When my mother-in-law was 70 years-old, she frequented nightclubs with red ropes outside. While people a third of her age waited in long lines, in freezing temperatures, bouncers all over New York City ushered her in. Have you been to Lavo? she’d ask my daughter-in-law and my daughter. (She skipped right over me, the one who enjoys author readings and likes to eat dinner by 7pm.)
Any other fabulous places I should go? she wanted to know.
Obviously, my mother-in-law has spunk. But she has grace and wisdom too.
Widowed, she knew enough about herself to know she didn’t want to be alone. She joined an online dating service, attended fundraisers and parties for singles. At one of these events, she met a lovely man from South Africa, and within a few months, they were married. I am not exaggerating when I say he is one of the most pleasant and kind people I know.
Women who know my mother- in- law say she should give classes.
The class might be titled:
Set Your Sights On A Goal And Never (Ever, Ever, Ever) Give Up.
I've learned some important things from my mother-in-law.
- Always hold on to the banister when you walk down stairs.
- Everything you say to someone registers. Even if they appear to not be listening, it festers in the back of their head, so say what you have to say.
But mostly, I've learned from watching her.
On Friday nights before Shabbat, Syrian families sometimes gather for what is known as maza, or Syrian appetizers. Maza is a middle eastern tradition and typically, kibbe is served. Kibbe is made of bulgar and is stuffed with spiced chopped meat and deep fried.
There is no telling how far back this tradition goes, centuries I’m sure, but this past summer, in an effort to bring her family together, one of her most important values, she started her own tradition. Wanting to please young and old alike, instead of inviting everyone in her rather large family over for maza (nobody wants to eat fried meat and dough anymore) she invited us for Cookies and Cocktails.
She might be one to do away with kibbe but she definitely hasn’t updated her views on marriage. She thinks everyone should be married. And the sooner the better. So my 24 year-old single daughter is a subject that perplexes her. When my daughter was hesitant to go on a blind date, my mother-in-law told her, “Just go for a drink. What’s the big deal? I would go for a drink with the mailman.”
My mother-in-law is a beautiful woman and she takes good care of herself. Exercise may include a brief walk in high heels, usually the length of 2 department store windows, but she watches what she eats. She is known to eat only half of everything. She eats half a main course, half a cookie, half a muffin.
"But what if it’s a mini muffin?” one of her children challenge. “Then you can have the whole thing.”
But she won’t.
She has her way of thinking.
She’s been travelling a lot lately: South Africa, Israel, Mexico, St. Barthes, Turkey, Spain, Portugal.
But please don't misunderstand. My mother-in-law has had her challenges. Her best quality is her attitude.
The class she should teach: A Positive Mind, A Positive Life.