Mother-in-Law: A Secret Wedding Gift

By Jules McCord

Yesterday’s mail delivered one of the most original “Save the Date” wedding cards I’ve seen in a while. It featured my nephew and his fiancée, in full cowboy regalia, sitting bareback astride two of their family’s beloved, old Quarter horses. They were each holding opposite ends of a lasso that had a small knot tied in the middle. The caption read, “Help Us Tie the Knot on May 29, 2015!”

I texted my nephew to let him know how much I loved the card.

“It was Peggy’s idea,” my nephew texted back.

“She’s so cool!” his fiancée, a gal out of a Tanya Tucker song, quickly added.

“You have no idea,” I thought.

Twenty-three years ago, I walked down the aisle, full of hope, toward my future husband. What I didn’t know was the gift he brought to the marriage: his mother, Peggy. She loves a dirty joke, makes a mean pot roast and whips up a rum and Coke that will make your head spin. Although she was born with the proverbial silver spoon in her mouth, she is one of the hardest-working, most grounded people I’ve ever met. While my father-in-law attended Duke Divinity School, she worked full-time in a law office to supplement their income (picture “Mad Men” style with Peggy marching around Durham in a polyester, pencil skirt and a hairnet bouffant). Soon after graduation, my father-in-law served in the Marines before attending law school while she devoted herself to raising their four boys.

Her dedication extends to her entire family, including four daughters-in-law and 11 grandchildren. No favor is too big to ask of her. If you have a headache, she’s happy to run some Tylenol over. If you run out of gas, she’s the one to meet you alongside the interstate with the gas can. If you need a ride to the airport at 4 a.m., she’s offended if you don’t ask her first.

However, it’s her birthday that means the most, especially to her 11 grandchildren. Once a year, on May 29, Peggy takes her grandchildren out to lunch — wherever they want to go. Afterwards, she gives them all a set amount of cash to go shopping with, to buy whatever they want for themselves. Under no circumstances, are they to spend it on her. She swears they’ll never forget her birthday this way, and their squeals of joy are better than any gift they could buy her.

I’ve said it hundreds of times now: If Peggy were my age, and not my mother-in-law, she’d be my best friend.

It makes perfect sense that she came up with the “Save the Date” card. As far as she’s concerned, it’s time for my nephew to get married, and we’re way past due for a good party. Not to mention, he’s getting married on her birthday!

With the coming wedding and the need to get a gift, it has me thinking about my own wedding. When I muster a favorite gift I received on my wedding day, what comes to mind is the secret gift. It’s the one I didn’t ask for, or even know I received, until later in my marriage: my mother-in-law.