Monday, January 11, 2010

To My Mother-In-Law, on her birthday

My mother-in-law turns 80 today. We celebrated last night with dinner at a restaurant in Old Montreal. We were snug and cosy within its thick stone walls and heavy beams and soft lights. The building was used as a stable almost 300 years ago by the Sisters of Charity or Grey Nuns, and is situated near the original Huron settlement of Hochelaga, discovered by explorer Jacques Cartier in 1535 and Samuel Champlain in 1641. I sat quietly, steeped in the history of this place, and looked out onto the courtyard filled with snow and twinkling lights, happy and blessed to be surrounded by the large family I married into 25 years ago.

We sat with as many family members as could make it. Some were away at university, and some live out of town, but most of us live within a few minutes of each other and so we came together last night to celebrate this incredible mother of five. Her ten grandchildren refer to each other collectively as The Cousins. Whenever an event is planned, the first question is always, "Are The Cousins going to be there?" They grew up together, played sports together, vacationed and double-dated and laughed and cried together. As their parents, we shared advice and babysitting and recipes and seats on the sidelines of soccer or hockey games. Through the ups and downs of life, we've been there for each other.

And so we wanted to celebrate the matriarch of this wonderful family, and with my husband's permission, here is what he read to his mother at dinner last night.

Dear Mother on Your Birthday,

So often the important things go unsaid. That is to say, we take for granted our thoughts and feelings and assume we are understood by those who are near and dear to us. Tonight, we want to collectively say to you Mother, on your 80th birthday, that we love you.

We have all held you dearly in our hearts each and every day, and we carry the best of you with us. By this I mean that those minutes, hours, days, months and years of care, advice, love and affection did not go wasted or unappreciated.

Your gift of unconditional love and support allowed us to enter forth into the world with joy, optimisim, kindness, affection for others, confidence and a sense of well-being, You have a successful marriage with a good man who loves you, and who was a good moral guide for us. I feel blessed by the experiences of my youth with my brothers, sister and my parents. I attribute my success in life to my family experiences. Thank you.

When I look at the table today, I see the fruit of your endeavors in the world of parenting. I see successful people and many budding successes, your grandchildren, with the youthful energy we all once had. I commend you on your most successful achievement, your family, which is your legacy.

All of us, your children, have had our challenges through out lives. Sometimes there have been tough days. We all have a sense though that we always have each other to count on. When the going gets tough, the family gets going. We all love and respect each other and will continue to alway care for, and help each other. This commitment comes from our own deep inner knowledge that we are safe, and have intrinsic value, and are loved no matter what.

This inner strength has allowed us to be attractive to others. Those of us who have chosen to marry have found love and life partnership to be very fulfilling and joyous. You have won the hearts of our spouses as well.

I also see that we have been able to pass this legacy on to our next generation which has learned through our closeness that family is important. The cousins are a band of brothers and sisters always meant to help and care for each other. They do so each and every day.

At age 80, you may wish to take stock of your life or consider the weight of your achievement in your days here on God's good green earth. What is the impact you have had, what is left behind? If the measure of success in this life is to be measured in the human capital of love, you are a very wealthy woman indeed. We can all assure you that we hold you only in the highest esteem and with love in our hearts.


kc dyer said...

Please tell your mil that if you had said she was celebrating her 65th, I would have said 'lovely picture'. You married into some great genes!


Laura Bradbury said...

. Oh My God. That was amazing. Amazing woman. Amazing son.



nightsmusic said...

Happy, happy birthday to your MIL. Many more. :)

And I thought you said your DH was a dentist! You didn't mention he could write!

Debby said...


What a nice family you have, my dear...

A Novel Woman said...

Ah, thanks everyone.

Funny, but after my husband spoke, people turned to me and said you two did a great job with that speech. I had to clarify that was 100% him. I knew nothing about it until he read it aloud at the table, and then of course, I had to hold back the tears. Which I couldn't.

BB said...

Wow - that was the kind of story and speech that ALL mothers dream of being the star of one day. Amazing. She must have just about BUSTED with pride... I almost did and I don't even know her!!

A friend of mine was farewelled from this earth yesterday - almost 700 people gathered to pay their respects and remember her with love. As many of us noted: such a shame one has to be dead to pull all those who matter together to celebrate that life.

Your MIL beat that though. Your husband is not only a looker, he's a wordsmith too. Double whammy!

Lottery Girl said...

What a beautiful story in so many ways. Our families are the most important thing, but I think that we get caught up in so many other things that we forget that.

Amazing speech from Doug. Congrats to all!

A Novel Woman said...

BB, my MIL is very modest and looked both uncomfortable and slightly in shock given all the attention paid to her. We were happy to pay homage because she is so very deserving.

LG, I think that was the exact point Doug was making. We often THINK these things, but we don't often get to express them.

Diane T. said...

You are so fortunate to have married into such a wonderful family. Such a beautiful, beautiful speech.

Anonymous said...

Such beautiful words, really lovely.You have a great family Pam.

rambling caper said...

Just lovely all around, Pam. And your m-i-l and f-i-l look so adorable and happy together.

Hey, was this the lady you mentioned in introducing your recipe "Sex in a Pan", in the EPB recipe book?