by Betty Ruth Gibbons Caplan
When I was in the early years of my marriage I always used to tell myself to remember what kind of a mother-in-law I had, because she would be my role model. I had three sons and I was afraid that I would not be a good mother-in-law myself. I knew that my daughter would “be my daughter all of her life.” But I worried about daughters-in-laws. So I told myself to remember my mother-in-law.
Sarah Caplan was a gentle woman. She never said a bad word about anyone. She never imposed herself. When we lived on her third floor and she lived alone downstairs I never thought to invite her up. But sometimes she would call on the phone. She’d say, “How are you?” And sometimes I would say, “Come on up.” She would come running. In 2 seconds she would be there.
But if I did not say “Come on up” she would never ask to come up. She would remain pleasant and soon say goodnight.
I would dress the baby warmly and put him in his buggy on the porch so he would get air. She would sit beside him while he napped, just looking at him. I never understood that until I became a Grandmother myself. She never said, “He’s too warm, he’s too cold.” She never criticized anything I did. She always appeared happy and quite satisfied with whatever I did. In other words, she kept her opinions to herself.
It wasn’t until I was naming my third son when she asked me if maybe I would give just a middle name for her brother. I said yes of course. But I was mortified at myself that I had never thought to ask her before if there was a name she wanted us to use. I did not know that her brother had died in the holocaust. But still, I had never thought to ask. It must have taken a lot for her to finally ask, because that is the kind of woman she was. She always was aware of other people’s feelings, but never asked for anything for herself.
Her children got that sensitivity from her, and our children did too, I’m happy to say.
Now that I’m a mother-in-law I think I manage to remember these things pretty well. But I have to give the credit to my mother-in-law, who taught me by just doing the job well herself.