Not Only Her Daughter-In-Law

This is the first installment in our Summer Gratitude series, a collection of posts from around the diocese focused on gratitude and thankfulness. It’s our hope that these stories will be uplifting, joyful, and a reminder to us all to count our blessings and experience gratitude even in times of hardship.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I recently received an e-mail from Megin Sewak about my willingness to write an article for the Forward blog summer series. She said the series would be based on gratitude. The American Heritage dictionary definition of gratitude defines it as: The state of being grateful; thankfulness. Several ideas and individuals immediately came to mind about whom I could write about. After tossing around a few names in my head, I decided the person I would base this article on was my late mother-in-law, Marjorie Stanford. It wasn’t too long after I had been introduced to her by my then boyfriend, her son Rick, I found out she liked to be called by her nickname, which was “Pete”, so “Pete” was what I called her unless she slipped and called me by my given name “Norma” instead of my nickname “Noni”. If she called me Norma, then I called her Marjorie! Rick and I dated for several years before we got married. During those years of courtship with Rick, I had an opportunity to get to know my future mother-in-law and we became great friends. After Rick and I married, we lived the next house down from my in-laws, who lived in the family farmhouse which was built in 1819!

Now to the gratitude part of the story. Every spring when the trees burst out with a multitude of shades of green and flowers spring out of the ground, Pete comes to mind. She always had fabulous flower beds around her house. She spent many hours transplanting and relocating perennials in the early spring. I would help her and ask her questions about how did she know where to move plants and how did she know the species she was moving? She would smile and tell me after all the years of gardening she enjoyed the mystery of what would bloom and where it would bloom. We spent time in the pasture gathering dried “meadow muffins” to spread around the flower beds. Soon I found myself developing my own flower beds with plants or seeds she shared with me. When the spring/summer season turned to fall, we would prep the beds for winter. She not only tended to flower beds, she was also an active participant in the dairy farm business with her husband Rex. After the dairy business became too much for them, they sold the cows and began to raise beef cows. During the week, I worked at Edinboro University. However, on the weekends I helped with chores, first with the dairy herd and later with the beef cows. After chores, Rick and I would often go to Pete and Rex’s house for a wonderful breakfast made by no one other than Pete! She always made the most fabulous bread/toast and served it with the breakfast meals. I inquired about her bread recipe, and she offered to teach me how to make it. I remember spending a Saturday afternoon at her house making bread. After the bread was made, she told me to go home and make some bread. I did as I was told. After my bread was made, I called to tell her I did it! She asked me to bring her a sample, so I did. She smiled and told me it was just as good as hers. Then she informed me I could now take over making the bread.

As the years passed, my mother-in-law and father-in-law dealt with the death of both of their sons. I continued to live down the road from Pete and Rex after Rick’s tragic death. Often I would cook meals and share them with Pete and Rex. They continued to be an important part of my life. A few days before Pete’s death, she told me I was not only her daughter-in-law, but more importantly I was her friend. Rick died in 2002 and Pete and Rex both died in 2005.

Every spring, when I work in my flower beds, I think of Pete. Those memories continue to bring a smile to my face and I will be forever filled with gratitude for all Pete shared and taught me all those years ago.

Noni Stanford is a member and senior warden of St. James, Titusville.