SOUTH MAIN MUSE: Jamie Miles
“Mothers, Thank you for loving us. Whether or not you should.”
“Somewhere in my youth and childhood, I must have done something good.”
That is me and I don’t get it. How on earth the world’s most hopeless daughter-in-law ended up with one of the best mother-in-laws to exist? EVER.
Twenty years ago, I married Nancy Miles’ son. Twenty years and she still thinks I am the greatest. I’m not the greatest. I’m more bottom-rung, bargain basement daughter-in-law material.
Each year all the Miles families gather at the beach for vacation. Her son-in-law and other daughter-in-law spring up and down as popcorn. Jim, the ever ready lifeguard and child wrangler, is forever grabbing flashlights for nighttime crab hunts and tirelessly, patiently undoing tangled fishing lines. After fishing with children for 15 minutes, I fashion myself a fish line noose. Then there’s Jenny doing loads of laundry, emptying sinks full of dishes, wiping countertops, preparing food and sweeping the floor. It’s seems exhausting for the poor girl, though I enjoy gazing upon her ever-present flurry of attending songbirds and forest bunnies.
I’m best helping Poppa finish his crossword, taking three hour bike rides in bright sunshine and staying hard at work prematurely aging my skin at water’s edge. For who could do that better than I?
You’d think a tight-lipped suggestion, shake of the head or smallest sigh of exasperation might escape Nannie’s lips. Never. In 20 years, there’s been no barging in unannounced. She’s never disparaged needing a machete to cut a pathway through the clutter while visiting. She begs to take the children and remains the biggest fan of my writing. Like the song from “The Sound of Music,” somewhere along life’s beaten footpath, I must have done something good to deserve this unadulterated, unmerited affection.
But, I haven’t. It’s just plain old, selfish me; a simple soul with often the best of intentions, but not the strongest follow through. I’d be mortified for you to know how few times I entertain my dear mother-in-law, do thoughtful things or mention her in this column for pity’s sake. Yet she loves me so. It defies explanation.
Other than grace.
In Christian circles, “grace” seems to be the phrase of the moment. Though I tend to buck against popular platitudes du jour; in this case, I’m stumped for any other reason. Grace: adoration, affection and admiration so undeserved. A gift from a love-filled heart.
Dear Nannie, your devotion to me (as to all your children, in-laws and grandchildren) is hard to grasp. Like grace from heaven – basking in that kind of acceptance only softens and expands my soul. Two words seem woefully insufficient, but it’s a start.
Thank you, Nannie. Written with great admiration and love from the one clinging to the bottom-rung. Happy Mother’s Day to all.
Printed in the May 7, 2009 edition.