#2...The first impression I had of this woman was a surprised and delighted, "She doesn't hate me!", which had been my previous experience. It was the early 1980s, and I was in my early 20s.
MIL #2 was a tiny woman, bird-like in her build and movement, which was surprising when faced with the knowledge that she was the biological mother of ten children. Her life was consumed with babies and child-rearing, filled with the existence of the stereotypical Farm Wife of another generation, at it's most basic, day-to-day hard work and unending responsibility. Her husband was 20-some years older than her, a strict disciplinarian, a typical steely mid-west farmer with extraordinarily conservative and outdated views about women, including the very Christian mindset of "obedience" and "submission".
It wasn't until I had known this woman for sometime that I realized her gentle voice and smiling demeanor cloaked strong opinions, true feelings, and sometimes harsh criticisms, all of which were rarely revealed.
What did I learn from this woman?
I learned a lot. I saw for the first time what the intrinsic link and connections can be like in a large family. I learned the ethics of hard work, the idea of sticking together as a group-- loyalty, and the idea of sacrificing to help out and support family members (especially in time of need). I learned that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar; and that sometimes it works to everyone's advantage to keep negative thoughts to yourself and work around them. I learned that it's okay to accept your lot in life, even if it's not ideal, and to run with it, to grow from it at the same time you're moving away from it. I learned the importance of a true and deep connection with Spirituality and how it can shape your life and your relationships.