a very lovely lady.
and beloved by many people both in the u.k. and beyond.
i apologize before i even begin ~ for using her photographs in this post
in perhaps a way not becoming to the queen of england.
the irony is . . .
she is the spitting image of my late mother in law.
i’ve mentioned that before here on the peanut.
they could easily have been twin sisters.
people even always mentioned it upon meeting my mother in law.
it pleased her very much.
they even wore their hair exactly the same. it never changed.
the queen is beautiful. and i’m sure is always aware of putting her best face forward.
and it was very difficult to find pictures of her not showing a winning smile.
but a very few were captured.
and those are the ones i apologize for.
but THEY are the ones that best illustrate how my
dear mother in law felt about me.
and exactly how she looked whenever she looked at me.
not a smile in sight.
from the day she found out her son was in love with me
and that we would undoubtedly marry . . .
this invisible sign was put up whenever she saw me ~
i do not joke about it. it’s sadly true.
NOT LIKE ME ????
how is that even possible pray tell !
i like you!
at least i’m going to try!
my own darling mother was back in new york.
my father had died about 8 months before.
i had no family here.
i would have loved to have a ‘mother figure’ in my life.
or even if she could have shown a tiny bit of warmth.
so at first i thought maybe she was just . . . you know . . .
but i was so head over heels about her son that i didn’t notice . . .
how much she really hated me . . .
she began taking little snipes at me quietly . . . then smiling as if they were not lethal.
she was a ‘southern lady’. the kind that never raise their voice.
but some of them can cut you to shreds if they really want to.
and then they’re sometimes heard to say . . . to other people . . .
“bless her heart. i really do care for her . . . but . . . “
it’s what comes after that ‘but’ that you have to watch out for !!!
the only one of these i ever called her out on was after we’d been married awhile.
. . . when she said to me one day out of the blue . . .
“you know tammy. I’ve been thinking about you.
it’s a good thing you can’t have any children tammy. you wouldn’t have been a good mother.”
that had been a great regret for me. and so the remark hurt deeply.
I SAW RED.
it was the only time i ever talked back to her.
we were alone in her dining room. having coffee at the big formal table.
i told her
“you take that back!”
“you have no right to say that to me. you have no idea what kind of mother i’d be.
you couldn’t possibly know. you haven’t even tried to really know me long enough to even judge me!”
i was hurt.
there were tears in my eyes.
i cry when i get really angry. i always hate that.
she actually had the decency to stop talking. it was silent and very cool. she didn’t apologize.
i soon left. i think it was that day i decided to quit trying.
at least so i thought at the time.
after that it was a cold war. a quiet truce of few words.
if bob and his dad noticed . . . they didn’t talk of it.
i had a wonderful relationship with his dad.
he was very kind to me always. he was a gentle peaceful scholarly man.
he just never stood up to his wife.
come to think of it . . . bob never said to her either . . .
“this is my wife. please don’t treat her that way.”
he always simply said to me . . .
“it would be anyone i married. just don’t take it personally.”
oh well. it’s understandable.
the son is always caught in the middle.
and that’s a TERRIBLE place to be old bean.
but i’m getting ahead of my story as i usually do!
the story about my totally innocent revenge!
now that i’m a grown woman on my own … i realize that she was deeply insecure.
and that is such a sad way to live.
appearances meant EVERYTHING to her. she made her own prison of sorts.
there can be no joy in that kind of life i think.
she lived in the enclosed word of academia and it was critical that all her friends
and the university approved and were impressed by her life.
the first time i met her it was just she and i and bob.
she served us coffee in the living room.
i was not even a coffee drinker then!
but i drank it that day. the first time meeting HIS mother!
very important old bean!
i was in love with him and he hadn’t asked me to marry him yet.
i didn’t even know if he would.
i wanted to do no wrong.
i find it rather quaint now.
i can’t imagine a teenager today allowing herself to be treated badly.
more than likely today they would just shrug
and say something like “oh blow it off!” ~ or even WORSE!
“F*** you lady.” !!!
that would be unthinkable for me.
then or now.
i was just raised not to do that. you always showed respect. especially to your elders.
and times were different then i guess.
i remember it as if it were yesterday actually.
it was in the afternoon.
conversation was very stilted with her.
i often was amazed that bob came from that home
and was the TOTAL opposite of the coldness and superiority there.
he was always warm and fun and outgoing.
easy to know and be around. genuine and down to earth.
she served us coffee in a service like this.
very beautiful indeed.
and it was the real thing. heavy. not silver plate.
it all was truly lovely. little cakes too i think. and of course china.
a beautiful presentation.
now. i had seen all this before.
and i knew well how to act and relax at any formal occasion.
there were many real silver pieces in my own family. thanks to the history of my gram.
and i still do like beautiful things. and beautiful presentations.
BUT . . . ONLY . . .
if there is warmth and sincere graciousness served along with the silver.
otherwise it comes off as coldly formal and forbidding.
and it brings out this in me . . .
my TRUE NATURE !!!!
oh poor lady.
in looking back now . . .
i cannot really blame her.
i truly can’t.
so you mustn’t think badly of her and what i’ve said before.
yes. she did bully me. just as badly as any bully on a school bus.
but . . . i’ve grown to try to see it more from her perspective.
think about it.
i was an 18 year old GIRL.
still a little teen ager for pete’s sake! hardly grown.
and her beloved ONLY son was 28 years old. a man.
a man with a two year old daughter.
can you imagine?
i was just barely 16 years older than his child.
no wonder she HATED his choice of a second wife!
and yet i truly was a lady. even at 18. my mother felt it important always.
and i was mature beyond my youthful age.
i’d already suffered one of the greatest losses in one’s life…
that of a parent. a father. a sudden death.
it does tend to make one grow up quickly.
an older lady. sitting there wondering what to do with this
pretending to be a lady??? HORRORS!
that’s pretty much the regular look right there!
i was raised in an environment where there were often
important visitors for dinner. especially as my dad rose in the ranks of his job.
we were taught good manners early on.
but my true nature is
informal. happy. talkative. and fun.
this poor woman ~ and her fear of appearances and performance ~
i guess she saw that she and i were not going to be a good mix right from the beginning.
i don’t know what she wanted for bob.
but it’s clear and remained so . . .
that it WASN’T me!
was not i?
“wake me when this girl goes away!”
only. i never did go away!
i decided one year to try another approach.
she always signed her cards to me
and their full names. dad’s and hers. even their last names!
i’d been calling bob’s dad “dad” for awhile. he seemed to like it.
my own father had always been “daddy” so it didn’t seem strange to me.
i decided to try to call my mother in law
i was told that she didn’t want me to.
only one person could call her that and that was bob.
i would have to call her by her full name.
life goes on.
it was a tad embarrassing to hear it that bluntly.
but one has to respect her frankness.
and her honesty.
things went along.
if not smoothly.
then at least no unexpected changes. LOL.
as a matter of fact . . .
the ONLY times bob and i ever had cross words between us were about her.
luckily he was mature.
and he soothed my younger hurt with rationalism and calm talk.
i often think he finished raising me. poor man!
i had just turned 19 years old when this next thing happened.
what happened . . .
as the title of my post implies . . .
was the incident of
my very own innocent revenge!
i couldn’t have planned it better if i’d tried !!!
of course in retrospect . . .
it probably only confirmed to her
that her son had married
all shiny chrome and sleek and high end?
the vacuum cleaner of all vacuum cleaners!
TA DA !!!
this vacuum cleaner had a suction that was supposed to be able to pick up
A BOWLING BALL !!!
that was it’s famous claim.
that’s a clue
to this little story of unintended revenge.
bob and i had been staying in their guest house for a few weeks.
they were on a trip and we were ‘house sitting.’
the guest house was separated from the big house
by a covered and glassed in breezeway with potted palms lining the windows.
it had a great room with parquet floors and a genuine persian carpet.
and a fireplace. and a bathroom. and a tiny kitchen.
it was very beautiful.
much bigger than my wren house is now!
i had noticed that the sink in the bathroom had been draining VERY slowly.
i wanted to leave the guest house
as spotless as we had found it.
bob was gone somewhere. or this innocent revenge would not have happened.
i went up to the big house to borrow her vacuum cleaner.
are you familiar with this?
not at barely 19 i wasn’t.
i know. i know.
i know i apparently SHOULD have been!
there are some esteemed physicists who read the peanut . . .
they must surely be shaking their heads . . .
not know how a drain trap works???? REALLY????
you can guess i know. . . just what happens next.
I SUCKED UP THE YUKKY STUFF THAT WAS STOPPING UP THE LITTLE SINK.
the chrome attachment pipe got really cold in my hand.
i thought nothing of it.
other than i think . . . “oh that feels good!” LOL.
i finished cleaning the guest house and the entire breezeway.
then i took the vacuum back up to the big house and put it back into the
huge laundry room closet.
some weeks later…
i received a call.
would i come out to the house?
there’s something i am requested to see.
i drove out with a sinking feeling.
what could it be? what is the matter?
i was led to the laundry room.
” WHAT HAVE YOU DONE ??? “
“explain to me . . .
now . . .
this was the bag. well. it used to be.
it appears here to be cloth. but hers was some form of paper.
similar to this one though.
anyway. this is the way it usually looked.
what i saw before me did not remotely resemble this bag.
when tammy finished with the expensive
electrolux that can pick up a bowling ball with its suction . . .
what the bag
looked like . . .
only it wasn’t even fully contained like the one i’ll be showing you.
this is a teeny tiny example of the yukkiness of it.
i couldn’t find an actual picture. because who would do THAT to a vacuum cleaner?
NOBODY would do that with a vacuum cleaner ~ much less an expensive one!
so i had to improvise to give you some idea of it.
i couldn’t find a picture bad enough.
the whole cylinder was filled with dark rotten water.
stinky. smelly. foul.
with bits of yukky stuff floating around in it.
some of the edges already looked rusty.
the bag had disintegrated.
to say it was a mess is an understatement.
” WHAT HAVE YOU DONE ” ? ? ? ?
i will spare you the aftermath.
to tell you the truth i can only remember one thing.
bob offered to pay for it.
it was brought up at every family dinner for years.
my bob only laughed til his eyes watered and his stomach hurt.
i can now even laugh myself.
but it took quite awhile.
i felt VERY stupid for a VERY long time i’m afraid.
but boy. she sure liked that electrolux.
and i killed it.
the motor was ruined. from all that stinky water you know.
is revenge sweet?
i still wish she and i could have had a loving relationship.
i made her son so happy. and he did me as well.
it was a good marriage. had she only known or wanted to know.
on the front porch of their home right after coming back from his funeral . . .
the marine was taking me back to my home.
i was moving from tulsa the next day. i wanted to be closer to my own family. the marine.
i was saying good bye to them.
i hugged bob’s dad. he said to keep in touch.
i tried to hug her and she stiffened.
“well tammy. you’re young. you’ll marry again soon. you’ll find somebody else. don’t worry.”
i didn’t even know what to say to that.
the love of my life had just been buried.
i truly wonder if some people even realize when they’re saying hurtful things.
do they not hear themselves? do they really want to hurt you?
do they not know what their words do?
maybe they simply don’t care.
one christmas many years after my bob had died . . .
i found myself very melancholy for all those past years . . .
and perhaps a little regret that maybe i could have tried harder to understand her.
i wrote a heartfelt letter to her.
it was sincere. and i meant every word.
i told her i was sorry we never were able to care for each other the way we might have.
that for my part i apologized and would she forgive me.
she did. and we had visits together after that when i traveled to tulsa to see her.
i visited her for quite a few years after that.
she was as sad and closed in to herself as ever.
she re~lived bob’s cancer and all the treatments and all the suffering every single time i went.
as well as re~living his dad’s cancer and all the treatments he’d had and his death too.
she would talk about it over and over.
i once said to her . . . “why do you remind yourself of all the sadness? why not remember the good times?”
she said very sharply to me . . .
“you MUST remember the bad. it HAPPENED. it’s only right to remember it.”
i finally couldn’t take it anymore. i had to stop going.
i would come home totally drained and depressed . . .
starting my work week with a feeling i’d been run over by a truck.
whenever bob and i tried to go on a trip she would ‘fall ill.’
the whole family would gather round. it never failed.
i used to tell bob she would outlive us all.
she started losing her mind. she died at the age of 97 not knowing anyone.
what a sad little life.
unnecessarily sad really.
she had everything. comfort. love. family. security.
she just was never a happy person.
my own mother adored my bob.
she used to say to me
“darling. try to understand her. be kind. you be the lady.”
well . . .
if you are a mother in law . . .
and if you have daughters in law . . .
or even just one . . .
and if you find it difficult to care for her
or even tolerate her . . . as mine wasn’t able to . . .
remember this ~
it’s entirely possible she just wants to be friends with you.
she doesn’t want to take your place.
she simply wants to love your son along with you.
try to reach her if you can.
because if he truly loves your daughter in law
as bob loved me . . .
it will tear him up.
he loves you both.
and it’s needless suffering on everyone’s part.
i think this post should be dedicated to all of you
who DO accept and even LOVE your daughters in law!
to darling dewena . . .
and my becky . . .
and dear nana diana . . .
i happen to know that each of you loves your daughters in law as if they were
your very own daughter!
how wonderful that must be!!!
and i know there are many more of you!
bless you all!
and if you do love them like this
you are the mothers in law that my own little mother was to my bob.
she truly adored him from the beginning.
good and warm and loving and supportive and kind!
the VERY BEST KIND!!!!
it’s hard for mothers of sons.
i know it’s a very special bond.
i understand. i do.
til soon old bean.
actually . . . til next monday!
have a wonderful weekend!!!