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Open Features: My Mother-In-Law

Marianne Hall tells of monumental mother-in-law problems.

“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself.
They come through you, but not from you.
And though they are with you,
They do not belong to you.
Who they become has less to do with who you are
than who they are.
You may give them your love,
but not your thoughts or values.
By your example, you show a way that is your’s,
as they search for theirs.
You are the bow from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The Archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite
and He bends you with His might
His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending, in the Archer’s hand,
be steadfastly true to yourself.
For even as He loves the arrow that flies
so too does
He love the bow that is strong and stable.” -
Omar Khayyam


My mother-in-law and I did not exactly hit it off when we first met. We were like chalk and cheese. She eyed me with great suspicion and, no doubt, thought I was not good enough for her precious son. We clashed time and time again.

Take the matter of socks, for example. She knitted all his woollen socks. How was I to know they would shrink when washed in very hot water?

She complained that I was feeding him meat THREE times a day. The bugger wanted meat for breakfast, lunch and supper.

She refused to learn Afrikaans, claiming it was kitchen “Dutch” – emphasis on the word Dutch – I am a Hollander. She was always going “back home” – to where I wonder? She was born in France.

Wherever we went she would tag along. She actually accompanied us on our first wedding anniversary!

After her husband died she became very demanding. Bob, my husband, would dash down to her house whenever she clicked her finger –a daily occurrence.

She was feeling very ”poorly” at one time, so very much against my wishes she moved into our house. The girls were not too charmed when one of their beds was moved into the lounge to accommodate her. Sleeping head to toe caused a lot of arguments. I would close the intermediary door a night only to find in open in the morning.

Then, when Bob was called up for army training at Potchefstroom it just so happened that the outside of the house needed painting!

She went home eventually, much to everyone’s relief. Then she announced that she felt that she was unable to cook for herself and was starving. Bob tried everyone – the hotel across the road, the boarding house nearby, but no one was prepared to send her a plate of food for fear of criticism.

We took her caravanning with us once. BIG MISTAKE!! She occupied the double bunk in the Musketeer which was right at the entrance to the caravan. Her favourite expression was “Jesus wept”. Every time the girls and their friends made their way to the single bunks at the back of the van, they would knock into the bed on which she was sleeping. Well, there must have been a bucketful of tears the following morning. In the meantime, Bob and I had to make do on stretchers which kept on collapsing!

One day, Bob came home looking very worried. Someone had told him that there was no sign of life at “mum’s” house – the curtains were all drawn. So we rushed down. On opening the front door we found her sitting in a rocking chair, motionless. She looked very grim without her teeth. It looked as if “rigor mortis” had already set in.

Bob touched her gingerly on the shoulder.

She shot up, her eyes as big as saucers!

“What! What!”

I lost it.

“You are a real muss, you are! Here’s your hubby a-mouldering in his grave with the weeds growing a-top of him while you pretend to be at death’s door!” I shouted.

Within a trice we were on our way to the cemetery. Shortly afterwards I heard a lot of shouting and arguing coming from the office. I stayed in the car. Of course, Bob was designated to the task of tidying up the gravesite.

She eventually moved into an old age home. I would traipse along. She ignored me completely. She would buy a very big pie and give this to Bob with great pomp and ceremony intimating that he was starving.

To her credit she baked the most scrumptious pies. She was a milliner and could make beautiful hats. Both she and her husband were always ready to babysit.

My husband’s ashes are in a crypt at the Primrose cemetery. This crypt overlooks his mother’s grave.

I have given strict instructions in my Will that my remains are to be thrown off Table Mountain – let’s hope the wind is not blowing in the wrong direction!

There is no way that I am going to face my mother-in-law for the rest of eternity!


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