Day 24- Someone who is beautiful because of what they love- Momalope Alfeo
Before I even get started, let's all agree that writing about one's mother-in-law is just foolish. Especially when said mother-in-law very often tells me not to put things in writing. But alas, this one applies to her so perfectly so I am going to risk it. Mrs. Alfeo is a beautiful, wonderful person for so many reasons, but one of the greatest about her is how freaking much she loves who she loves, especially her family.
I first got to know Mrs. Alfeo when I was starting to hang out with her son. So I was 16? Much like The Boy, she would have been a part of my general existence LONG before then, and I have little memories of seeing her at things or at the restaurant. I remember she introduced herself as "Nina" when I went to my first dance with the Boy, and I was confused who she was because parents still didn't talk to me that way mostly. Weirdly, I still call her Mrs. Alfeo, despite that. Right from the beginning of meeting her, I got what I now know to be trademark Shiley friendly chattiness. They have mastered the art of small talk, which I am genuinely horrible at. It's not just that she is genuinely good at talking with anybody (which she is), but you usually have the sense that she is enjoying it. She really likes hearing what you have to say and telling stories. It is a task of monumental proportions to end a conversation with a Shiley, so I can remember coming to visit the Boy and spending the whole night in their kitchen talking to her instead.
The spring after we officially started dating, The Boy was putting on prom, taking his exams, and generally being a crazypants junior. I started showing up to his house knowing well and good I would spend the majority of the night with his Mom, and I was totally cool with that. My own family life was quiet but often really unstable; at the Alfeo's, they could SCREAM at each other about a light switch and be totally fine 10 minutes later. I remember being totally blown away by that. Everyone just seemed really open, and I genuinely believe that hanging out in that family (and sneaking my way into it rainbow road by late night Uno) was really important and healing for me, and I am really grateful for that and for her. I am grateful I got to come around as a teen, because The Boy's parents genuinely feel like second parents to me. If I come home without the Boy, I still go sit in his mom's kitchen probably once a day, because I just love sitting and talking with her.
It also became clear VERY early on in my relationship with The Boy that his best friends in the world were his family members. They are all like a very exclusive clique, where they love chatting with people out in the world, but they mostly just want to hang out with each other. I have had friends ask me if it is difficult to come into a family structure like that or to say they are glad their husband isn't as close to his mother, but honestly, I love it when they are close like that. He started reading because he saw his mom doing it, and I think his experience with his parents is part of why he treats me as his equal.
In some ways, this super tight family structure is not surprising, because I think Mrs. Alfeo's best friend is also her own sister. They both have that honesty and loyalty (I think loyalty is very important to Mrs. Alfeo) to each other, and I love when I get to see them interact. They have maintained a real friendship for many years despite living far from each other, and that gives me hope for the rest of us.
Mrs. Alfeo is also really good at loving her kids for exactly who they are. This may seem like no big deal, but she is the mother of three very different people with very different needsets (though they all share a certain stubborness if nothing else. Because she genuinely likes each one for exactly who they are I think she grants them freedom from certain insecurities or jealousies. They get to just like each other. Because The Boy and his brother are so different, it could have set up a lot of tension in either direction, but I have never had the sense she wants her kids to be anyone else (in fact, I have heard her give the advice of "they are who they are" many a time).
Mrs. Alfeo has a beautiful laugh, a really great sense of humor, and a glowy whole-faced smile. I think she looks so pretty when she is happy to see someone, or at like 2 in the morning when everyone is still playing games on her dining room table. I love that she has so much love for her family and for being together that it shows on her face. She can be sentimental and tough at the same time, which is a pretty awesome combination.She doesn't mince words, and you usually don't have to guess much at what she is thinking. She also has the biggest soft spot and heart ever. She never fails to crack me up, and I always like to hear her opinions and what is on her mind.
That enthusiasm for family seems to be just as big for her grandkids, if not even bigger! She loves her grandbabies and they love her so much too. She loves babies, but from what I can tell basically enjoys every stage of Petey and Aubrey's life, especially because she doesn't have to work as much as she did. I think she would really like for us to just ship our baby to her once we have it. She doesn't care if we come with it much, but she would like to have it with her (unless we name it Bumbo Baby, in which case she says she will not love it;o).
Mrs Alfeo also has a really sweet and hilarious relationship with the Boy's dad, and you can tell that they really love each other even in seasons like the one they are in now- the world's longest and most Easter Lily-ridden move ever. I like that they still kiss when they enter or leave the house.
Mrs. Alfeo's loving personality comes out in how she looks at her family, but I also feel that she taught me that love is sometimes wholly unglamorous work. Sometimes loving someone is working really hard on these meticulous stockings that take lots of time with only seasonal glory. Sometimes loving someone means going to work and making sure the business is going right so you can provide for your kids. She had her two sons very young, and she worked so hard with her husband to give them a great life. Sometimes, love is carrying those two small boys up a ton of stairs. Or thanklessly making meals and watching kids and holding things together. Or finding the strength to send a child to school or across the country. Or making a million tissue paper flowers because your son and soon to be daughter-in-law are out of control. Or going to visit your father every day, even if it breaks your heart. Loving people, very often, is not such pretty business, and I am often awed by how she handles those challenges and that labor with ease and without any expectations of gratitude or acknowledgement (and she doesn't humor any complaining- Mrs. Alfeo, I am having a perfect pregnancy and I have no complaints ;o)
So here's to you, Momalope. For making any place you are at with your kids a home, for always managing to spill something down the front of your shirt, for being a crossword, sudoku, and Mario master, for raising such a hilarious, honest, and (surprisingly) loving son (and two much more openly loving children, who I also love very much), for always screening your calls, for making pigs in a blanket and the world's best salsa and the Christmas cookies we always sneak before we are supposed to, for treating me like one of your own and being a home to me, for cutting straws the perfect length for us, for treating your stepson like your own too, for standing out in the driveway so we can just keep talking, for always knowing the scoop (from the hairdressers usually), for having a great laugh, for being incredibly generous, for showing how you are feeling and so much love for others, for finding the best pinterest recipes, for rocking some amazing glasses (and at least one pilgrim outfit) over the years, for telling hilarious stories, for making a truly scary "you are in trouble" face, for being the beating heart for her family, a support for her kids, and a safe haven for all of us. You are such a beautiful person, and I am so glad your son and I are "just friends" so I get to be lucky enough to be in your family! You are beautiful, and I love you! (Sorry this is all in writing, but I don't suspect I will regret it!)