I lived next door to my mother-in-law for over 25 years. From the top of her blonde, blue-eyed head to the bottom of her pointy-toed high heels, she was a true Southern belle and a steel magnolia. All five foot two inches of her. Actually I think that she exaggerated her height an inch or two; she was a petite woman.
She never went out doors without being perfectly dressed and coiffed. She loved pretty clothes and shopping. But I think her passion was gardening and she combined her passion for gardening with pretty clothes. I never saw her, even working in the yard, without a necklace, makeup and high heels.
She fretted if her yard did not look the way she wanted. She was a very giving person, but she did not want to share the man who helped her in her yard. She got angry if someone tried to poach him and visited him when he fell ill. She sincerely mourned his death.
She moved next door to me when her second husband died. She was driving a huge pink Cadillac. I don't know how she saw over the steering wheel. I think she looked through it. I remember one day when she had just moved in, she wanted me to run an errand with her. I sat in the passenger seat of that pink majestic car, and she drove. We stopped in the middle of Usher Street to marvel at a new traffic light. She pointed it out (it was red) remarking that it was new. Then she drove right through it. You might think I was frightened. But not in that car. Even without air bags, I don't think anything could have disturbed a passenger.
She bought several cars after that. Mostly dark gray Oldsmobiles. The last car she bought caused her much consternation. The gear shift was between the two front seats rather than on the steering wheel. She tried to find a car that was like her old one, but she couldn't.
She didn't like the change in the placement of the gear shift. I'm no different. The older I get, the less I like change.
One day she went shopping at Kroger, and when she returned to her car, she couldn't open the car door. She tried for several minutes, and then she stopped a young man who was walking by her car and asked him to help her.
He took her keys and spent over five minutes trying to open the door. By then, they were attracting a crowd. He finally succeeded in opening the door, and as my mother-in-law started to get in the driver's seat, she noticed things lying on the seats that were not hers. It was not her car. It was a car exactly like her car, but it was not her car. Her car was in the next parking row.
I am very careful to remember the first three letters of my license plate because I have seen several cars just like mine being driven around Covington. I don't want to make the same mistake. I could.
I'm not talking about my mother-in-law behind her back so-to-speak. She loved to laugh and didn't mind if the joke was on her or on an acquaintance or loved-one. She enjoyed laughing at any funny situation.
It's rare to live next door to someone for 25 years and not have some moments of irritation. But my mother-in-law was generous and caring and offered sage advice.
I am sure she is content in the next life, knowing that she shepherded her family and loved ones to become the best that they could. And knowing that she lived life to the fullest, while enjoying the simple pleasures.
Paula Travis is a retired teacher from the Newton County School System. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org