Mother-in-law. The usual picture that comes to mind when that word is uttered is an overbearing, nosy, meddling beotch. A description I hope to avoid when the time comes for me to take on that title.
My mother-in-law, however, was amazing. A gorgeous, fair-skinned, blue-eyed woman of German descent who exuded intelligence, wit, humor and diplomacy. She spoke 4 languages fluently and was teaching herself a fifth, Russian, when she passed away in October of 2001. She was tall, curvaceous, always dressed immaculately even when lounging at home. When she walked her dogs, she wore high heels. She should have been a movie star back in the day when it was classy.
A southern raised, never traveled, young bride with only a high school education should have been a intimidated by her but I never was…she never made anyone feel inferior.
The one thing I never enjoyed with her was shopping.
First of all I hate shopping. Yes, it’s true I’m female and that sometimes denotes a penchant for spending but unless I’m searching for a hidden treasure in a thrift store or at a yard sale or looking for plants at a garden center, shopping just doesn’t do it for me.
Years ago, my mother-in-law was visiting from out-of-state. My husband and I took her to our quaint downtown and into one of our expensive, artsy shops that we knew she’d enjoy. I was bored, browsing around, when I spied a hideous example of a coffee mug and mistakenly picked it up. Thinking to myself wow this is tacky, the garish colors are giving me a headache, who on earth could have designed this piece of crap, I turned it over to find an inflated price tag which sent me reeling. I was carefully placing it back when a hand whisked it from me and in a mixture of German and English she uttered something about how I needed to have that mug for my tea. I back pedaled, explaining that I did NOT like the mug, that I was just looking at its grotesque form. She chose not to hear my objections. She was set on purchasing that mug for me. Nothing I said could sway her otherwise.
The mug came home to live in exile at the back of my kitchen cabinet and was eventually forgotten.
A few years after that visit, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She died six months later.
During one of my typical purges a couple of years ago, I was boxing up oddities around the house to donate. As I began to clear out that kitchen cabinet, I discovered the monstrosity, the Quasimodo of mugs, the Frankenstein of pottery. I was immediately flooded with the memory of that day with her. Tears flowed down my cheeks as I gently washed out the dust that had settled inside it over the years. I look at it differently. This time it was beautiful.
Every morning I drink coffee from that mug. I admire its sturdiness, its heft, the fact that it keeps my coffee warm for quite a while. Although it’s still a riot of color, an oddity of form with an over sized handle, I’m very thankful to have it. It serves as a daily reminder of someone whom I loved dearly, of someone who loved me and insisted that I have a remembrance of our shopping day together.
© WryGrass 2013