I have a confession to make: My daughters-in-law and I are WEIRD.
There are four of us: me, the dreaded MOTHER-IN-LAW (cue the screeching violins from “Psycho”), and my three near-perfect daughters of the in-law persuasion.
And here’s another confession I am confident would have their approval: We not only love each other, we actually LIKE each other! Is that scary or WHAT?
And REALLY weird.
I know, I know, you are saying “Liar, liar, pants on fire.”
So perhaps I should go back in time a bit to set up this “impossible dream.”
Three sons were born to me in the latter 60s and early 70s. And much to my dismay not a one of them wanted to dress up like a girl! So I just braved motherhood with the strength and determination it takes any mom to raise multiple male children. Having grown up with two older brothers (no sisters), it wasn’t that big of a stretch, but I admit to secretly being a bit envious of my friends who could shop for those cute little frilly things their daughters wore.
Side note: There used to be a really wonderful children’s clothing store back then (about where “Big Lots” is now). I’ll never forget when I walked in the first time to buy some “church” clothes for my boys. Rack after rack of the cutest girl clothes I had ever seen greeted my eager eyes. But when I revealed my need for boys’ items, the clerk’s eyes took on a steely glare as she pointed her boney hand back, back, back, back into the darkest fog-enshrouded recesses of the room. And there it was. THE…BOYS’…LONE…RACK… (screeching violins…again).
OK, so I’m prone to exaggeration.
Anyway, fast forward to the teenage years when young ladies began to be invited into our home and into my sons’ hearts. Eeeeeek!
As I watched the interaction between my boys and their girlfriends, I wondered if it would be difficult for me to allow any of them to be turned over to “another woman.” I mean, I had been their one and only for so long, hadn’t I…and what if (gasp) one of these girls actually BROKE THEIR HEARTS? (Violins? Oh, yeah…AND…oh dear).
Time went by and one after the other, youngest to oldest, my sons took their wives ‘til death do they part, I hoped. So, the “other women” had, in fact, taken my place as primary female in my sons’ lives. OK. Buck up, mom.
The tale takes an interesting turn here. I mean, can you just imagine my shock when the realization came that I really LIKED these girls? REALLY, REALLY, REALLY LIKED THEM? How is any self-respecting mother-in-law supposed to process THAT information??
The truth is, the first one was easy because, you see, I actually told my young son of about 14 that he was going to marry a young lady we saw at a newly attended church. I didn’t even know her name. But, somehow, I just KNEW. (And, no, my pants are not on fire!)
The second son’s bride, I hardly knew at all… so naturally, there was NO WAY she was going to be OK, was there?
The third young woman to enter our family did so by increments, and because her main focus in life, besides my son, was the world of art, I found a great commonality with her, so she sort of got a pass.
But, you know, how good could they be? All of them? Let’s get real here. So it was a wait-and-see deal.
And we DID.
Back to the future:
Sure enough son #3 became “interested” in the foretold lovely lady, as his mother had predicted. (Give me a call. For the right price I will “predict” your son’s bride, too. On second thought: Nevermind, you might try to sue me later!) Jeannine was smart and fun, respectful, with a clear gift of discernment that can detect inauthentic behavior down to a single word. And she is not bashful about zapping the perpetrator. Zzzzzap!
And she adored our son.
Eventually, after several years of friendship, then courtship, they made it official. I had plenty of time to get to love this girl, and she was everything I had hoped for this particular son.
Daughter #2 presented us with our first grandchild, but before that dear little girl began to invade my heart, her mother already had and, wonder of wonders, this daughter-in-law, whom I didn’t even know before she married my son, turned out to be one of the best wives and moms EVER! Intelligent, with a sweet nurturing nature, an ever-present smile, Maria, with the blue eyes that just say “all’s right with the world,” was the PERFECT wife for son #2. She was IN!
Son #3, the oldest, never one to get in a hurry, always had (has) multiples of friends, and had gone through a couple of major long-term relationships already. They were not at all bad, but there were aspects of those girls’ personalities that just didn’t fit hand in glove, as I would have liked (either my son’s “glove”…or mine!), so I, like any potential mother-in-law, couldn’t be blamed for feeling a bit of nervousness about any future attachment, could I?
But, then, along came the artiste, the painter, pianist/singer/songwriter, the one with the hilariously speedy “returns” to whatever talk could be turned from serious to pun-ish, and the one with the creative mind that is always set on Clever and Original. OK, Ami, you’ve got this mom’s stamp of approval, too! (And, like the mythical glass slipper, she had the perfectly matching “glove”!) A beautiful wedding in an old church in Eckert sealed that deal.
Since then, the time has flown and grandbabies have been added to my “quiver,” if grandmas are allowed to claim such a thing. But in the intervening years, there has been an extraordinary “something” that has developed between my daughters-in-law and me.
I don’t even remember exactly how it all began, these times when we all just decided we HAD to have some “away” time with each other. In time, we began to speak of ourselves as a support group, with a humorous title to match. All we knew was we really enjoyed our times together. No, we needed our times together! To laugh. To talk. To play games. To talk. To cook and to eat what we cooked. To watch movies. To talk. To raid Goodwill and to go to art shows. To talk. To share in Bible Studies. To retreat to a local hotel for the night, or a borrowed cabin on Grand Mesa. Most of all, to talk. To encourage each other. To offer “new-mom” advice. To pray for each other. Maybe, even, to wipe away a tear or two.
Along the way, we have had a few unexpected “adventures,” which included a car break-in, and detective work the next day to retrieve a snatched purse…a fall that nearly broke a leg…and a strange call in the wee hours of one of our sleepovers. But it has all been WONDERFUL and so unique that most people (including my own mother until she viewed it up close and personal) have simply found it difficult to comprehend, much less believe.
But IT IS TRUE.
The “liking” aspect has allowed us to be true friends/sisters/mothers/wives/and daughters in all the complex and extraordinary ways females can relate. The “loving” has gifted us with an inseparable bond that has carried us through the most difficult of times.
We, and many others, have often struggled to understand how such a unique relationship could ever come to be.
There are several reasons that come to my mind right away:
(1) If I had birthed a daughter, this scenario would not have been possible. As it is, I have no pre-conceived notions about what having a daughter means, insofar as the inevitable adult vs. child dynamic as it might have been had I raised a daughter of my own.
(2) The mothers of these “borrowed” daughters were all wonderful moms to their own girls, made obvious by the excellent moms they, themselves, have become.
3) My daughters-in-law are each even-tempered with no “dramatists” in the group.
(4) There is NO opposition from any of the husbands. (And the grandchildren just accept it as though all moms take off, periodically, for a weekend with their mothers-in-law!)
(5) I have been fortunate to have formed genuine friendships with each of the “real” moms and have never…repeat…NEVER…sensed anything approaching jealousy from any of them. To the contrary, I have received nothing but love, support and even gratitude. No surprise. These are classy ladies. And my love for, respect for, and thanksgiving to each of them is everlasting.
So there you have it: the recipe for THE ODDEST RELATIONSHIP IN THE WORLD!
I do admit to a bit of blatant conceit in wondering if my sons may have “seen something” of their mom in each of these chosen life-partners, these wonderful women who have so enriched my own life. That could certainly lend a positive contribution to our abilities to so thoroughly enjoy each other’s company. But what of the very real sisterly love they have for each other? Isn’t there ALWAYS an “odd-man-out” in most family in-law dynamics? Well, not in this one.
But, I tell myself, I dare not over-think this wonderful mix of feminine personalities. I don’t want to break the spell, do I? Absolutely not!
So is it a “spell”? I don’t think so. No, I think that, for whatever reason, it is a sheer gift of Grace that has only one Source. And only the Source knows why.
This I do know: It is a Bless-ed thing. It is a Holy thing.
I work very hard to not dishonor this gift. And to always…ALWAYS…be thankful for it.
And to my daughters-in-law I would say: Jeannine, Maria, Ami, I love you immeasurably. I gladly give you, each one, a piece of my heart, for now and for all time.
(Toss those screechy violins).
Judy Purser is mom to three grown sons, the inheritor of three amazing daughters-in-law and grandmama to seven more-than-amazing grandchildren. She graduated from Grand Junction High School, Mesa Jr. College and the University of Colorado-Boulder.