A.C. Snow: Mark calendar for fourth Sunday in October

May 18, 2013 

A reader has chided me for not writing something about Mother’s Day. To tell the truth, the event snuck up on me until it was too late to meet my deadline.

Today, I’m compensating for the oversight. Mark your calendars now! Mother-in-law Day is coming up – on the fourth Sunday in October.

This special day, created by a newspaper editor in Amarillo, Texas in 1934, inspires far less fanfare than Groundhog Day and other minor holidays.

But today, I’m saluting those special women who as a group have been woefully maligned down through marital history.

I agree with a friend who recently observed, “There is a special place in Heaven for any mother-in-law who is loved by her son’s wife. There seems to be some sort of inherent dislike of a woman who has somehow stolen another woman’s son.”

I don’t buy that as a universal truth.

I adored my gracious and pretty mother-in-law who, twice widowed by age 37, finished rearing three daughters without ever complaining openly about her lot in life.

Furthermore, she deeply appreciated her sons-in-law and in most cases sided with them when differences arose. She cautioned her daughters against complaining, especially about their spouses, to others.

“Doing so only reflects negatively on your intelligence in choosing your mate,” she told them.

My own mother coped with nine daughters-in-law. I never heard even one utter a complaint against her. Her success in managing this complex human relationship was due in great part to her refusal to meddle in her sons’ marriages.

When one of my older brothers would come to the house to cry on her shoulder over something his wife had done to displease him, her standard advice was, “Son, you’ve made your bed and you must now lie in it. Go on home and make peace with your wife.”

In my research, I learned that seemingly the most offensive thing a mother-in-law can do to her daughter-in-law is sit with her son in the labor room while his wife is having a baby.

Being there, uninvited, during the “push” period can guarantee lifelong enmity between the two women.

One of my readers once wrote me that she knew her marriage was in trouble while she was on her honeymoon.

“Would you believe that my mother-in-law had not only arranged our honeymoon site, a rustic resort in Texas, but also specified by name the very cabin we were to occupy?”

She said the marriage soon foundered because her husband could not stand up to his mother.

An awkward situation developed when a relative of ours married her best friend’s son.

Her mother-in-law complained privately, “The marriage is a mixed blessing. I lost both my son and my best friend.” Nevertheless, both the friendship and the marriage have survived.

I remind you that this mother-in-law issue is a two-way street. Mothers of daughters also have concerns over their sons-in-laws-to-be.

A Raleigh reader wrote me that during the courtship she worried about her daughter’s fiancé because he was addicted to Thomas Wolfe’s writings.

“It didn’t take long for me to love dearly both him and Wolfe’s writing,” she said, sharing my view that Wolfe’s “Look Homeward, Angel” is one of America’s greatest novels.

I leave you with a moving testimonial that refutes the long-standing stereotype of the mother-in-law as an ogre.

At the Duraleigh Road Library, my wife struck up a conversation with another book browser. How the conversation got around to mothers-in-law, I have no idea.

The woman recalled that when her son was getting married, his future mother-in-law couldn’t attend the rehearsal.

“But how will I know her at the wedding tomorrow?” the concerned wedding director asked.

My wife’s new acquaintance had replied reassuringly, “No problem. She’ll be the one with a halo and wings.”

So folks, mark your calendar for the fourth Sunday in October, and if you’re fortunate enough to have a mother-in-law, take her to lunch or dinner and raise a glass in her honor.

Snow: 919-836-5636 or asnow@newsobserver.com

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