hot lye over a cauldron. Sweating? Oh, no, no. I do not sweat. Nothing that vile comes out of my pores. I get hot, I get overheated, I faint. I never sweat. It’s just not done.

My own mother was the original Thoroughly Modern Millie. When the 50s and 60s came around, she embraced them with arms wide open. Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, Swanson’s TV dinners, Mashed potato flakes, Friday night fish sticks, Saturday Night Kentucky Fried Chicken, American cheese slices in their own little plastic wrap. We had it all. And it was GOOOOD.

Bev was not like this. Bev did not change with the times. She still hasn’t. She says the old way is best, and considers anything slathered with butter and salt a food group. And anything that makes life quicker, easier and convenient is certainly cheating.

For 26 years Bev and I had a different relationship. My sister told me that her mother-in-law “gets” her. “She loves me and loves that I’m quirky.” I don’t have that with Bev. Yes, I’m sure she loves me (even though she’s forgotten my birthday now 2 years running, and I’m betting next month she’ll do her darndest to forget it again), but she really doesn’t understand quirky. Or sarcasm, two things that I’m quite adept at. We really are two entirely separate breeds. If we were dogs, she would be more of a Swiss Mountain Dog or a Malmute – a working dog with a purpose.

dog.

Me? I’d be a totally useless dog. One that serves no purpose whatsoever, other than to entertain or amuse…

dog 2   dog 3

Because of this, we had no commonality. There was love, but zero understanding. I didn’t “get” that Bev didn’t like movies. I never knew someone who didn’t like movies! Really? And going out to lunch? She would kind of snuffle and say “we don’t go out because the food at home is better.”

For her, she didn’t “get” anything about me. My offbeat personality, my fast talking smart mouthing, my flamboyance. I am lavish with praise. When we had dinner at her house, I would exclaim – OH this is WONDERFUL! and extol the virtues of each course. When Bev would dine at my house, she’d finish her meal and say “this is … good.” Good? Good? I waded through recipes for three weeks, and cooked for two days making an extravagant three course culinary masterpiece and you tell me it’s good? I raved about your pot roast, for crying out loud!

When Brad and I started a travel business together years ago, I told Bev that he manned the phones, I did the emails. I’m a writer, I don’t do phone. She told me “well, you better learn. You can’t just do one thing.” Why not? I tried to explain the thing about different skill sets, but Farm Woman is stubborn. Because, if someone wanted me to give them a quote on the phone – which is essentially doing math in a minute – I’d probably have a brain aneurism and drop to the floor. I need my fingers – to type my thoughts, but also to count.

But now I’m living on a working farm. Finally, after 28 years we will enjoy that camaraderie that we never have known. That’s what I thought. She had chickens once, I have chickens! Soul Sisters! We love chickens.

My dreams were shattered like nuclear fallout. We were chatting, Brad, his Mom and I, about chickens. Brad mentioned that the “lazy layers” would make their way into our stew pot. I said “I love my chickens so if you want me to cook and eat one, you’d best bring it to me so it looks exactly like what I get in the market – and wrapped in plastic.” Bev pipes up “Why? Why aren’t you going to pluck the chickens?” And here we go again.

And then she went and done pissed me off. She dropped the bomb … ” SUE – you can’t expect Brad to do EVERYTHING.” To which Brad said … Absolutely nothing.

Brad’s invited his Mom to stay with us for “a couple of weeks or maybe a month.” I was going to roll out the grass green carpet. Reluctant Farm Girl connects, finally, with Farm Woman. But now my Bronx is showing. Because I’m planning a traditional City Girl welcome. Tuna noodle casserole, topped with mashed potato flakes. Franco American Spaghetti Ohs. Hamburger Helper topped with Cheez Whiz, tamales in a can, Dinty Moore Beef Stew. A manwich for lunch, Captain Crunch with Chase & Sanborn instant coffee for breakfast. Yep, it will be a fabulous month of sarcasm and wit.

The trouble is, I don’t think my mother-in-law will “get” it. She’ll just think it’s another dinner at Sue’s house. But Brad. Who didn’t jump to my defense and say that “Susan does so much around here I don’t know what I’d do without her?” Who sat there while his mother insinuated that I was … ornamental? Well, his mother may chalk it up to me yet again not fulfilling any dreams she had of a purposeful wife for her favorite son, but Brad will get it. Oh, yes, he will get it. And so my job is once again complete.

2 thoughts on “I Love My Mother-In-Law … Okay?

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