While we certainly never forget to give honor to our mother's on their day in May - one of my fav months, I couldn't help but wonder why don't we designate a day in October – another fav month of mine - for those whom most people jokingly dread: their mother-in-laws!
I was blessed with a wonderful one, Maria R. Perniciaro or “Maw Maw,” as we affectionately called her, and we also fondly remembered her this Cinco de Mayo, May 5th, the date she died in 2002. And I'm also reminiscing about Maw Maw now because we are approaching what would have been her birthday on October 2!
In the mid 1980s, after my wife and I resettled in New Orleans following my Social Work graduate studies in California, it was neat to eventually live in the same Carrollton / Uptown block (Broadway near South Claiborne) that I had grown up at, and my parents - now deceased - still resided there then. Not long after that, my mother-in-law moved from Metairie into our adjacent "shot-gun" apartment, so we would be blessed with many great other meals from both of them, which we have carried on in their honor!
Maw Maw was of Belize descent, so we used to enjoy a lot of neat Hispanic oriented meals that she would prepare for us. One of my favorites that "Maw Maw" would make is Apricot Chicken! I had never used Apricot Preserves on an entree before trying this, but was astounded how great it enhanced the chicken flavor - particularly for the white chicken meat, which I usually don't like as much as the dark types.
Maw Maw used to cook many varieties of baked chicken meals that were healthier options to the many fried “Jim Dandy" and "Popeye's" Chicken meals that I used to devour! To this day, I have a salad after every meal thanks to Maw Maw, since she would always have one for us when we ate with her, and I got into the habit of eating the salad after instead of before the meal – which is also a great way to consider it a “dessert,” thereby keeping your weight better in check.
Since, my daddy and mommy lived right down the street from us at Spruce and Broadway, it was neat to have them join us with Maw Maw for many daily gatherings, and they would help so much with babysitting for the kids. Since daddy was also fluent in Spanish, he and Maw Maw would have a lot of fun conversing in that mode and reminiscing about shared Hispanic interests. Since I was so close to Maw Maw, I would frequently just call her “Mom,” so you could imagine the confusion that would occur when both Maw Maw and my mother were together with us! Unfortunately, I never got to know “Paw Paw,” since Maw Maw was widowed many years before Maria and I got married.
While it really was not much of a sacrifice for Maw Maw, my parents and us to "have to eat" some delicious Friday meals (like nowadays when so many Catholic Churches provide delicious Fried Catfish Meals prepared usually by the great Knights of Columbus chefs!) instead of meat, we were following the 4th Commandment to "Honor your father and mother (and Mother-in-Law)!" Being from New Orleans, Maria, my wife still usually makes "Red Beans and Rice" for us on Mondays - another tradition for us here in Baton Rouge!
One time when Maw Maw was cooking something on her own in her apartment and came over to our side to visit with us and her grandchildren, we got preoccupied with many varying matters. All of a sudden, I happened to hear a piercing beeping sound, which I couldn't identify. Next thing you know, as I headed over to her side of the house, I realized it was the sound of a smoke detector.
As I rushed into her kitchen, I saw a flame shooting up high from a skillet almost to the ceiling. Fortunately, we had a small portable fire extinguisher on hand to quickly smoother the flames from spreading – and it was the right kind, as it took us a long time to clear out all of the white dust particles which helped to put out the grease fire!
With all of the interest in local and regional casinos – especially for the bands you get to seen in concerts, I couldn't help but recall another neat memory I have with Maw Maw, which is from when I went to make my first outing to a casino with her! Sometime in the early 1990s, the first “gaming” and not gambling casinos we allowed in Louisiana, so I decided to join Maw Maw on what was then an outing sponsored by “Eldermed,” the senior membership program of Our Lady of the Lake RMC.
Maw Maw and our family had moved then to Baton Rouge where I came to work in the Elderly Services Division at OLOLRMC, and she joined us at our then new house near the old Kleinpeter (relatives on my mom's side of the family) Farm on Perkins that had hayrides - where we had included a “mother-in-law” room in our house plans.
Isn't it interesting that most people don't refer to it as a mother's room – you'd think people get along better with their in-laws, which goes so much against the grain of what most folks say about family relations.
Anyway, the Eldermed casino excursion involved us taking one of those “Hotard-like” coach buses from Baton Rouge to New Orleans to what I think was then the “Flamingo Boat Casino” on the Mississippi River near Canal Street. Fortunately, it only cost participants around $ 10 and you received a free bus trip to and from the boat, $ 20 worth of slot money, lunch and one free drink!
I strictly budgeted myself by bringing only an extra $ 10 and no credit cards and mainly played the nickel slots – there were no penny ones there! In order to make my few winning slots last longer, I would purposely cash them in on the machine by letting the coins come down instead of clicking “credit for another game.” Maw Maw also limited her money spent at the event and had a lot of fun with me just meeting and talking with a lot of other seniors to pass a good time.
While I may never have hit the jackpot at the casino that day, I certainly did when I met Maria and got to have Maw Maw as my mother-in-law. Here's a posthumous “Happy Mother-In-Law's Day” wish to you, Maw Maw, and to all others out there. Like the old saying that I'll modify, “Mothers and Mother-In-Laws Know Best – at least some of the time!”