Friday evening, I stopped at the bank after work, and the teller asked me if I had any weekend plans.
“My mother-in-law is coming for a visit!” I replied.
“Oh,” she said, and fixed me with a pitying stare. “I’m sorry. Unless that’s a good thing?”
In that moment, I realized that mothers-in-law get a bad rap. I mean, I guess I already knew that. Popular culture portrays them as being difficult, stubborn, or mean. Wikipedia says,
In comedies, the mother-in-law is sometimes shown as the bane of the husband, who is married to the mother-in-law’s daughter. Mothers-in-law are often stereotyped in mother-in-law jokes.
Ernie K. Doe had a hit song in 1961 called “Mother In Law” that compares them to Satan and includes the lyrics, She thinks her advice is the Constitution/but if she would leave that would be the solution. Ouch. And of course, who can forget Everybody Loves Raymond? Poor Deborah really did have to put up with a beast of a woman in Doris Roberts’ Marie Barone. Wikipedia describes her character as being “intrusive, controlling, manipulative and over-nurturing.” I’d say that’s about right.
My own experience with mothers-in-law has been a mixed bag. I got along great with my first one. For years, she could do no wrong in my eyes, and I treasured our relationship.
And then she moved in with us.
Granted, she moved to a brand new state with no job and no prospects on the horizon. At the very same time that I lost my job. The smart thing would have been to call off the move, at least until I got back on my feet, but plans had been forged and commitments made. Let’s just say spending that much time together in close quarters would probably drive anybody crazy. Eventually I had to make a stand and declare to my then-wife “it’s either me or her.” Yeah, things got that uncomfortable, and our close relationship took a hit. We patched things up afterwards, but it was never quite the same, and then when her daughter and I divorced a few years later things of course were never the same. Having said that, I think she’s a good person, and we maintain a friendship to this day, at least over Facebook. We email occasionally, though it’s been awhile. She gave me a recipe my ex-wife refused to share. I’m still friends with her son, my former brother-in-law. I don’t think there are any hard feelings on either end, and I wish her the best.
And as for Tara’s mom, Tracy? We get along great, and I think the world of her! I was happy to have her come down for a visit, and when those plans almost fell apart last week, I think I was more upset than Tara. You have to understand, I have known Tracy almost as long as I’ve known Tara. We all met in the blogosphere some ten years ago, and while Tracy stopped writing soon after, she was always kind of a “fan” of mine. That sounds funny to say, but it’s true. She followed this blog long before anybody else, was one of the first to buy my book, and we’d been Facebook friends for years. It’s really a unique situation, and makes for a great story. And one time a few years ago, when Tara was still living in Ely but visiting her in Seattle, she had plans to meet up with “a friend” and Tracy assumed it was me (it was not). I like to think that she always hoped we’d end up together somehow.
So, I told the bank teller that I was looking forward to her visit. And I added, “We’re newlyweds. We’ve only been married three weeks.”
A knowing look filled her eyes then, and she nodded her head, as if that explained my lack of MIL animosity. Whatever!
Her visit was short but sweet. She got in around 9 PM on Friday night, and we spent a couple of hours talking and catching up. Saturday, she wanted an “authentic Portland experience,” much like my friend Monica asked for when she and her husband visited right before Labor Day. I love playing PDX tour guide! The ironic thing is, Tracy used to live in the same town as we do ten years ago, but never got the chance to get out and explore much. We started with a trip to Target (not exactly a typical Portland stop, but there’s no sales tax in Oregon, so that’s always a big draw). That was followed by a visit to the food cart pod on 9th and Alder downtown, where we sampled cuisine from Romania, Greece, Scotland, and China while hanging out in O’Bryant Square, enjoying the clear weather, 70-degree temps, and changing leaves. Then it was on to Powell’s Books (can’t believe she’d never been there before!) for 90 minutes, before we drove across town to House of Vintage on Hawthorne Boulevard. We capped the day off with fish tacos at our house, joined by my parents. Really a perfect day, and a great dinner; I love the fact that my parents can co-mingle comfortably with hers. That’s something else I never really had in my first marriage. This may be the second time around for both of us, but there are an awful lot of firsts, making it all feel new again.
Sunday we went out for breakfast, and then Tracy drove home as work beckoned the next day and she had things to do. We did, too: things that included watching the Broncos win a nailbiter of a game against the Cowboys, and catching a movie (Gravity in 3-D) that was nothing short of spectacular. All in all, a great weekend!
How was yours? And if you are (or were) married, how do (did) you get along with your in-laws?