At the end of last week we traveled to New York to spend time with our wonderful family in extended version. My in-laws are salt of the earth folks. (It only took me 18 years to figure that out too!) Close your eyes and try to picture the kindest man on the planet and I guarantee you're picturing my father-in-law. He is patient and good at his very core. When I first met my mother-in-law she had about a million opinions on how I should live my life. There was nothing about her that wasn't intimidating. She could cook, bake, clean house, play tennis,and garden better than any woman I had ever met. She needed almost no sleep. She liked fine things.
Once we got married and pregnant my whole world got turned upside down. Angela was the constant measuring stick for all the things I should be and wasn't- yet. I'd come to her house green with morning sickness and she'd give me a sneer that said "suck it up" and push me along. She'd come to visit my house giving it the white glove treatment and say "Ellen, you need a washer and dryer." in her firm English accent and opinionated tone, and I'd reply equally as firm that "I liked the laundromat" while scraping gum off the seat of a chair.On her next visit a washer and dryer would magically appear- I was never really grateful. If she wanted me to do things one way, I'd do them the other just to prove I could. If I slept in when I visited her house I felt like the laziest person as she spoke of 'rising with the sun' to get ready for the day. We spent plenty of days sizing each other up and deciding where the other was entirely wrong. We disagreed often and loudly.
If you asked either one of us what we thought of the other, you'd likely hear "She's all right." and that's about all. Of course what was always changing was the size of my family, and therefore Angela's grandchildren. And if there was one thing Angela and I did agree on, it was that Fred had the most wonderful children in the world. If there was anything a child did that I wanted to brag about, she wanted to hear. If I needed a break or a babysitter, she was always willing to lend a hand. And so it went for many years, through moves and ever growing mini-vans. We tolerated each other, and nudged each other, and measured how we were accomplishing our respective roles, both often exasperated.
This past weekend we arrived on Thursday evening and the children entered Grandmaland quite happily. She must have baked 12 dozen chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, along with Napoleons, pies and every other goodie a kid could wish for. She has boxes of toys just waiting for little hands to grab at and play with. A sandbox sits outside her door with about 15 types of riding toys to conquer the hills and lawns. She spends her entire time playing with them and caring for every need and whim. She and Phil are the youngest old people I have ever met. They work so hard they make Fred look lazy. We were talking about the newest generation of Legare women now entering the family. Angela and I had ourselves quite a laugh thinking of how much we had disagreed over the years and how different that was now.
When I climbed into bed at night she came to chit chat with me about Fred and the kids and life. She told me what a fine job I was doing as a Mom and I thanked her for being the best grandmother on the planet. She told me not to get up in the morning as she'd get the kids so I could sleep in; but I told her I generally wake up pretty early these days after so many years of doing it reluctantly.
Its only now that I can stop and look back and be as thankful as I should be for all Angela and Phil have done for us. Before, I was too strong willed to admit she might be right about a few things, now I can see it was so. So while I have the time and its still in my thoughts I better tell them both how grateful I am for a few things I was never able to say out loud before.
Thank you for:
- The washer and dryer that I desperately needed but couldn't afford
- the air-conditioning I hoped for while I was so sick with John-Paul and the heat was awful
- the million batches of cookies and cream puffs
- babysitting every time we ever asked
- rearranging plans to accommodate us
- remembering every birthday, anniversary, and special occasion for every year - every child
- making each child feel loved by their grandparents
- letting us escape the pressure of the adult world by visiting your house for a change
- reading stories to the kids until they fell asleep
- bathing grubby feet and faces 100 times a day while they play
- holding onto every old toy so the kids always had something to play with on visits
- trips to the park
- picnic lunches
- creating such beautiful memories for our family.
I love you both so much! (tomorrow I'll tell you whats next door to Grandma and Grandpa!)