By: Honey Good
My daughter, Jenny, who currently lives in Arizona, lived in Chicago when this story took place. She gave birth to my second grandson, Michael, named after my late husband, Michael. I was with her when Michael came into the world. So was her mother-in-law, Serene. Actually, both of my daughters have given each of their children their grandfather’s name. We have a Robert Michael, Jonathan Michael, Jack Michael, Joshua Michael, Michael Dillon and we cannot forget my granddaughter, Skylar. Skylar was named for her grandfather who always told “his three girls” (Jenny, Lizzie and me), “I love you girls more than the sky!”
Ok, now back to the story.
Among the cast of family characters present at Michael’s birth were both of his devoted grandmothers – myself and Serene, Jenny’s mother-in-law and my rival!
In a play, every character has their role. In our family play, Serene cast herself. She was the character graciously invited over for dinner who showed up six hours early, to clean, cook, serve and do the dishes. She was not afraid to make her presence known – you couldn’t have ignored her if you tried. This was Serene, otherwise known as Bubbie.
Serene loved my daughter. Jenny was the daughter she never had. Serene was divorced with two sons who were her life. Jenny coming into her life was a dream come true. She not only loved my daughter, she adored her and Jenny adored her back! Serene did everything for Jenny. Though she could be overbearing, her heart was in the right place. She knew the garage code to my daughter’s home, showed up unannounced in hair rollers and a robe (she lived a few blocks away) with her coffee mug in hand and would make breakfast for Jenny and feed the babies! Serene’s life revolved around her family. She cooked for them, shopped for them, babysat for them for weeks at a time and bought presents for Jenny, Skylar and baby Michael! She was a Bubbie, the real McCoy grandmother!
I could not compete with Serene. For starters, I lived forty minutes away from Jenny. I was newly remarried. I was feeling my way as the Matriarch of a blended family. I wanted my new husband to know he came first because I was smart enough to know he did. I loved my daughter and my grandchildren. I just hoped the fact that I was Jenny’s mom would give me some clout.
In every family there is drama and mine is no exception. Jenny and Bruce (I call him Mrs. Doubtfire) were talking about moving to Arizona. My new husband and I live in California six months of the year and Serene lived in Chicago. Maybe my chance was right around the corner and I would finally have some alone time with my daughter and grandchildren.
I decided it was time to have a heart-to heart with Jenny. I did not hold back. I told her I was suffering and that I was jealous of the amount of time she spent with Serene. I was very dramatic using the words suffer and jealous. I wanted her to feel sorry for me, the poor left out mother and grandmother! She listened. She replied, “Mom, we have just decided we are moving to Scottsdale. We will now be closer to you six months of the year! We will have a room for you and Grandpa Shelly. The ball is in your court, Mom. Our arms are open.”
They moved. I called. “We plan on visiting you. I would love to help you unpack. We’ll have fun setting up your home -- just you and me!” I was so excited. She could hear it in my voice. She was excited. I could hear it in her voice. And, then I pleaded, “Please don’t tell Serene!” I knew if Serene found out she would not be far behind.
Of course Serene found out. She found out everything. After all, her family was her life. And off she flew to Arizona to join and share my daughter and grandchildren with me! I couldn’t believe it.
But, of course I believed it.
My daughter and I talked when I heard the news. I was beside myself. My daughter told me, “Mom, don’t worry. Serene is good with little babies. You will be their love of loves when they are older and it really counts. They will adore you mom.” And we ended our short call with her saying, “she can never be my mom.”
Bubbie arrived the same day Grandpa Shelly and Honey arrived and at almost the same time. “Oh my God,” I thought to myself. I have hardly had time to kiss my daughter and grandchildren hello and there she is, my shadow, following me every step of the way. At that moment I made a decision. I needed to have a talk with Serene.
The next day, over a cup of coffee, I opened up. I told her I was jealous of her relationship with Jenny, Michael and Skylar. I wanted and craved alone time with my daughter and grandchildren. I needed “my” time. Did she listen to me? Of course not. And as upset as I was…I loved Serene. She was always there to make a pot of Matzo Ball Soup. She was truly Bubbie. She was what every grandchild wishes for in their grandmother.
To all of my followers who deal with “the mother-in-law issue” my advice is: say what is on your mind so you do not harbor anger. Remember you cannot delete your family.
Years have passed and Bubbie has since passed away. As I write this, tears are welling up in my eyes. My grandchildren have lost a real Bubbie. Her Matzo Ball Soup recipe, cooked with love to perfection by Mrs. Doubtfire, her loving son, is served to her grandchildren at Passover. I miss sitting next to her, engaging in conversation with added laughter at my daughter Jenny’s Passover table.
I came to realize, over time, that there was a place in our grandchildren’s hearts for both of us. She was a Bubbie and I was a Honey. There was no need to compete because we both came from love! I hope this opens your eyes to realize there is no limit of how much love we can all give and receive and I wish you all more love than you know what to do with.