Mother in Law

Last week was the week when all good parents take their children to do something vigorous and fun, like skiing, or hiking, or maybe to Disneyland.

Some other year we might do that. But this year, we went to my mother in law’s farmhouse in the San Joaquin valley to help her clear it out in preparation for her move into something much smaller.

This turned out to be far more interesting than we’d expected. For example, the boys now know what a cigarette lighter looks like. And we have acquired some unusual information that might come in handy some day, such as the many, many, many things you will need if you’re going to have proper cocktail parties.

We have heard stories about people long dead, people whose handwriting and pictures and books and dishes and vases are still with us. I have learned that I should probably burn my diaries from college because when I die a grandchild or great-grandchild will learn what a silly person I was when I was in my twenties.

I’ve written about it (our week, I mean, not my diaries) here.

I hope you’ve all been well in the last week. I’ve loved seeing all the writing places you’ve posted and am feeling very inspired about getting back to mine.


17 thoughts on “Mother in Law

  1. Thanks for your thoughtful reflections. It’s nice to hear that J is making this big transition with such a clear sense of who she is and what she wants. It’s not always possible to age gracefully and it’s a good reminder not to take family, health and sound mind for granted–at any age.

  2. I wish my mother and father would downsize while they still are able to do it with a clear sense of who they are. Unfortunately, they are still in “accumulation” mode, and while the stuff they accumulate is rather cool, I am not looking forward to sorting it and figuring out what to do with it.

    I should probably burn my letter, journals and diaries too. But where would we be if John and Abigail Adams had done that?

  3. I love the picture that you paint of this admirable, romantic figure who happens to be your mother in law. And while I generally applaud the disposal of extraneous stuff, I do hope that you hang onto at least one cocktail cart, that silver tray and decanter and a mildew-free Tolstoy. You never know when they might come in handy.

  4. Hello Bora, Yes, I think you’re right about aging gracefully. One thing that’s certain is that we are all going to have (and have) plenty examples of how people age to draw on as we go that way ourselves.

    Ms. magic hands, I think those who keep good diaries probably know they’re worth holding on to. Those whose diaries consist of a daily record of whether “K” looked at them that particular day are not among them.

    One cocktail cart. Check. One silver tray. Check. Two decanters (we would not want them to feel lonely) Check. Many, many books. Want to come over for drinks soon?

    Hi TBM, It was an intense week, and one I’m glad we spent.

  5. I went through this process with my mother about three years ago and it was a revelation. She had held out against moving into sheltered housing until she was so nearly blind that there was simply no option. But, the fun we had sorting through everything and recalling the people and places softened the blow considerably. I hope your mother in law settles as well in her new place as Mom eventually did.

  6. I really enjoyed both the post and the diary – have written and deleted a number of additional sentences. Ultimately, I’m filled with sadness that our dudelet will probably never have this experience. Maybe his children will, or their children if he or they have any and if the world lasts that long.

    I wonder about your blog sometimes as to whether it’s some weird leakage from an earlier, more gracious age (or a parallel universe) where people ate properly, the whole of the family knew how to read a book and the value of life was an accepted thing.

    Then I think of the equally gracious, strong sign-off of a few weeks back and know otherwise.

    Still, these insights and encounters feel like a privilege.

  7. Oh, I loved these posts, and you encourage me to see both my mother and my mother-in-law more kindly. It is true that everyone has a story that makes them who they are, and often they are complicated and messy and painful and treating those who frustrate us with compassion can often lead to startling revelations.

  8. Hi bloglily,

    I really like what you’re doing with this and your hidden life page… a kind of loving archaeology of the family. Beautiful photo, too.


  9. Your posts are really moving and brought me tears! My husband engaged her mother into a conversation on the meme “Where I am From” at dinner last time, and we got the chance to discover childhood memories of my MIL that she’d told noone before. These are privileged moments we wish we have more often.

  10. Welcome kweenkong. yes, there are all kinds of things they’re bound to learn about sooner or later.

    litlove, hope for us all! It’s nice to look back and see how much can improve.

    Thank you Ann, I think she will. It’s certainly a good beginning.

    U-Dad, Dudelet’s going to be reading your blog posts someday to his grandchildren! As for the parallel universe from a more gracious time, I wish you could drop by some evening when we’re all running around trying to find someone’s basketball uniform, and someone else is jumping off the bed to the futon on the floor, and the third someone is playing his drums. It is not a quiet, elegant life we lead here at chez bloglily. The blog turns the volume down on some things, raises it on others: that’s what’s so lovely about writing. You get to be the molder of the world you create.

    You know, Courtney, it’s very hard sometimes to leave yourself out of things — and I’m not very good at it — but that’s what it takes to see clearly when you’re dealing with people who’re maybe a little too close to you.

    Dear Fencer, Thank you.

    Pauline, That is the most marvelous thing. I’m so glad you got to hear a little bit about our mother in law! xo, BL

  11. As a”little old lady” who is on the other end of downsizing, I loved your post. My son and his family, have no room in their lives for stuff. I am trying to dump all extraneous matter, saving books and his late Dad’s mementos. I need to move into smaller digs with less gardening and maintainance. I hope my daughter in law and I have an opportunity to learn about each other as you have

  12. Lily

    Delighted at your blog diary. You really capture J’s spirit, intellect and courageous nature. Not to mention that we continue to get along and communicate well as the seniors in our interesting, talented and sometimes curious family.

    Your W observations intrigued and interested me. Somehow there is a disconnect between my perceptions of you and your perception of my perception. But that for another day and perhaps a more private diary entry.

    Love to all. W

  13. I was born and raised in the San Joaquin Valley. Your entry brought back many memories of my own family before I moved to Monterey…and Maine. Hmmm…mmm not too valley like here!

  14. Pingback: Virginia Woolf’s Sketch of the Past « Smithereens

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