Monday, April 09, 2007

Mom's vase

Even after 13+ years of marriage, it's still sort of awkward-feeling for me to call my mother-in-law *mom*, but I'm getting better about it. I never felt comfortable calling my father-in-law *dad* or even *Hank* as he would have preferred it, instead it was always the formal Mr. followed by our family name. That was just as well, I guess; he couldn't often seem to even remember my name, and instead called me *girl* with the sweetest Southern drawl. The rest of his daughters-in-law were not so tenderly regarded as I.

She's been bugging me for the last year or so to choose a piece of crystal from her china cabinet that I'd like to have. I've avoided doing so, partly because I have no need of any crystal, but more because I understand the thinking that's behind her wanting to give away these treasured things. She's been thinking and talking that way for a few years now since my father-in-law passed away. For a very long time she was depressed and talked of wanting to go be with her dear Hank. Her first great-grandchild seems to have turned her around and I'm glad for that, but still she has this need to give away her things.

So I relented yesterday and took this Waterford crystal vase and filled it with roses. It's the perfect size for a small bouquet of very short-stemmed flowers, yet seems out of place in my no frills early americana style dining room. I like that sort of contrast and how it reminds me of her and how different our lives are. I chose it because rather than being something to be treasured and tucked away, it's a beautiful thing that I can put to use. And my taking it made her happy.


Larry said...

I remember my sister wanting to give me one of her poetry books before she passed away from cancer a two years ago. I didn't want to take it but I'm glad to have it now.

maggie said...

Have you read, The Giving Tree? The true gift is that of happiness. Very sweet.

Susan Gets Native said...

My mom talked that way for quite a while after Dad died.
You made your MIL happy, and that's important.

bunnygirl said...

As weird as it makes you feel, take what seems fair when it's offered. This is a stage many older people seem to go through, and if you and your husband don't take the offered items, she will likely give them away to someone else.

I didn't know this when my grandmother started giving things away. Besides my mother's high school picture, the only things I wanted of my grandmother's were a favorite set of glasses, a Mother Goose book, and one of Grandpa's pipes. Stupid me, I never took them when I had the chance, thinking there would always be tomorrow. Grandma threw them out or gave them away in one of her paring down fits, and I never had my chance.

So as strange as it may feel, please take your MIL at her word each and every time she tries to give you things, especially if she has items with sentimental value for you or your husband.

And that's a lovely vase, btw. With as many nature walks as you go on, I bet it will get a lot of use!

Lynne said...

I'm glad you see that it made her happy to ive you that gift. I think often it is more important for the gift giver.

TDharma said...

Laura, it is a sweet vase and perfect for the rose buds. I think it works well with early American! I love Waterford crystal - used to have a whole set of wine and chamagne glasses. Let them go in the divorce.

I know a lot of old folks who really do want to 'unload' all the stuff they have, and want to make sure that their loved ones taken them and keep them. I know it feels kind of weird, but it's like the compulsion to cook for your kids when they visit. I was hardly a cook while my daughter was growing up, and now every time she stops by I try to ply her with food and drink.

Take the kind offerings and thank her for her thoughtfulness (I know you did this). It will be a treasure that will remind you of her for many years to come.

I do, however, have a horrid oil painting that my older sister's husband gave me, saying, "well, you ARE an artist and I knew you'd appreciate this...." How'd ya like to take that off my hands, hmmm?

Laurie said...

My mom insisted on giving me her antique china cups before her final illness. I was really hesitant, for many reasons, but it pleased her greatly knowing I had them, so it was worth it.

Jayne said...

Laura, it's just like I felt when my MIL threw me a "shower-tea" (add a Savannah accent when you say it) when we got married. I ended up with more crystal than I would ever need in a lifetime, which pretty much stays in the cabinet as I've never used it.

But, one special sweet piece like this fits perfectly, and like you said, can be actually used and enjoyed. I know that in years to come, each time you get it out to use it, you will have special warm memories of her gift. Just perfect. :c)

Mary said...

You did the right thing.

This post was delightful but difficult for me to read, in a way. For the last few years of my Mom's life, she insisted I take things every time I saw her. She gave me old photographs and all of her jewelry a few years ago except for her wedding rings which I have now. It made her happy and sometimes if I tried to refuse her offers, it made her unhappy.

Once I commented on how much I loved her new table lamps. She told me she wasn't crazy about them and before I knew it, I had them off the tables and in the back of my car.

It made her happy!

vicki said...

I actually think it's helpful for older people to begin to share their thoughts and feelings about what remains when they are gone- who will cherish and value their legacy. This is a lovely vase and it's all good.

I pegged you today at my place because I do really feel that about you as a blogger. Sorry about the homework attached to it. ;-)

vicki said...

P.S. I received 2 Waterford vases as gifts 30 years ago- and they had nothing remotely to do with my style or taste. I still have them, still love them, still bring them out to sparkle around the holidays.

Pam/Digging said...

Sometimes it really is better to receive than to give, especially if it makes someone who loves you happy.

Cathy said...

Bless you Laura. It looks beautiful there among your warm and comfortable possessions.

After a really rocky start I made myself call my mother-in-law - Mom. The first few times it was awkward. Overtime it became natural and felt right. I wonder if losing a parent somehow makes the appellation 'Mom' when applied to someone else - feel like a betrayal.

Sandy said...

At least it is pretty Laura.
My mom is at that stage, too. I guess they want their treasures in a good home.

Are your bunnies happier today?

KGMom said...

Laura--as I was reading your post, and looking at the photo of the vase, I thought--that's a Waterford. Then you ID'd it. You see, I have one just like it--only we bought mine in Ireland.
As for your MIL asking you to take something--it is a true gift. After someone is gone, they can't tell you that something has a special meaning. By receiving the vase now, it brings double pleasure--to you, but more so to you MIL.

LauraHinNJ said...

KGMom: There's sort of an interesting story that goes along with this particular Waterford. My MIL says that it's one of a kind; a young friend of the family was living with them for a time (my MIL was forever - and still is) taking in people with nowhere else to go. This friend worked at the local factory or outlet or whatever and this piece was meant to be a much larger vase, but was somehow broken. So this friend retooled it into the much shorter vase I have now. I'm probably missing some important details, but that's the gist of the story, at least.

LauraHinNJ said...

Sandy: Yes, finally feeling a little better I think.

Cathy: I've sort of wondered about that also. I was so young when my mother passed away that she's still *mommy* in my mind. My MIL doesn't have to worry about me calling her that!

Pam/digging: Hi, yes that's a wonderful way to put it, I think. It's hard to be gracious about getting things, though.

Vicki: I appreciate the accolade, but not the homework!


*Thinking blogger* that I am (ha!) I'll need to ponder it for a bit more.

Your psych training is showing in your comment; I will have to write her a nice thank you note to let her know just how much I will cherish the vase and her legacy. Thank you for that bit of inspiration!

Mary: So did you really like those lamps or were you just being polite?


My dad wasn't so concerned with giving things, as he was with buying me stuff, even when he couldn't afford it. The exception was his worry that I get my mom's things - especially her china and silverware! I don't own a china cabinet; have no room for one in my tiny house, but I have at least 3 different sets of china stored in my attic. I barely know how to cook, never mind what to do with so much fancy dinnerware!

Jayne: Ha! When I got married I didn't go in for the whole china thing (see comment above) and didn't register like brides do. I think most of my shower guests were probably annoyed with me for having to come up with other ideas for gifts!

Laurie: How sweet - I hope you use them once in a while and think of her. Like everyone has said, I guess it's important to accept those gifts for the sentiment that's behind them.

Tara: Hiya stranger! Nice to see you. So where's that painting??

Your mention of food and cooking reminded me of something with my dad. Through most of junior high and high school I had to fend for myself with lunch (ate lots of hot pretzels and creamsicles from the school cafeteria), but when I was in college my dad suddenly started fixing my lunch every day and sent me off with a brown bag full of the most tasty things. It struck me as so strange at the time (and sort of embarassing!), but your comment kind of makes me understand better what he was thinking then seeing me growing up and away.

Lynn: You're back! Yea - it's a really pretty vase and I'll use it lots and thank her often.


Bunnygirl: Thanks, I'm sorry you didn't get those things of your grandma's.

When my grandparents passed away, my aunt gave me back all the little things that I had given them through the years - mostly handmade sorts of things. She had this pair of wooden shoes I would've loved to have, but I'm sure all my cousins felt the same way about them.

Susan: It's hard to hear it! My inlaws were married forever - more than 60 years if I remember right.

Maggie: No - but I know the book and probably have it around here somewhere. Thanks for the suggestion, though.

Larry: Sorry to hear about your sister. Was it poetry she had written or a collection of her favorites? Either way it must be a treasure.

Larry said...

It was a book of poems she gave me with some of her own poems inside.

Kelly said...

Aw, what a sweet post. Thank you so much for sharing this. Your home sounds intriguing! Do you have photos of your interior decor online?