Parenting Personal Essays Women

My Mother-In-Law on Marriage

A new, but good friend of mine is getting married the end of this month, and I just found out that I can’t go because of a business situation. I’ve been thinking a lot about it, and I want to offer her something – some amazing piece of information about marriage that will make up for the fact that I won’t be there. I really have no business offering advice on marriage. I’ve been married twice, both unsuccessful and am presently alone. This track record does not make for advice giving. What to offer…

My mind wanders to my mother-in-law. She was an amazing woman. She was ninety when I met her, and she happened to live in my apartment building before I started going out with her son. Once I was getting into a cab she was getting out of, and I reached into the cab to give her my hand to help her out. She swatted at me with her cane and said, “I can do it myself!”

When I realized her son was my boyfriend, I told him the story and he laughed. “Well, she likes to do things on her own, and it seems to me you would like someone like that. She’s not going to be in your space. And, you remind me of her.”

She taught me many things. She had really long hair, but no one ever saw it down. She told me her hair down was reserved for her husband and only when they went to bed. Her husband had been dead close to twenty-five years when I met her, and every day at 4 p.m., wherever she was, she went into a room by herself and chatted with his memory about this and that. Every day. Twenty-five years.

She told me that I should know that a wife needs to be three things to her husband: a wife, a lover and a mother. “Never be the mother in your bedroom, and never be the lover anywhere but the bedroom.” Made sense, and while it didn’t work for me, it was probably because I just couldn’t approach it her way.

She told me other things as well. She told me that if you need to use someone’s bathroom, you have visited long enough and it’s time to go home. She told me that she had taken 90 plus years to accumulate all the things in her vast apartment, and that I should mark her words that by the time she was in the ground, they would be dispersed. So what was the point? She was right — her things were gone quickly, and I remember now the lesson of the waste of accumulated things.

She was very French, and so is my ex. She tried to teach me French, which didn’t work out so well, through no fault of hers. She was explaining once about how you determine which things are masculine and which are feminine when you assign the masculine or feminine to the noun, and she said, “Look, it’s confusing because there is no rule. But here is what I’ve noticed. If it’s something of worth, something you need or would want, it’s masculine and if it’s frivolous, it’s feminine. Sad, Christine, but you know men and they designed the language.”

She was cheap and hard and also commited to me as a daughter-in-law more than I deserved. I visited her weekly, and when our daughter Sarah was born, she did too. I tended to dress Sarah in Osh Kosh overalls when she was a toddler, so she could crawl and explore. I would deliver her every Wednesday in her overalls, and she would be returned later that afternoon in a dress. We never discussed it, but I knew my mother-in-law loved it. So did I.

So, my advise to my friend whose wedding I will miss, who reads this blog, is that she should remember to be the three things to her husband-to-be. And, that she should take some real time to know her mother-in-law in hopes she can find in her what I found in mine.

2 replies on “My Mother-In-Law on Marriage”

Great advice…after 25 years my mother in law continues to amaze me. You will be missed at the wedding, but we will be thinking about you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *