Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Becoming a Mother-in-Law

If you are the mother of a son, maybe you can relate to this posting today.

Last week, my only child, my son, was married to a beautiful woman. They met several years ago during their years as Grad students at the University of North Carolina, just 35 miles away from our home.

He announced his marriage plans to us over the phone fifteen months ago, and the anticipation of the wedding, and all that comes with such a grand event, began.  Ever since, I've been looking inside at how I felt and what I thought as the wedding day approached. I wanted to talk to her alone. I wanted to talk to him alone. There were things I wanted to say. Why was it so hard for me to say it?

They have lived and worked nearly 300 miles from our home for the past few years. The opportunities to talk... the timing, never clicked for me. The words that came to mind often choked me up. Could I even speak them aloud? 

My feelings flip-flopped several times over the course of the year... between feeling embarrassed for acting like my son was only 18 and leaving home for the first time, to feeling joyful that he'd found his soul-mate.... from thinking unrealistically that I'd never see him again, as if he wasn't going to be part of my life after he took to him a wife, to dreaming of a future with grand-children. I talked to my husband about it ... I talked to my best friend. But I couldn't talk to my son or his fiancee. Time and distance did not work in our favor.

I continued avoiding attempts to put my thoughts and feelings into words on paper. I knew I shouldn't wait until the day of the wedding to do it... but everytime I sat down to write, the words would not come. I was avoiding it. Trying to write without having my son and his future wife near me, where I could see them and know them, further blocked the words. I felt a little anxious driving to Maryland without knowing what I was going to say.

I needed to reach inside... to find the words that would make sense to not only my son and his wife, but also to the people who would be hearing the message. I finally decided to let my heart speak for me. I would know the time and place to write them down. I let it go so I could enjoy each perfect, present moment as the day of the wedding approached.

It was a beautiful day for a wedding on March 31, 2012 at the Vandiver Inn in Havre de Grace, Maryland... their marriage only hours away. All the motel guest bags I'd prepared earlier had been delivered the day before, thanks to the Groom, his Best Man, and the wedding planner. Clothing and shoes and accessories were ready to don. Mother and Mother-in-law were safe and resting in their rooms. Guests were all in their rooms getting ready, eating brunch/lunch, or relaxing in some way. The Bride and her entourage were getting ready, the Groom with his best friend at another location, also getting ready.

There was a mid-morning walk with my husband. I just wanted to be alone with him for awhile, before we became part of the crowd of wedding celebrants. The sun was shining. We strolled past shops selling souvenirs and art, past restaurants, past an old stone United Methodist Church ... where an inside yard sale was taking place, so we walked in to browse. It helped to clear my mind to do something that wasn't wedding-related.

Back at our room, there was peace and quiet. I told my husband I needed to write. He knows how I am about journaling... he said he would walk down to where his brothers were staying and visit with them.

Finally, I was alone. Peace and quiet. I stretched across the bed in the Victorian room of the Vandiver Inn... with journal and pen, I started writing. There was no order to what I wrote, I just wanted to get the words down. I could sort through it later and pull out the most important words. I wrote and wrote and wrote. I don't know how long I lay there thinking and writing. At some point, my husband walked in, saw the journal before me, and said, "Are you writing a book?" Yes, it appeared I had. I closed my journal. "Yeah, but I'm going to sum it up," I replied.

I went back over the pages I had written, and pulled out what I thought were most appropriate for a short Mother's Wedding Day speech... it had to be short as there would be three other speeches/toasts given before mine: one from my son's best friend, Mike; one from Anna, Matron of Honor and one from Jaimie, Bridesmaid, both best friends of the Bride.

The 5"x7" paper was folded and tucked away into my clutch. Just in case I forgot what I wanted to say. Holding a mic and standing before a crowd is not something I'm comfortable doing.

While we were all dressed and waiting for the wedding procession to begin, my son's future MIL and I were talking. I told her about my speech, and she said "Don't forget to tell them we want grandchildren!" I told her to give me a signal to remind me, and cradled my arms, rocking them sideways, like I was holding a baby. We both laughed. She and her sister said they would give me the signal.

The wedding was beautiful... our pastor from home was there to marry them... in full ministerial robes. His words were personal, there was a sermon, a blessing, the promises... the kiss. They were married before us and before God.

There were the formal family photos in the yard of the Vandiver Inn... and then the reception began in the Pavilion. The toasts were given by Mike, Anna, and Jaimie... then it was my turn.
I held my folded paper torn from the notebook I'd written on earlier in the day. The mic was in my other hand. Yes, I knew what I wanted to say ... the words were on paper so I wouldn't forget.

As I stood before them, emotions overwhelmed me quite suddenly. I looked at them both, he so handsome, she so beautiful... and they took my breath away. These were our children, grown as they were, both professionals, both independent... beginning a new life together as a married couple. How was I going to put all these feelings into words? How could I even speak... I was standing there in the awe of the moment. Momentarily speechless.
My voice did return at last ... after another deep breath.

Following are the words I had written on the paper ... what I actually said, I don't remember... I don't remember what I read from the paper, and what I ad libbed. But I'm pretty sure this is what I said ... slowly... between deep breaths, breaking voice, and being on the verge of tears with every sentence. I don't know how much they heard...

There is much for a mother to say to her son on his wedding day... more than I can say in just a few precious minutes standing before his friends and family, ... and his wife. So I have chosen my words and speak from my heart... thank you all for joining us in this great celebration.

A mother knows... when her son is born... that she can only keep him... until he learns how to drive a car. Long story short... that car took him away to UNC where he met Vi, and now, here they are... married.

I can see it in your eyes ... how much you love each other.

Vi ... you are so beautiful today! ... he's yours now, my dear. I am not sad to know that you have his heart, as he has yours. I am happy... these are happy tears in my eyes. Steven has gained a brother, another mother, a grandmother, aunts and uncles. And, you are part of our family now, too ... with many aunts and uncles and cousins that you haven't even met yet! Welcome to our family, Vi... we love you and adore you.

Steven... though your future will take both of you ...to places and times.... where we will not, and perhaps, we should not... go with you, I want you to know that your father and I are happy for everything that is to come from this union today. You honor us... our family...  with your marriage to Vi. We love you, Steven.

I thank God for bringing the two of you together!

Suddenly, Vi's mother ran up to me and hugged me. She said, "Your speech was beautiful, Bea, but you forgot to tell them about the grandchildren!"

"Oh, I forgot to look at you for the signal!" I tried to speak into the mic, but it had been turned off.

Vi and Steven stood up.

"There's only one thing that could make us happier," I said as the three of us hugged... "and that's when you give us grandchildren." They laughed... no one heard it except them.

They are married, and well on their honeymoon travels.

The following week, my husband drove his mother home to Jonesville. I drove my mother home to Georgia.  Easter week followed... it's been a week of looking at all the photos we took, printing them, putting some in frames, some in a book, sending some to family.

A wedding/celebration shower will follow next week when they fly home to get Daisy, their dog... we are dog-sitting, of course!


  1. Tears are flowing down my cheeks as I read this beautiful piece of writing,Bea.It touched a nerve :) I read a poem once that ended with the words:"the love is shown in the letting go.."
    You let go of your little boy that day.That is a bitter-sweet moment-thank you for sharing it with us xx

    1. Yes, you are the mother of a son... you know. I've let go of him many times as he grew... When I kissed him goodnight before I went to sleep... that's a mother's first letting go. I let him go to his first babysitter, then daycare when he was still a baby. That was a letting go. Follwed by kindergarten, high school, college, and so on... each is a mini-experience of letting your son grow into the man he is to become, so that one day, you will be proud of him as he takes his wife to start their own life, apart from ours. It's all good! thanks for your comment, Shauneen. Bea

  2. hi bea. just visitng blogs. beautiful, beautiful post. you so honored your son, your daughter-in-law, and their union together all children should have a start to their marriages like yours did... you gave them a GREAT gift... good for you for being so gracious. and it must have been hard for you, even still...

    bea, you asked in my blog Sometimes I Think recently how john and i were doing. well we have been going through a rough period. john is finally 6 years over his bone marrow transplant, and in remission from 3 blood cancers (including leukemia) -- they told him a couple of months ago that he was in remission and the 3 cancers would probably never come back! -- but the thing is, john still gets many complications from the cancer, chemo and bone marrow transplant he had. the worst conditions he has right now, i would say are: 1/3 kidney function, and almost no immune system (which is life threatening -- could kill him.) at any rate, bea, we are hanging in there.

    i haven't been able to be on line much, bc i haven't had time, but i really want to be on more, and will be soon, as john continues to get better, and i don't have to watch over him as much. he is getting better every day. he is still having some problems, however, and we are going to hershey med ctr (hospital) at the rate of about once a week (for three days a week) to get post bone marrow transplant treatment. so our lives are very busy. but as my life gets less busy, i am going to get back into reading blogs and blogging more. i think i am going to make an additional blog along with Sometimes I Think. I'll tell you about it when I start it up.

    okay, i am going to continue this comment in comment two!

  3. comment two (continued from last comment:

    Meanwhile, I encourage you to sign our "Jland Directory", which is for all former AOL Journalers:
    From Jland To Blogger
    I created this directory, Bea, bc i wanted a central place where all jlanders could find one another again. if you could sign it, leaving the name of one, or better yet, ALL of your blogs, i would be most appreciative. thanks. the page directions for the directory are pretty self-explanatory as to which section you put your blog(s) in. just read the instructions and go by the first letter of your blog(s). if you have already added a blog(s) that no longer exists to the directory some time in the past, please just leave me that information in the appropriate comment section and i will remove the blog(s) you want removed from the directory and add your new blog(s). deal?

    there are many advantages to being part of this directory. one advantage is this directory is listed in google, as a blog. i have seen it in there! so people come from google to our jland directory, and then go from there to read our blogs (whether they now be Blogger (Blogspot) or Wordpress! some Blogspot bloggers might say they don't want readers that have found them through the google search engine, but only want their "Blogger readers -- their former jland readers." but i find this ridiculous! a reader is a reader is a reader, and i like lots of them! what do you think? i like to be read! what do you think! it is a good way to be read! i have heard quite a few bloggers say they are not going to do anything to "try" to get readers, do anything "to their advantage". that it "doesn't matter if anybody reads them." doesn't matter ever. to which i scream "poppycock!" "you DO want to be read!" "if you didn't care if anybody read you, you wouldn't be writing online. you would be writing with a pen or pencil in a 'diary' and hiding it under your mattress!" so let's now begin to be honest. if you are online you do want SOME readers, and google is one of the best ways EVER to get readers! so being in the jland directory (which is showcased in Google) is certainly a good SEO tool (Search Engine Optimization Tool) for getting readers! enough said!

    and another good reason to be in the jland directory, as i stated earlier, is to be among friends so that we can all keep in touch w one another. jland forever!

    anyway, there are other reasons i am doing the jland directory, and will reveal them later. this comment is getting long, LOL. please stop by my blog again soon!

    my main blog: Sometimes I Think

    connect w krissy on Twitter: http://twitter.com/krissyknox
    want to be friends on FB? www.facebook.com/krissyknox

    1. thanks, Krissy... I'm in the jland directory, and we are now friends on FB. Be well, my friend! Thanks for the comment. Bea

  4. How very beautiful Bea. Two of my sons are married now. Daughter in laws are different creatures for sure. One of my daughter in laws couldn't be more my daughter if I had given birth to her myself. The other one is cold and distant and very difficult to get along with, and I am a person who can get along with anyone! My son says she has an anger problem. I feel sorry for my son because I know he really puts up with a lot from her, but we all have to live with our choices don't we. My youngest son was supposed to be getting married in June, but they broke up. Better that it happened before they got married I think, but sad all the same. Good to see you posting again. xxoo

    1. Thanks, Marie... I have good feelings about my DIL... and look forward to family opportunities. Distance is going to be the main barrier to everything we do, but as long as we can drive or fly, visits are planned. I hope your son gets over the break up soon... thanks for the comment, Marie. Bea

  5. Congratulations to the couple, and to the wonderful mother!

  6. Bea, that was very beautiful! Your son and his new wife are beautiful!!

    1. Thank you, Lori... I've been to many weddings, but this one was the best one of them all!! Thanks for visiting, Lori!! bea

  7. Bea, I loved reading this. Everything you felt and thought came over so clearly and made me feel what you felt. I am at the stage where I have just let go my son ... with his car. It is a wonderful, yet scary feeling, all at the same time. I don't want him to grow up and leave home, yet I know it is all part of the process. For now, I will hold onto Zane knowing that I have AT LEAST another 10 years with him at home. Thanks for sharing. You have a gift with writing :)

    1. I remember being where you are now with Brendon... all I can say is pray for him every time he walks out the door to get in the car. That's about all that helped me get through those first couple of years until my son went to college. By then, I had learned to trust him, and to trust the Lord. Thanks for coming by to read my blog and leaving a comment, Caroline. and a big thank you for the encouragement!!! love you, Bea :-)

  8. Hi Bea, that was written so beautifully... for a while, I just couldn't understand as to why people would use such a phrase such as "if you love someone you let then go" until I lost Uyen, Vi's younger sister-- Wish you could have met her! You are such a wonderful mother and I'm so honored to be "associated" w/you, ha-ha! Take care and I'll see you next week.

    1. you are more than associated with me, Kim... what do we call mothers-in-law who are connected by marriage of their children? Friends? Yeah, we're friends, for sure. From what you've told me, and from the photos I've seen, you know more than most, what letting go means. You have a great courage, and a strong faith, Kim. I look forward to our friendship growing in the coming years. I'll email you about when you plan to arrive.

  9. I am sorry to be so late in my comments..don't know how I missed it... what a wonderful tribute to your Son and his wife.. I don;t know about them but the tears are dripping down my face with the emotion I felt in your speach... Bless them both Always....and may there be babies.....soon....
    Much Love Sybil xxx

    1. Thank you, Sybil... you share my sentiment, totally... "may there be babies". :-)

  10. Congratulations on the wedding of your son, and I hope their only troubles will be little ones :-)

    1. Thank you, my friend in Stornoway! Your hope is mine!

  11. Thank you for posting again, Bea - so nice to hear from you again. I truly enjoyed the heartfelt words that you wrote about your son and his new bride. The photos are wonderful and I can really feel the love that is shown in all of them. (even the one of Daisy). Indeed, letting go means that they grow and your son has certainly grown into a fine young man. I loved your dress, by the way. (((HUGS)))

    1. Hi Rose... thanks for coming by... and leaving your welcomed sentiments. BTW, I enjoyed reading your haiku this afternoon at your poetry blog. Have you written one for a wedding day? :-)

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