And That’s When I First Knew My Mother In Law Was Crazy


It’s an amazing thing.

Hindsight transports me back in time and allows me to travel through twenty years of marriage all over again. With hindsight (and an oversized box of wine), I’ve been able to zero in on the precise moment when I first discovered that my in-laws were crazy. Nuts.

I never noticed the familiarity to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest until many years later.

I was blinded.

By love.

By a growing family.

By the little voice inside that urged me to, “RUN!” I honestly thought I was supposed to jump on the treadmill. Not flee to another country.

The moment I realized that my in laws were, in fact, completely crazy was at my rehearsal dinner the night before my wedding. It was the first time that my extended family was meeting my in laws outside of my bridal shower. I was so excited for the families to hang out and get to know each other in a more relaxed environment!

Maybe I was the one who was actually crazy?

I remember it like it was yesterday. Our two families were together in a big open room, a senior citizens center in the small town where the wedding was taking place, enjoying a catered Italian meal that my mother-in-law had arranged for us. It was definitely not fancy, and that was fine with me! We ate spaghetti, salad and garlic bread from plastic plates and plastic utensils. We sipped lemonade and iced tea from red solo cups! It was casual, I thought it was the beginning of two families blending together and living happily ever after.
(Those plastic utensils will be back later in the story, so pay attention!)

After we finished eating I excitedly passed out my gifts to my bridesmaids and to my husband’s groomsmen. We began to get up from the table and mingle around together. The groomsmen quickly discovered there was actually a pool table tucked away upstairs and they disappeared up there with their brand new beer mugs, engraved with their names, to enjoy a game of pool together on my husband’s last night as a single man.

All the ladies were left downstairs talking when someone, maybe it was my mother-in-law I don’t remember, asked if anyone had thought to stick a deck of cards in their purse.

My husband’s two grandmothers were there, both in their late 70’s, and both quickly pulled both a deck of cards and a Mason jar of poker change from their purse! They were so disappointed that no one else had brought their poker money with them. Surely we could have had a rousing poker tournament right there at the dinner table!

To my rehearsal dinner.

Poker change. At my rehearsal dinner?

You see, my husband’s family was raised where you sit around at family birthday parties, and even Christmas gatherings and play poker, drink beer, and tell wild stories late into the night. My family, on the other hand, was Baptist…in every sense of the word. No gambling. No drinking. No partying late into the night.

I will never, ever forget the look on my own grandmother’s face when she realized that the other two grandmas in the room were card carrying, poker change carrying, hard core fans of gambling! These ladies wouldn’t even consider playing solitaire if there weren’t a chance to win a few bucks in the end.

That’s when I knew we were in trouble. But I still hadn’t realized that they were crazy!

As I was chuckling to myself about the grandmothers and their differences, and disappointment that no one else had gambling money with them, I wandered upstairs to find my fiancée and tell him what had happened.
Just as I arrived upstairs my sister, the maid of honor, came rushing upstairs to get me. She was frantic and out of breath, and at first I thought she was crying hysterically! After I got her calmed down enough to talk I realized she was actually laughing so hard she was crying!

“Your mother-in-law to be is downstairs digging through the trashcan!” She manages to gasp out between fits of giggles.

“She what?” I’m sure I misunderstood. Maybe the trash bag broke and she’s trying to keep from making a mess while emptying it? Something must surely explain why she is digging through the trash at her son’s rehearsal dinner…right?

“She said there is absolutely no reason why everyone threw away the plastic silverware, cups and even plates so she is digging them back out to wash them and reuse them again at the graduation party next week!” More laughter, more tears. Now everyone in the room—basically our entire wedding party—is gathered around to see what the excitement is!

Okay, there has to be a logical explanation for this, I think to myself as I head back downstairs. Who goes through the trash to get plastic forks out, wash and reuse them?

No one, that’s who!

No one, but my mother-in-law!

Sure enough, when I get downstairs I find her hunched over the trash can, mumbling under her breath about how she paid for this silver ware and she’s damn well getting it back out so she doesn’t have to pay for more and use it at the graduation party she is throwing next week for her daughter.

To this day every single member of my family and my wedding party will randomly bring up our rehearsal dinner to talk about how the grandma’s came prepared to play poker, and my mother-in-law dug through the trash to retrieve used, disposable table ware so she could reuse it.

She was eco-friendly before eco-friendly was cool, that’s for sure! To this day, twenty some years later, plastic utensils are used at family holidays and gatherings, and they are always saved, washed and reused. I’ve often asked her why we don’t use the regular silverware instead, after all at least that stuff can be tossed into the dishwasher instead of hand washed. She looks at me like I’m the one who is crazy.

Maybe I am the crazy one after all?

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