May 9, 2021

This is a photo from my nephew’s birthday.  The woman to the right of me is my mother-in-law, Becky.  She is genuinely the kindest woman I have ever met.

When Kaveh and I were in college, our moms came out to visit for parent’s weekend.  Kaveh and I took them out for dinner at our favorite hole-in-the-wall pizza shack.  As we were walking down University Ave, I caught my mom wiping tears from her eyes.  This instantly annoyed me to my core with a tinge of anger and embarrassment. 

At the time, I didn’t understand why my mom cried over little things, and thus I had no patience for it.  I realize now that it was the little things that she loved the most.  She had a lifetime of joys and hurts.  She was raw in so many ways. Sometimes she just didn’t care who saw her crying, and sometimes she just couldn’t hold back the tears no matter how much she tried.  Most of the time, she was just too authentic to hide her pain, her gratitude, or her joy.  But for a 19-year-old girl who was trying to hide anything that might have made me vulnerable, her rawness was my kryptonite. 

”Mom, what on earth are you crying about? Seriously, you’re ridiculous,” I whispered to her, hoping nobody else would hear.

She grabbed a tissue from her purse and wiped away the smudged mascara from under her eyes.  “I’m so grateful you will have Becky in your life. She has grace and class that I don’t have. She will be perfect for you, just like Grandma Rosemary was for me.”

That was four years before my mom was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer.  My mom prayed for a good mother-in-law for me as much as she prayed for a good husband for me.  I believe my mom knew she was too much for this world and would be moving on sooner rather than later, and she needed somebody to love this young girl who was trying so desperately to be a woman.

She knew it was crucial I have another woman in my life who embodied love, grace, and patience.  I’m speaking of the kind of grace that extends undeserved forgiveness. And boy, would I test Becky’s grace through the years.

When I pierced my nose in college, and the backside of the stud poked out of my left nostril like a metal booger ….. she still loved me.

When I slipped into a drunken slumber with hair bleach on my roots, she softly woke me up and said, ”Sweetie, it’s been twenty minutes.  Let’s go wash that out of your hair” …… and she still loved me.

When I had low confidence and would speak poorly of her son because I worried she thought he was too good for me…… she still loved me.

When low rise jeans were in style, but I was tall and had no hips, so my ass-crack showed for an entire decade….she still loved me. (Thank the Lord above, I now qualify to wear mom jeans)

When I worked for a famous event coordinator in NYC, and my ego convinced me I was The Shit, who undoubtedly knew everything…..she still loved me

When I let my babies ”cry it out” because I didn’t know what else to do…..she still loved me. 

When I obsessed over cancer and asked her to replace her Thanksgiving mashed potatoes for cauliflower casserole and turned her son into a vegetarian…..she still loved me.

When I tried with all my might to change their family traditions with what I thought were the right ones…….she still loved me.

When I began writing for all the world to know the good, the bad, and the unladylike sides of me….she still loved me.

I came into their lives at 19 just as loud as I am now.  I critiqued their family traditions, communication, and love languages.  This new family didn’t talk or act like the family I grew up with, and I worked feverishly for many years to try to change them.  Today, I thank God that I never could.

During this Mother’s Day, let us remember the mothers who put their blood, sweat, and tears into our families long before we were even playing house with our cabbage patch babies.

I’ll wrap this up with these thought-provoking words.

”Daughter-in-law, notice the beauty of the rug that your mother-in-law spent a lifetime weaving. Remember that her pattern is most firmly established. No need to suggest improvements. Be kinder than necessary, being mindful that the piece of art it took her a lifetime to weave, her masterpiece, has been given to you to keep you warm at night.”  -Glennon Doyle

 

Happy holidays,

Shea

P.S. Mother-in-law is such a loaded title; I shall change it to Mother-in-love.  Tag yours if you are lucky enough to have one worthy of the title.

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