Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Love Light

MIL. That’s me a Mother In Law. This is something I never really envisioned, dreamed about or planned for, but here I am in the middle of it. I’ve written a lot about my two beautiful daughters-in-law, but have I mentioned my son-in-law?

An oldies song “Mother In Law” is stuck in my head. You can click on the link and listen. It’s a scary song and rehearses the stereotypes of women in my position. It's sung from the son-in-law's perspective; one line sums up the strife: "If she leaves us alone/ we would have a happy home." Ugh.  I hope no one ever says that about me.

I can see that there is a tendency to adversity between son in law and mother in law because the mother is used to being her daughter’s confidante, protector, greatest fan, etc. And suddenly she’s displaced. I can understand mothers of daughters feeling friction or jealous or annoyed or even bereft. Her daughter no longer twirls through the kitchen or sings while vacuuming.  There's a terrible void when a daughter leaves home for good.

Everything is different. She asks his opinion first, shares her dreams and goals with him, and in every way prefers him. That’s how it should be and no one who really thought about it would want her daughter’s marriage to be any less.  I mean, they did promise. It seems it should be the mother-in-law's duty and privilege to support that promise cost her what it may.

But change is difficult. Though I can see why the stereotypes have come to be, I'm going to try with all my might not to be a witch (spell that any way you want). I'm going to try because I've seen the "love light."

Sir James M. Barrie writes about this mysterious phenomenom in his novel The Little Minister. The quote below introduces the book's main idea. The setting and dialect need a bit of introduction: Thrums is a village in Scotland where weavers work on looms in their humble homes to make the tartan wool cloth made famous there. The Scots dialect makes contractions by adding the syllable "na" so the American "didn't" in Scots is "didna." And the word "een" can be understood as "eyes."

"Long ago... a minister of Thrums was to be married, but something happened, and he remained a bachelor. Then, when he was old, he passed in our square the lady who was to have been his wife, and her hair was white, but she, too, was still unmarried. The meeting had only one witness, a weaver, and he said solemnly afterwards, 'They didna speak, but they just gave one another a look, and I saw the love-light in their een.' No more is remembered of these two, no being now living ever saw them, but the poetry that was in the soul of a battered weaver makes them human to us for ever."

I know what Barrie is talking about.  I've seen the love light and it is not something to be ignored.  It's magical, rare and truthful.

Here's how it happened: one Sunday evening, Andrew and Valerie had a date. When she answered his knock at our front door wearing her beautiful, eager smile and a new dress, he stepped in and his eyes met hers. I saw “the love light” in Andrew’s eyes.

I know you’ve seen "the love light" before in someone’s eyes. The eyes are brighter as if lit from the depths and their expression is soft and awakened at the same time. I knew then, that Andrew loved Valerie.
The next weekend they were hanging out in our back yard. I was in the kitchen (as usual) at the sink looking out the window. They had chosen to sit at the little café table right under the kitchen window, so I wasn’t spying – just cooking and cleaning up (as usual). Valerie sat with her back to the window, but I could see Andrew’s face. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but I knew they were talking about plans. The “love light” let me see how serious Andrew’s love for Valerie was.

This has proven true in his actions. Andrew has won my heart and respect just by being himself.  I will never forget Andrew’s strength and kindness when Valerie crashed her car one month before Clare was born. He could have been irritated, could have been disappointed, but as soon as he got to the scene of the accident, he took her in his arms and said something like, “the only thing that matters is that you’re okay.” He had already arranged to take Valerie to her doctor, and did so. The love light has proven steady and bright.

The accident was difficult for Valerie, but Andrew saw her through the emotions it raised. He listened, reassured her, found her a new car and helped her regain the courage to drive it. I told him then that I’d never forget his kindness to her and I won’t. It's almost as if that love light has begun to pervade his being. He was all I could have asked for her. He knows how to be her dearest friend.

Did I mention that Andrew can build anything? He helped me refinish the rocking chair for the baby’s room, build shelves for all sorts of oddly shaped things in our basement, put a gorgeous new door on their home and now he’s remodeling their kitchen. He can make anything he builds look like a work of art!  I'm grateful that they are working together to build a home. I know it will be a home filled with love.

When their baby was born, Andrew stood like a mountain beside my daughter. He wasn’t squeamish or selfish; if he was nervous, he didn’t show it. A deep and original thinker, he was well-prepared from all the reading he did and had, in his mind, a well of helpful information. He helped her give birth and welcomed their little daughter with love, joy and his steady, cheerful, imaginative dedication.
  When a glimpse of the love light is seen by a bystander (or mother), a bit of the person's dreams and joy have been witnessed.  This capacity to love is something precious- a glimmer of the person's most noble humanity.  It is the reflection of God's image shining from the deepest heart's core.  That makes it something to be sheltered, protected and celebrated.  Rather than try to blow it out, or smother it, I hope this MIL I can break all the stereotypes and give this man the support, respect and affection that the love light has inspired within me.
may their love light continue to shine

You know I love poetry so I've included the lyrics to "Mother In Law." The poetry's not truly "ungood" but based on the importance of nurturing that love-light, it is the scariest song I know and therefore worth reading.
 "Mother In Law"
by Ernie K-Doe
The worst person I know Mother-In-Law Mother-In-Law
She worries me so Mother-In-Law Mother-In-Law

If she leaves us alone we would have a happy home
Sent from down below Mother-In-Law, Mother-In-Law
Mother-In-Law, Mother-In-Law
I come home with my pay
She asks me what I make
She thinks her advice is a contribution but
if she will leave that will be the solution
Mother-In-Law Mother-In-Law
Mother-In-Law Mother-In-Law
Every time I open my mouth
She steps in and tries to put me out
How could she stoop so low Mother-In-Law Mother-In-Law
Mother-In-Law Mother-In-Law


  1. Oh, YES! Suddenly everything said and done has to be weighed and weighed again so as not to unintentionally give offense!! And if the Love Light can be seen and remembered, it is so much easier to let go. As Christ shows us His Love Light, we can endure, for our children's sake, for He looks upon them also with His Heavenly Love Light.... - Lisa M.

  2. Loris, you had me crying. I am so touched by this post. It has to be one my favorite readings on blogs so far. Just loved it. I have three sons and one step daughter that I am not as close to as my sons. I worry about the whole step daughter thing and have not experienced this yet. Thank you for posting such a lovely post and making us think about things. Steph

  3. I SO wish more people would have read this. I think you should re-post the link on Facebook. Sorry it took me so long to read it. I have been thinking that I really do have the 5 BEST brothers-in-law in the entire world. Eric, Karl, Jimmy, Jake.....Andrew is a welcome addition to the bunch...and hopefully,... eventually.... one more will be addedd to this marvelous group.