Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Measuring Stick

You often hear that girls marry men like their father and guys marry women like their moms. As a newlywed, I questioned that old wives tale quite a bit. Gary shares many qualities with my dad, but Jackie and I??? I was not so sure. I just did not see it.

The mother-in-law measuring stick seemed to be 50 yards long, and I was only 3 feet tall. Mom was very budget conscious and frugal, budget was almost a foreign term to me. Mom was very direct, straightforward, and efficient. I tend to meander and wander, and take way too long to do and say too many things. Mom would start a task, and not stop until she was done. Me, I start a few projects at one time, flit from one to the other, and take twice as long to complete them. I was not so sure I would ever measure up.

One of the first memories of my newlywed life was the first time Gary's family came to Houston for a visit. We had only been married a few months. I was working full time and going to night school to finish my bachelor's degree. I think the family arrived on a Wednesday night. Gary and I both had to work Thursday, but would take Friday off. It was the start of summer break for them.

We left at the usual time in the morning, giving mom a quick tour around the galley kitchen. Jackie walked Gary and I to the door assuring me that they would all be fine that day. I don't think I will ever forget the mix of emotions I felt upon my return home. Jackie had cleaned and straightened the condo, started dinner, and washed ALL of our laundry for us. Now, I cleaned house before their arrival, and had planned to make dinner but would think about it when I got home and the laundry??? I felt like mom just discovered a dirty little secret, I hate doing laundry! That 50 yard measuring stick seemed to grow longer daily.

My feelings did not change much for the next few years. A psychologist might say it is a part of "first child syndrome" , wanting to please, to be the perfect spouse for her son, but always seeing that yardstick as way too long. We visited Mt Vernon, they visited Houston, and I kept hoping I was measuring up in her eyes, even if I wasn't in my own.

But somewhere along the way, as anyone with experience and hindsight would expect, I realized that there never was a yardstick. The thought I had during that first visit, that I did not do things well enough, could not have been further from the truth if it were on the moon. I learned that one of Jackie's driving forces was just to be of some help, in whatever way she could. Over our 30+ years of marriage, the times that Gary and I turned to her for help, guidance, or just a listening ear are innumerable . And she was always there to help.

She came down to Houston to help out after Craig and Chris were born, she and dad came to Houston to help out when we moved, she set my whole kitchen up, she babysat the kids so Gary and I could take some time for us, she helped me with sewing projects, she sewed a maternity wardrobe for me not once, or twice, but three times, she sewed clothes for the kids. The list goes on, but the reality was that Jackie was never more than a phone call, or later, an Instant Message, away and the answer was always "Yes!"

Looking at my "friends list" online these past few days has been difficult. Someone is missing. I found myself waiting for her name to pop up so I could say hello one more time. But mostly, I wanted it to pop up so I could say something I have wanted to say for a while, but did not realize it until this past week. Mom, I hope I can measure up to the mother-in-law yardstick when I become a mother-in-law myself . If I can, somehow I think you will be smiling!