Loving the Unlovable

Stand-up comedians all have their favorite material.  But  most consistent to them all is ragging on in-laws.  The gruesome mother-in-law who’s going to dominate everyone’s lives, raise the children and finally drive the husband to the nut house – probably crashing on the way and killing him.  Her wish fulfilled.

Of course, the daughter-in-law can’t make dinner the way “I made it for my son.” “He’s losing weight.  Aren’t you feeding him?”  Here’s an old one “You mean to tell me you bought that dress with my son’s hard earned money?  It isn’t even flattering!  It shows lumps I didn’t even know you had!” (but suspected.)

Once one of my sons told his wife she certainly couldn’t make chocolate chip cookies the way his Mom did.  That was 15 years ago, and I’ve been working at making my cookies uneatable ever since.  And she, incidentally, has become a world-class cook in my opinion.  Maybe it was that comment that spurred her on to culinary greatness.  Though I doubt it as she’s accomplished in everything she puts her hand to.  Since I’m sort of emphasizing the cooking of my girls, Sandra has catered for art shows and other parties in “party-wonderland” – Aspen, Co.

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Chef and Caterer Extraordinaire

In my blog about caring for Mom I mentioned the traumatic move from 35 years of being dug into the home of all homes (in my mind).   My wonderful children made the transition bearable.  And even now, barely 7 months later, I can look back with appreciation on all the contributions each made in expressing their love to their Dad and I.  I’d made reference to something my girls (to me, my girls, to others perhaps my daughters-in-law.)  Over the years, after my sons married and left home, each ended up with some issues that motivated them to move back in with Dad and I for brief periods of time – the longest was 11 months, the shortest about 9.  It became a joke among the girls who could find the jar or can of food with the oldest expiration date on it.  I do believe one of my sons, in about 1994, found a can of parmesan cheese about from 1974.  I tried to explain to him that I was experimenting, hoping the can would eventually produce another child for me to raise, as I never had enough babies.  I also swore him to secrecy.  (I don’t think he kept his oath.)  As the girls began to go through my cuboards looking for ingredients for various dishes, they would shriek with horror at the expiration date.  They were sure I was trying to kill off the entire family.  I kept pointing out that in my 40 years of child-rearing, I hadn’t offed anyone I was aware of.

My girls got back at me on move day.  They were the ones packing up the kitchen.  After I got a bit settled in my new home,  I would want to cook something (well, not “want” – I’ve sort of given up cooking.  Sometimes I need to so my family won’t starve.)  I would know I had the needed ingredients, but not be able to find them.  I wrote it off to the “box Nazi”, mentioned in “Caring for Mom”, and went on with making a dish with no seasoning – bland and fit for the dogs.  One night my cousin and her husband were coming to visit Mom.  They’d never been in my home, and I was set to impress!  We were to start with the real shrimp cocktail, not the kind with the ready made platter, sauce, limp shrimp, etc.  I got the real McCoy – fresh shrimp!  I knew I had dip in the fridge.  Only I didn’t – discovering that fact as my cousins were arriving.  It was at that moment that I realized my beloved girls had indeed sabatoged me.

In my view of gaining new family members, such as the girls my sons marry, I considered what I went through with each pregnancy.  I never knew if I’d have a boy or girl, a disfigured child or one with extreme health problems.  I didn’t know what they’d turn out to be in their lives – generous, selfish, loving, retarded, brilliant.  And yet I never had a doubt that I’d love them no matter what the outcome.  Just because when their wives were “born” to me they were older, they were still my children and I would love and cherish each for their individuality.  That outlook has never left me.  Each one leaves a unique mark in my heart which will always be theirs, just as my sons have. I celebrate their diversity and believe it enriches myself and my family.  I believe we’ve raised our sons with soundness of mind, and their choice in a life-time companion will reflect their good judgment.  Time has proven that to be the case!

I also have lived my life with the outlook when you expect the best in people, you’re more apt to get it.  Not that you crush them when something disappointing happens, but help them to “pull up the boot-straps” and try again.  We always have to be reasonable about expectations, but the greater things we see in those we love, the greater things they see in themselves.

Speaking of the culinary achievements of my girls, my Mom, sister-in-law and I always laugh when we remember when my oldest son and his wife were newly married.  We were visiting them for the first time, and when it got near dinner time, my daughter said, “What would you like for dinner?  Salad or popcorn?”  The three of us were holding our sides and coughing into our hands to hide the hysterics!  (That’s a feat, holding your side while at the same time covering your mouth while you cough/laugh.  We all needed another hand!)

From salad or popcorn to co-cookbook author.

From salad or popcorn to co-cookbook author.

This adorable  child of mine gave birth to a beautiful little girl about five years after she and my son were married.   They discovered when Brooklyn was about two that she had absonce seizures.  One thing led to another, and they were admitted into a study at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Boston  for children with seizures.  Research indicated that low carb, high fat and protein diets seemed to help control seizures.  Tammy got to work!  (She had already been cracking the cookbooks and internet for new recipes, etc.)  But this was a monumental challenge!  She had to learn to cook tasty dishes with no carbs!  Before long, she could make a pizza with no or few carbs that tasted like pizza.  She figured out a cheese snack that had no carbs and tasted better than Cheezits!   Her no carb desserts were fabulous, and many of her recipes were published on the Internet.  She could even make french fries that tasted like french fries but weren’t made from potatoes!   She and my son wrote a book entititled  “Atkins for Seizures” that has helped many.

This darling red-headed daughter has become the mother of four of my grandchildren.  While growing up with only one sister, she’s managed to suffer snakes, frogs, lizards, crabs, fish,chickens, spiders (but only in cages) and cats having babies wherever they please to have them – all to the delight of her three sons and oldest daughter.  They also have a dog who I think I’ll describe along with other notable pets in another blog.

I can talk about my children til the “cows come home” (as my Gram used to say.)  The first of my sons to be married was the second to the oldest.  He married a girl who has five brothers and one sister and a pretty absent dad.  There wasn’t even a modest amount of money in the household when they were growing up.  Fuss remembers coming home from school to find some head lettuce in the fridge and peanut butter in the cupboard.  So she made peanut butter rolls with the lettuce.  Little did she know that that led to her greatness as a chef!  She, too, has cooked for millionaires in Aspen, Co. and founded her own catering business.   Not only are her culinary creations mouth-watering, but beautiful to look at.   When I worked in a resturant and caterer as a young woman my mentor always told me “presentation is  everything”.   I do think there is something to be said about taste, however.

Our first beautiful and gifted daughter.

Our first beautiful and gifted daughter.

Our fourth son married an incredibly accomplished girl.  At one time she sky-dived and had a black belt in karate.   She’s not Latino, but has made Spanish her career and teaches the Bible to Spanish-speaking people.  They havent’ been married too long, so I haven’t tasted all of her repertoire.  But she is so thoughtful about bringing delicious soups – like mango/squash, pumpkin – wonderful creamy delights for Mom.  Soups are one of the main things that Mom can get down easily.

This entry was posted on Sunday, November 1st, 2009 at 5:56 pm and is filed under What About In-Laws?. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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