Editor’s note: Recently, James and Mary Petty wrote an article about turning mothers-in-law into mothers-in-love. Read that article here. At the end of that article, readers were asked to submit their own stories of mothers-in-love.
As a Mother’s Day tribute, here are two of their stories, plus Mary Petty’s tribute to her own mother-in-love.
I Learned from the Best – My Mother-in-Love, Arlene Patterson
By Caryol Patterson
At some point in our lives we meet someone who steals our heart. My “someone” was Kevin. We were married in 1972, and after 36 years with him he still makes my heart beat faster just being with him. He is my “everything.”
I also gave my heart to Arlene, Kevin’s mother. From Day One she was Mom. I loved her right away and we developed a close relationship. I realized from the beginning how blessed I was to have Mom. I’m sure she was also thrilled to have someone else do Kevin’s laundry and maybe convince him to eat vegetables. The laundry was taken care of but I’m still working on the veggies.
Mom had such a pure heart. She loved me unconditionally even when I didn’t deserve it. I have to admit that there were times I did not deserve it. How can you help but return that kind of love?
She was so encouraging and so positive. We struggled a great deal in those early days of our marriage. We were just too much in love to know we were struggling. But Mom and Dad were there to support and lift us, every time. She was so proud of us, especially her adorable grandchildren. They were the doting grandparents to seven wonderful kids.
There was a time back then when the “mother-in-law” jokes were being passed around and enjoyed by just about everyone. Mom never fit into that category. I could never understand anyone feeling that way about a mother-in-law because Mom was just simply not a mother-in-law. She was always my mother-in-love.
Mom was never critical of me. She was the world’s best cook, but she never failed to tell my how delicious my dinner was. She made the best gravy but it was always, “How do you make yours so tasty?” Her chocolate cake was to die for, but mine was always fabulous. She always made me feel that I really could be what she saw in me.
I remember more than a few times in tears from trying to deal with the latest challenge. She knew what I was feeling, and it was her love and assurance that kept me trying and looking for the blessings in the trial. One occasion, I was venting to her about something Kevin had said or done that had upset me. Her response was “Darn him! I’m going to have to talk to him!” She took my side!
We quickly became friends. We both loved books and sewing and crafts and shopping, and shopping, and shopping. My opinion mattered to her. I learned to appreciate her wisdom.
As Mom’s health began to fail, I spent more time with her, filling her needs and keeping her company. My sweet mother-in-love allowed me to do for her the things she couldn’t do for herself. She couldn’t cook, so I took them meals. She loved reading, so I kept her in books. She couldn’t get to the beauty shop, so I did her hair. I tried very hard to do what she had been doing for me for so many years.
She talked to me one day about how to keep going as she struggled to get down the hallway in her walker. I gave her Jess’ advice. “You just keep on ‘keepin’ on!” We both laughed at that statement from her 16-year-old grandson. She kept going through pain and difficulties. I never heard her complain.
She left us too soon. My last opportunity to talk to her was at the mortuary. It was a sweet, private conversation and so reflective on our relationship. I combed her hair for the last time, weeping at my loss. I thanked her for teaching me what is really important in life. It is love, pure and simple.
Mom taught me how to be a mother-in-love. You just love them unconditionally. Mom is more than a memory and she still has my heart. I feel her influence as I love and care for my own ”in-loves.’. I hope when I see her again I can report to her that I am also a mother-in-love because I learned from the best. I love you Mom.
Tribute to My Mother-in-Love – Karma Bean Cox
By Hal Dean Bateman (Idaho Falls, Idaho)
I too am blessed to have wonderful in-loves. I look at the qualities and traits in my wife and see them in her mother. The statement, “You are not marrying one person – you marry the whole family,” is so true. But I married into the best family in the world.
It was hard at first because my in-loves were so loved and well thought of in the community and I was from a different state and was pretty obscure. I would introduce myself as “Hello, I’m Jenny’s husband.” My wife is just as well loved as her mom was. What a tribute to these two women in my life!
When my mother-in-love passed away on Oct 7, 2007, the community lost a real gem. She was an “elect lady.” The attendance at her funeral was like a stake conference. The whole place was filled with people who loved her because she loved them.
Our four children loved Grandma Cox. Their goal on our frequent visits was to get her to laugh. Her whole body shook, and it was infectious. Soon everyone in the room was laughing. The best part of visiting Grandma Cox was seeing how many times we could get her to laugh. She finally had to shoo us away.
Cloth diapers were the staple of the day back when my wife Jenny and her sixsiblings were young. They lived on a farm, and the older children’s chores included washing out the poopy diapers in the water gushing out of the irrigation well and into the irrigation ditch. The water came out so fast, sometimes it grabbed the diapers and carried them out to the fields. Often my father-in-love would come home at night carrying a cloth diaper found along the ditch.
When our first child was born I smiled to myself when my wife bought several yards of white cloth and cut it up into diapers. The smile was quickly wiped off my face when I found out it was now one of my chores to wash out the poopy diapers in the toilet. She kept reminding me how much money we were saving by not buying those expensive throwaway diapers in the stores.
Everything I am today I owe to my mother-in-love and what she taught her daughter. We are debt-free for the most part and have sufficient food storage. Our children are paying for their own college and we are loving it because we can use those funds to help others. Our children are a reflection of what my mother-in-love taught her children who in turn taught their children. How thankful I am that I was smart enough to adopt the ways of my in-loves instead of fighting against them.
Medalou Winter Petty – “MOM,” Your Legacy on Mother’s Day
By Mary Ellen Gleason Petty, #5 Daughter-in-love
Last year in my husband James W. Petty’s “Turning the Hearts” article “The Legacy of Shirts” he wrote about our family’s Valentine’s Day experience of producing a special book about his parents’ legacy. He shared highlights about his father, Robert W. Petty, M.D. with Meridian’s readers. This Mother’s Day I celebrate our in-love relationship by sharing her legacy in a love letter to her.
You are a fulfilled woman, an elect lady with a rich legacy, Mom. In tribute to you this Mother’s Day, I share with you some remembrances that best show your legacy and lasting impact on my life and the generations to come, as you have become my mother-in-love. In our journey as we have moved together from the in-law relationship to in-love, I have come to see your creativity, your thoughtfulness, your generosity, your cute sense of humor, and your willingness to serve, all knit together through love to create our in-love relationship.
When I think of you, Mom, a cornucopia of thoughts, feelings, memories, and stories about your legacy come to mind. They reflect how you have lived your life, how you have loved your family, your friends and mankind; how you have always been a willing student and an inspiring teacher; and how you have served at home, in the community and for the Church. And now in the twilight of your years, your life is a living legacy – an inspiration, a motivator, a sense of well-done thou good and faithful servant.
I didn’t always see it as so. In the beginning you were just my mother-in-law. But life is a series of epiphanies that we all have, and if we are willing, we grow and learn from them and our hearts do turn to one another though love to fulfill God’s eternal purposes.
Let me say, first and foremost, Mom, you and Dad exemplify being of one heart and one mind, and one purpose and one soul as you have lived, loved, learned and given us all a legacy. Through your lives as children, students, and parents, as a small town doctor and doctor’s wife, as servants and missionaries in Church and the community at home and abroad, and as companions now of some 60 years, your “little bit of heaven” home has created the environment, the generosity, the acceptance, and the love of mankind that have given the greatest legacy of all, an eternal family.
And through this successful labor of love, I have your wonderful son, Jim. How I love him and am grateful Heavenly Father has given him you and Dad as parents. Thank you!
Not a special moment in our lives was missed by your creative touch. Your home has always been a showpiece – so creatively organized. Every holiday and special occasion received its unique recognition and endearing traditions – hallmarks of your wonderful talents as a wife, mother and creator. From floral arrangements that were always being updated to your elegant decorations and ornamental displays artistically placed throughout your charming WWII Provo red brick bungalow, and to meals that brought us together again and again, all was always cleverly and deliciously done in style.
These holidays especially reflect this legacy to me:
- Mother’s Day with flowers from your magnificent flower gardens on the special cake! I particularly love using lilacs on my cakes because of you;
- Birthday celebrations (called B-Day), with pictures posted on the wall – one for each year of life for the b-day boy or girl along with a musical b-day cake carousel and b-day tablecloths that come out now whenever kids eat at our table;
- The Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving with the picture perfect table and exquisitely cooked turkey in your big Frigidaire roaster, complete with the harvests from your vegetable and fruit gardens and fall canning;
- Christmas, with your holiday knickknacks from around the globe, including the big blue Christmas Calendar and many, many other decorative ornaments. You know the history of each one, and just how to place them on the tree or on the tables or around the house in all the rooms in unexpected places as they spread the sights and smells and thrill of Christmas – just like the aroma from your special stovetop bubbling clove spice;
- Halloween, with its handmade decades-old paper white ghosts and goblins, black cats, witches, and orange pumpkins hanging on threads from the ceiling and light fixtures and on the walls, cupboards and doors, all decorating Halloween on an elaborate scale long before it became the rage we see today;
- Hearts everywhere for Valentines Day;
- and of course, Patriotic displays for Lincoln and Washington’s B-days and Flag Day;
- and Easter with all the fun of Easter egg hunts and a charming spring display throughout the house.
Since that Good Friday when I married Jim in the Provo Temple, I have been blessed to have you as my mother-in-love and I too, have been the beneficiary of these talented expressions. I have had the opportunity many times over to be a copycat, and share these traditions with my five – your grandchildren, the PettyPride and their families.
Some sweet memories of these special times:
You made Jim’s and my wedding day, March 31, 1972, a forever treasure because of your generosity and ability to create beauty. Because my mother was in California, you went shopping with me from Happy Valley throughout the Salt Lake Valley in those months before Jim and I married, and helped create a princess.
You found the best Salt Lake photographer, Don Blair, to take my formal bridal pictures and then let us use Deseret News Photographer W. Claudell Johnson so every special moment of our royal day would live forever. You made sure I had a gorgeous trousseau and an elegant reception from all of my rent money you saved from G’ma Winter’s house, where I lived those last months before my wedding. You found the special lace curtain from Auerbach’s that Elva Pugh used to make my one-of-a-kind wedding dress and veil.
And you knew who made the best and most stunning cakes in town, so we went to Mrs. Backer’s Bakery on South Temple. Somehow you convinced them to let my G’ma Wilda make the carrot cake top that they decorated with a Provo Temple that Jim had carved out of Styrofoam. (Our eldest, JimR, discovered it when he was about three, but we still have some pieces to remind us of what brides had to do in the days before crystal Provo Temples.)
Remember the frog and horse you glued to little blocks of wood, complete with a bobby pin gold-colored crown for the Prince Charming Frog that you surprised us with by tucking them onto the second layer of our pastel floral decorated wedding cake? You knew how important “Mare” and “PC” (for Prince Charming) were to Jim and me, and you made sure they were there that special day! Remember the Snelgrove sherbet slush drink and the tasty candies and mints all decked out on your matching pastel party plates, cups, napkins, and table decorations? You were so thoughtful and caring to us!
And you were so generous when we got married – with the sheets and blankets, and pillows and towels, linens and tablecloths, and furniture and knickknacks, and Christmas and holiday decorations and pieces of your mother’s estate that have all become a part of what we will pass on to our children. Already her engagement ring has gone from your parents to Dad and to you and then to Jim to me and onto JimR and finally, to his Julie.
And then you gave us your parents’ special Gorham Lyric silverware service for 40 that they used when they served their mission in Canada. Thanks to this gift of gifts, one day we would be delivered from our inner city home (where we were robbed eight times). Because of the proceeds from the last robbery that included all that silverware, we finally got to buy our home on Windy Peak Corners. Now that is called the magnifying a gift – it grew way beyond its initial value at just the right time for us to move to our piece of heaven.
Above all, thank you for your generosity and kindness, and creativity – and for remembering the name of the silverware when the insurance man got hold of you in Saudi Arabia after the robbery!
Then, that special touch – your thoughtfulness. You liked to give gifts that added charm to the home. How I have loved the dishes, the stemware, the silverware, the knickknacks, the household goods that turn a domicile into a home, which you have given us down through the years. I was lucky because Jim has your artistic sense and we have worked together to create our own version of what you and Dad call home.
Today, everywhere I go, I pretend I am you, and I look for things that I can share with my children’s families that will make the holidays more festive, create an elegant table, or add charm to their homes. Thank you for your profound example and for patiently teaching us to value and appreciate beauty and order and tradition. We have worked hard to pass these on to our children.
I had the life-altering experience to go to England with you in 1988, where I was exposed to your cute sense of humor. I have never been the same since. That was the trip that transformed you from an in-law to an in-love, and I have never looked back.
I have been your daughter since we drove from the Temple in Lingfield to Preston Candover and burned out three clutches and discovered family inside and outside the church, talked late into the night and drank pink malts and had real fish and chips. We found love on the roads and in the bed and breakfasts, in the cemeteries, in the ancient churches, and in the homes of their caretakers, in the temple, in your Winter family home in Bath alongside Roman graves, in the historic sites, and in the Golden Valley.
We laughed and cried and shared our deepest thoughts as we sat together in the back of the car going by the sights – the lambs with their tails still on in the fields alongside the nuclear power plants, seeing the history of Stratford-on-Avon, Warwick Castle, and Avesbury, eating Chinese in a pub in Evesham, and the narrow hedgerows and thatched roofs of Brompton Ralph.
Thank you for wanting me to share that trip with you and for wholeheartedly inviting me into that experience. Your acceptance of me gave me the gift and legacy of your darling sense of humor. How I love seeing life with that bubbled lens now and knowing that I was loved and one of the family.
This was further enhanced when I had the opportunity to help you gather your thoughts and memories of your life in preparation for your 50th wedding anniversary July 10, 1996. I think every daughter-in-law and every son-in-law and every daughter and every son and every child should take the opportunity to write their parents’ life history – to hear it out of their parents’ mouths and to sit and discuss their lives, their service, their essence, and their remembrances with the living. It changes your life to hear first-hand the stories of a loved one. My respect, and love and admiration for you grew during the two years we worked on that project, writing down your memories.
I was completely bowled over by your experiences, your bright mind, your incredible wit, your service to others on many continents and climes, your love of family, the gospel and your country, and your friends and associates from all walks of life. How I learned to love you as I learned about your life as a small town doctor’s wife who served on three foreign missions and taught English to an Arabian Prince, the tragic loss of your only sibling, Ray, who died in WWII, your parents deep love for their ancestors and their service in the Church and with Safeway from Canada to Texas in your childhood, and your grandparents and the Easter Bunny who came in top hat to deliver decorated eggs.
You shared memories and thoughts, and feelings about each of your dear ones, from Bob and your six children – including your first child, Kathleen (who only lived 3 days) – to all of their spouses and all of your grandchildren and great-grandchildren. You had something to say about and to each one.
It meant so much to me to hear you speak about your love for them and your dreams for them, and your testimony of the gospel. I learned so much about you, your strengths, your weaknesses, your views on life, politics, history, and your personal history, your family history and your genealogy. What a tremendous experience this was – my heart was turned to you and your family like Malachi promised. I am so glad to have known and loved you in the “here and now.”
Your legacy is real, vital, and terra firma for me. Your life is a witness to me, a testimony that God is real. He loves and he cares for each one of us. He gave me you, my Mother-in-Love.
With my deepest love and affection,
Love, Mary and all the PettyPride