Saturday, October 16, 2021

The Mother-in-Law

Lynn and Mary Lou,
Thanksgiving 1957

It's October 16, the birth date of my half-sister's mother, Mary Lou Jocelyn (Bowen) Sellers James.  During the past few years I have been trying to document my memories of Mary Lou both for my sister and myself.

My family was unusual for its time.  My sister and her mother lived with us for a while when I was younger.  We were a relatively early "blended family."  So I actually knew Mary Lou.

I still haven't figured out if there's an existing term in English that accurately describes our relationship.  She wasn't my stepmother, because she was married to my father before his marriage to my mother.  A pre-stepmother?  Pre-mother?  Ante-mother?  I bet Yiddish has a word for it.  But still family, whatever the term.

One of the more interesting stories that Mary Lou told me was about when she and my father were first married.  They had been friends prior to that and skating partners, but apparently not really romantically involved.

I don't know what Nana, my maternal grandmother, thought of Mary Lou prior to the marriage, but — at least according to Mary Lou, who sometimes "embellished" her stories — she had specific misgivings about her new daughter-in-law that manifested right after they were married.

The wedding night must have been spent at Nana's home.  Mary Lou told me that the next morning, Nana went upstairs to inspect the bed sheets to ensure that her daughter-in-law hadn't been fooling around with anyone, I guess including my father, prior to marrying my father.

That sure can set a tone for a marriage.  I guess it's amazing that it lasted as long as it did (just under five years on paper, although it may have been less than that in person).  Coincidentally, the divorce was finalized on Mary Lou's birthday.

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