Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘mother-in-law

RS Interview: Marie Friswold

with 2 comments

Relative Something is thrilled to be able to present the second interview in a new and ongoing sporadic series where the art of thoughtful question and answer conversation is practiced with participants who are kind enough to respond to my requests.

What a special treat it is for me to be able to present to you, Cyndie’s mom, Marie!


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RS: Let’s dive right in. If you were told you were going to be featured on the cover of any magazine in the world, which one would you choose, and why?

Marie: First of all, I would be too embarrassed to be a feature, as I don’t like to have attention drawn to myself. Having said that, I know how to talk to people and make others feel comfortable, so I guess I am not as much of an introvert as I think I am. AT LEAST NOT ALL THE TIME. If there would be any magazine, I think it would have to be a Bon Appetit, Taste of Home, or some baking magazine, or maybe a Martha Stewart magazine where I would feel comfortable and more knowledgeable on the subject of cooking or baking.

RS: Oh, that seems perfect! Your ability to feed and entertain family and friends is legendary. In what ways do you think you have refined your gifts and skills for hosting special occasions over time?

Marie: With the help of Carlos and Barry, I have learned to add style, color, placement of dishes, tablecloths, and of course the wonderful flowers that our gifted Carlos has done for the past 20 years. I have kept all the many recipes, vases, candleholders, napkins, tablecloths, and pictures of the flower arrangements and the way the house and tables should look. I feel I’ve learned from both Carlos and Barry how to entertain with a flare. I loved every minute of learning new ways to present the decorations and the food with a touch of elegance and certainly missed not doing so this year of 2020, as no one could be here to enjoy it with me.

RS: Do you remember the first time Cyndie introduced me to you? (For the record, I don’t remember.)

Marie: I believe the first time I met you was when Steve had you, Bill Daly, Chip Gilbertson, and another guy up to Wildwood for a weekend.  Cyndie was also there and knew all of you. I really didn’t know that you were a special friend of Cyndie’s at that time since you were one of the gang that came up to the lake as a group of Steve’s friends.

RS: You know, the only thing I remember about that visit to Wildwood is from the photo we have depicting the gang gathered in the old triangle with me playing guitar. In all fairness, Cyndie and I went back and forth several times (usually my undoing) before we locked in for the long haul, so it is understandable you didn’t know our status early on.

Marie: Then I would add that when Cyndie went to California for college, I didn’t know then how much you meant to her, but she really knew that year how much you were the only one for her, and the rest is history. I do remember the time you came to our house to ask for her hand in marriage while I was arranging the Christmas tree lights all over the living room floor. Fred and I thought that was the nicest part about our whole day – with our answer being YES. Again, the rest is history!

RS: It’s been just over six months since your partner in life, Fred, departed this physical world. How are you doing? There are innumerable ways such a loss impacts a person.

Marie: I am doing very well and am sleeping quite well. I don’t like to show my sadness very much to others. Having said that, I do talk to my family and two or three really good friends to share the way I am feeling at different times. Covid times have not been helpful, as I am a people person and love being with my family and friends, which I have not been able to do at this time. It has been very lonely since Fred died, as we talked about everything (good, bad, different subjects, reading, politics, movies, you name it) and I find it hard to talk to myself about all these various subjects without being sent to a lock-up room. I also reflect on the wonderful life we had together and realize more and more how lucky this person from Manannah was to be the one he chose to be his lifelong partner. I am also frustrated at all the paperwork, file cabinet clean up, business subjects to be addressed, and tons and tons of papers to be looked at and thrown away, so I tell him of my frustration but he doesn’t answer me back. I think there will be ups and downs for the next few months yet to come, but I am aware that eventually there is a brighter year ahead for all of us. Thank goodness for my loving family as they have been the strength that keeps me going and are always there for me.

RS: You and Fred started life together in college and had kids right away, on a rather tight budget. Ultimately, you two succeeded in growing wealth while simultaneously growing your family, raising Cyndie and her brothers to successful adulthood, and gaining grandchildren. What do you feel whenever you look back on how far you’ve come?

Marie: As Fred had been noted for saying… “Ain’t we lucky.” I cannot believe I have had such a rich life and not just financial. As a very young couple, we had no car unless we borrowed from his Mother and Father, we made a pound of hamburger last for two or three meals, I washed diapers on a tabletop washing machine, made our meager salary go a long way, and had the time of our life enjoying what we had. As time went on, we made more money and could save a little along the way.  We rented for 10 years before we saved enough money to buy a house and lived in that house for 37 years before buying the house I now live in, which was 17 years ago. During those years, we had the first four children and lived in a double bungalow where we had a lot of other families with children for ours to play with and get to know really well. As a graduate of the NKP teaching degree from the Univ of MN, I learned how teaching young children was an advantage for creating things to do with my own young children. Fred was always so active, funny, and wise and loved reading nighttime stories to the kids. When our fourth child died of Leukemia at the age of four, our family had just built a home in Edina that we moved into just two weeks after her death. The next years were the most difficult of our life and for the remaining three siblings of hers. I think something good may have resulted as a result of our grief, that somehow we learned how to cope, live, and move on when things were tough. Then a beautiful new child came into our lives when our baby son, Benjamin, was born in December 1971. A new chapter was in store for all of us and our children went on to become the gifted, talented, wonderful, precious people they are today. I have been blessed with a rich and wonderful life with Fred, who was doing so much to give back to the community, church, YMCA, University, with kindness to all, and left me with the title that I now believe I will say…      — “AIN’T  I  LUCKY.”

RS: You were a little girl when WWII disrupted the world and now we’ve got the turmoil of a global pandemic some 75 years later. You’ve been through all the events between, assassinations, civil rights protests, and most personal, the loss of a young Michelle to leukemia and most recently, the loss of your husband. As long as I’ve known you, your perspective has been pretty pragmatic and generally positive. What’s your secret? How would you frame our current moment relative to all that you’ve experienced before?

Marie: I grew up with a very loving, caring, beautiful childhood and had the greatest older sister for my friend all my life. My mother and father were the kindest and most thoughtful parents, and I learned at this young age that there was always a safe place to bring friends home. I was taught how to do things for myself at a young age and I learned to be helpful to my invalid Grandmother. I think I became very thoughtful during the time the war ended because my dad was now going to be out of a job and I could sense that he was sad, yet we were happy the war had ended, but then so did his job. It was then that we moved back to Manannah where I had been born and our family became the store owners in this small town of 100 people. My mother was a one-room schoolhouse teacher and a darn good one from all that I have heard. She graduated from college with her four-year degree at the age of 58. She taught me a lot so I guess she had to be really good. My Dad always had a joke to tell and a smile on his face. Never a harsh word came out of his mouth and he was very aware of the needs of others. There was always a solution or a positive answer to my questions. I believe that during the tough times my glass was more half-full than half-empty, and I believe Fred always had his glass half-full or more, as well. We hope we have been able to give some of the positive and not the negative to our lovely children, but also to all our fabulous, wonderful grandchildren in hopes they can truly live a fulfilling and happy life. This current moment is the longest, most difficult everyday life experience to stay positive. There is so little I can do to help others, due to my age and slight difficulties doing things right now. I truly feel there is going to be a better future for us this coming year and hopefully a better understanding of people of all races, religions, and countries to live in peace and kindness.

RS: Amen to that.

Thank you, Marie, for sharing your thoughts so eloquently. I’m feeling pretty lucky myself that you took the time to indulge my unexpected inquiries.  I suspect the family will make a point of getting everyone together to celebrate at the first post-pandemic chance we get with a grand feast where you can be the Hostess of Honor! Keep your apron at the ready.

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Written by johnwhays

January 6, 2021 at 7:00 am

Other Mother

with 10 comments

When I married Cyndie, I officially gained my other mother, Marie. At the time, I had no idea what that was going to be like, but my sense was that it would be good. For the prior seven years when Cyndie and I were dating, I had enjoyed time with her family almost as much as with her alone.

Now, thirty-six years later, I can report that my mother-in-law experience has been infinitely better than I could possibly have imagined.

Cyndie’s mother, Marie, is celebrating a milestone birthday today. This morning we are gathering for breakfast at a restaurant to honor the occasion. This is particularly fitting, because family breakfasts under Marie’s skillful direction have been a priceless treat over the years.

If anyone ever happened to express a preference for something, maybe commenting about how they like their eggs prepared, Marie would notice and remember, serving up a perfect variety of versions every year after to assure everyone always gets what they want.

Marie’s balance of being exceptionally adventurous while also nurturing an organized routine of most activities have added depth, and provided stability, to my life as an in-law. We share enough traits to be in sync often, and clash only rarely.

Probably best of all for me, Marie has a keen sense of humor. She is ever so gracious in allowing herself be the target of jabs, while also being wily enough to play along with ever-present silliness and get in a few of her own pokes along the way.

It’s considered bad manners to reveal a lady’s age, so I will avoid blurting it out in public, but let’s just say it’s a good round number that just might have an 8 in it.

Happy Birthday, my other mom. You are terrific!

Keep up the good work.

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Written by johnwhays

September 15, 2017 at 6:00 am