A tribute to my other mother

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by Michal Ann McArthur
Bend, Oregon

I suppose because of Mother’s Day, like you, I’ve been thinking about mothers lately. I had a remarkable mother, and one day I’m going to write a glowing tribute to her and she’ll deserve every word. But I’ve been blessed with two moms, and right now I want to write about my “other mother,” my mother-in-law. None of the snarky jokes about mothers-in-law would rightly apply to her. Yes, she was only human and no, she wasn’t perfect. But I think she’d be an inspiration to all of us who are currently serving in the challenging role of “mother-in-law.”

I met her for the first time at the airport. She and her husband and daughter had just flown in for the wedding. The first thing she did when she stepped off the plane was to give me a warm hug. Did you notice that I said “the first thing”? She hugged me before she even hugged her son. That sent an incredible message to me: you are part of my family now and you are every bit as important to me as my son. Wow. I was stunned. And until she passed away, she continued to treat me that way. It gave me a sense of security and belonging.

She and I were very different, but she never—and I’m not using this word lightly—never criticized me or made me feel inadequate. She certainly could have. She was an attractive woman, kept her hair and nails immaculately groomed, could sew, play the piano, arrange flowers, decorate cakes, and do all sorts of arty crafts. I was good at none of those things. But she recognized what I could do and affirmed me often. She built me up and never tore me down.

To her, family was the most important thing, and she communicated her love in so many ways. She turned every special occasion, especially Christmas, into an extravaganza of delight with gorgeous decorations, beautifully wrapped gifts, and wonderful dinners. She baked birthday cakes to order, especially fulfilling my children’s fondest fantasies.  We lived several hundred miles away, and before we would come for a visit, she always asked what each of us wanted to eat and drink. I had to be careful how I answered because I knew she’d knock herself out getting every last thing on the list. When we arrived, she had treats and toys waiting for the children on their pillows. She was clearly excited to see us and often teared up when we left. She and my father-in-law would stand in the driveway waving until we were out of sight. I never doubted that she loved me or my children.

As I think back, I’m sorry that I never told her I thought she was the best mother-in-law a girl could ever have. If you think your other mother is a gem, I hope you’ll take a few minutes today to tell her so.