My siblings and I think our mother is an all-around joyful role model in the Mom department. Because we grew up under her tutelage, we don't seem to mind if she rearranges our cabinets, tells us we ought to give our front doors a fresh coat of paint, or remarks that it's high time we replaced our frayed bath towels when she visits. We welcome the wealth of time-tested tips she provides on child-rearing, home organization and budgeting.
Well, um, most of the time.
But, my point is, it sure is funny how the very same suggestions coming from a mother-in-law tend to rattle us. When, in fact, it's all about nurturing. You just have to reach a certain age before you understand this: All mothers mean well. All mothers want to help. All mothers love us the very best way they can.
Therefore, I declare that this Mother's Day is also Mothers-in-Law Day. Let me give some long overdue credit to the woman who raised the man I love, and taught him the valuable, potentially marriage-saving skills of making his own dang lunch and putting his own darn wash away.
My mother-in-law worked outside the home before it was the cool, feminist thing to do. She was a natural teacher who worked first in public schools, then got her master's degree in education and later became a top editor in the Department of Defense at the Pentagon. And if you've ever listened to a Pentagon briefing, you would have to agree that they could surely use some competent editors over there. She probably could have put her skills to more lucrative use at a leading national newspaper or magazine, but she chose to serve children and our country with her talents instead.
She's got this thing about giving back. And by example, she has led her own children and grandchildren into fields where service to others is at least some aspect of their daily lives.
Having grown up in the rural South during the Depression era, my mother-in-law knew the value of education as a gateway to economic freedom. She maintained her focus through a turbulent childhood to graduate first in her class in high school and at the top of her college class, too - and her path was by no means easy. I think, as a result, the word "waste" is nonexistent in her vast vocabulary. My mother-in-law simply refuses to waste anything: time, money, energy, you name it. Although, I suppose a case could be made that she has wasted some affection on our oblivious dog.
One could say her abhorrence of waste made her a model of efficiency and economy. But we see her gift, warmly and creatively, in her ability to make a delicious dinner out of your leftover heel of roast beef, a handful of rice and a can of corn from the back of your pantry. I think she could host a reality show, Pantry Madness, wherein contestants bring in random stuff from their kitchens and Ave Treblig, whose name has been spelled backward for privacy, has to whip up something absolutely fabulous. In no time, people would be copying and disseminating her recipes, as I have for years.
But of all of the pointers I have gleaned in my 27 years of observing her, I think it's her strength and faith I admire most.
And never have they been more evident than in this past year, when she has faced a serious illness and a series of treatments without complaining. Now the news is good, and I rejoice with her son, her children and her grandchildren for the gift of time.
I think I will take a page from her book, and not waste any of it any further, and end this column with a simple "thank you, Mom."