This is a photo of my mother-in-law, Mary Boornazian and me, on a beach in San Francisco in 1990 – when I first told her I was pregnant with my daughter Jordan Elizabeth. Now, comics throughout history have notoriously massaged the subject of “mothers-in-law” to the delight of their audiences and to the chagrin of those mothers-in-law everywhere. The cliché of the meddling mom or a spouse’s interfering parent is legend; surely, somewhere, someone provided the very real material from which those tales and jokes were spun. I am among the very fortunate, I suppose, to have dodged the nightmarish melodrama of mom-in-law moments. Today is my mother-in-law’s birthday, and not only do I want to wish her a happy one, but I want to take a few moments to celebrate her… sorta publicly, here.
In a few weeks, Gary and I will memorialize our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. When I think, retrospectively, wayyyyy back to the time we were dating, it is a veritable miracle that his mother, Mary, could contain herself from interfering in our relationship, right from the beginning. I had been in a relationship – married – for seven years, prior to meeting Gary. The ink was not even dry on my divorce papers when I waltzed into Gary’s home living room for the first time. Somehow, instead of dissuading him from becoming involved with me (something I, as a mother now, would require duct tape not to do), she managed to see the love between us and never made me feel as though she judged me or my relationship with her son. That’s not because Mary has a Pollyanna type of personae, because she doesn’t. There is no doubt that she has been known to see people and situations with a critical eye, and she isn’t naïve about relationships or life. Now that I am about the same age she was when Gary and I met, however, it makes me take pause and take inventory of myself. It makes me appreciate who she was then even more… and it inspires me to take a lesson or two from her example in our lives. How lucky Gary and his four siblings have each been to have had a mom who has encouraged them to find their own paths, choose their own life partners and who has, no doubt, resisted the urge on many, many occasions to interject what she must think…about a lot of things… a lot of the time.
My late parents, had they ever met Mary, would have had great fun with her. Even today, in her 80s, her mind is sharp, her sense of humor is intact, and she’s an excellent listener. Over the years, when I have talked to the spirits of my own mother and father, I have told them about my conversations with Gary’s mom. There’s no question that when they all meet in the afterlife someday,my folks Anna and Bill will welcome Mary with open arms and thank her for being there for the moments in life when they weren’t able. My father will extole her for her life excellence at things like painting and rational thinking and my mom will praise Mary for her superb skills in the kitchen and for pretty much single-handedly raising five children, even in the face of some challenges, at times. Mostly, they both will just appreciate her for being a good, faithful and loyal person.
This past year, my mother-in-law Mary Boornazian has been more of a saint in my life than ever. She has been there to lend an ear late into the night, offer good advice when asked and, most of all, to offer love and support. I’m not sure that those are the kinds of things from which late-night comedians can make lasting material, nor the kinds of things that have tremendous entertainment value. I am pretty sure, however, that they are the kinds of things that stay in one’s head and heart long after the curtain has dropped on the stage, and the microphone is turned off and the lights go dim. They are the kinds of things that birthdays should bring to mind… the gifts to which we should, as parents, each aspire to give to own children and their spouses. Our birthdays – each year we have on this earth – are about our gifts to those around us, so much more than about getting gifts from those around us. This year, especially, I will be cherishing Mary’s gifts to us undoubtedly more than she will cherish whatever gift we will send in the mail to her.
So, happy birthday, Mom. I do think you are very funny… just not in the cliché or stereotypical kind of way… and believe you are still young, and still needed, and definitely still loved… EVEN by your daughter-in-law who, by the way, wants you to hang around for a long time to come. While you celebrate your birthday in Pennsylvania today, I’ll be here in Colorado celebrating you.