Tom and I were driving up to Maryland for the first time so I could meet his family and childhood friends before our wedding. It was my first time in Tennessee, the Carolinas and all of those other states between Texas and Maryland.
What a fabulous trip - seeing the sunrise just outside of Nashville, driving through the Smokies, the Blue Ridge, and the Shenandoah Mountains, seeing the lights of Washington D.C.
But I think it was soon after we crossed the Virginia state line that I started scavenging for food in the car - I was getting really nervous about meeting his family, and that's one thing I do when I'm nervous. Eat.
When I ran out of food, I pulled out my "practice" photo, the one of Tom and all of his eight brothers - yes, I said "eight" - taken at a recent wedding, and started testing myself on the names. Thank goodness I'd only be meeting five on this trip.
I was mostly nervous about meeting his mom. I would be the first non-Catholic daughter-in-law! We had written back and forth and she seemed to like me, but I couldn't keep those worries out of my head.
Now I can't believe I was ever nervous. Mom welcomed me with open arms and her beautiful bright smile. She and Pop treated me like their own daughter from the very start.
Over the years, I've seen and heard tales of horrible mother-in-laws, and I realize how very lucky I am...not only did I snag the best husband ever, but he came wrapped in a package with this fabulous woman.
She raised nine boys into nine good men without losing her sense of humor, sense of self, and sense of fun. She's the kind of mother-in-law who was quite willing to turn the care of her sons over to their wives, thank-you-very-much. There was never any kind of test to see if I was "good enough" for Tom - as long as he loved me and thought I was the right one, she did, too.
She's always been quick to help and quick with advice...when asked. I've learned by watching her and my own mother how to generously give of myself to my family and my community, but ensure I retain something for myself.
Today is Mom's birthday. Tom is with her. He's been there all week, along with Steve, the Arizona brother, alternating between painting and playing cards, depending on the rain. She raised good sons.
I wish I could have been with her, rather than just sending my happy birthday wishes over the phone... and in a slightly altered blog repost. Maybe next year.
But the wishes are true whether given in person or over the phone, for showers of birthday blessings in the coming year.
I love you, Mom!
With the first seven.
I really can't even imagine this, can you? Those two imps on the far right are the ones who have been busy painting this past week.