Ever since I started writing for the newspaper my mother-in-law has been harassing me nonstop about one thing: to roast her. Not physically, because that is disturbing on every level, but comically. A comedy roast is when you take a person and put them in the hot seat and go round and round making jokes about them. It’s a concept I’ve always hated. Half the time it’s not funny, it’s just mean and sarcastic. By nature I’m neither.
I may or may not be saying that my father-in-law is both of those things. Just kidding (he’s not mean). It took me years to understand his sense of humor. I wasn’t raised with sarcasm so it took me a while to figure it out. At first it was something to tolerate, then I learned to enjoy it. I was chaste to dry humor, it seemed cold and rude. Now that I personally know this guy, it makes me laugh and I can appreciate a good wisecrack, preferably deadpan. I don’t tune it out anymore and I’m realizing we’re a lot alike. After 13 years (but legally eight and a half) I’ve learned to appreciate a lot about him as my own father, which is one of the most important bonds in life.
The only difference is I’m not comfortable calling my in-laws “Mom” and “Dad” to their face, it’s just too weird for me. It’s too soon. Plus they have nice names, so why waste them? I’m forever grateful and will love them forever.
That whole last bit was to sum up my mother-in-law’s wishes. If she’s the type of woman to marry that type of man, she can handle this. The whole idea of writing a roast versus performing a roast in person is the fear that the correct understanding can be lost if not written correctly. Because we all know with mothers-in-law, miscommunication neeeeever happens. She keeps begging me, but I can’t help but think what idiot would actually oblige a request like this? Here I go.
What’s worse then a terrible mother-in-law? A great one. When my mother-in-law and I introduce each other, we call ourselves, “in-love’s.” It’s sort of a hippy talk term of endearment, but I like it. Her name is Dea. Not Dee, like the letter, but Dea like Mama Mia! It’s Dea! Dea has long luscious hair and mine is starting to feel like a comb over. She sings like a bird and I sing like a frog. Even the negative things about her are actually positive! Her struggle to keep a house clean with six kids means my husband never bats an eyelash unless something is actually growing out of our sink. Her fine cuisines of le Top Ramen brainwashed him into thinking a bowl of cereal is a decent dinner. Dea made my husband a big brother to four little sisters, which means he can handle his wife being the youngest little sister in her own family. Any way you slice it, she’s great!
Dea has six kids; I married the oldest who is 30 and has a beard, so “kid” doesn’t seem like the right word, but oh well. When we first got married I told him to cut the umbilical cord, because his mama’s boy tendencies were showing. When we had our first newborn, he’d call her for advice, because she’s had six kids and “would know.”
Understandable, but she was this holy grail of motherhood and I felt like this crippled amateur. She had six incredible natural births. I only had two, so who cares, right? (But if I have a third baby I’m naming it Anesthesia and taking my epidural cocktail on the rocks.) I feel like parents to six or more kids makes you Chief of a village and that’s respectable. Comedian Jim Gaffigan describes having his fourth child as, “imagine you’re drowning and someone hands you a baby.” I admire anybody’s skills at parenting, but people with a million (six or more) kids are like kindergarten teachers. Amazing. Truthfully, Dea is my hero.
Here’s the thing: Love is patient, kind, doesn’t envy, isn’t proud, and doesn’t brag. It honors others and is honest in general. It’s not quick tempered and keeps no record of wrongs. It protects, trusts, hopes, and always perseveres. Dea and I understand these things to be the real value of successful love. She wiped my husband’s baby butt for years and somehow raised him to be the man I love more than anything. She constantly encourages our family and I appreciate that I can pick up the phone to call her for just about anything.
Someday I hope to be that kind of mother-in-love to my own son’s future wife. Not just a mother figure, but a friend.
Kasi McClure enjoys being a wife and mother of two in Kenai. She can be reached at email@example.com.