Is Honesty Always the Best Policy? // My mother-in-law’s treasures have become my nuisances

As told to Leah Berger

I love my mother-in-law. She’s smart, warm and one of the most easygoing people I know. Her advice is always spot on, but she only offers her words of wisdom when they’re solicited. She’s a great bubby to my children, and I definitely don’t take our wonderful relationship for granted. But when the calendar pages turn to March each year, my love becomes tinged with a hefty dose of frustration.

For my mother-in-law, as for the rest of us, March means Pesach is in the air and spring cleaning shall commence. And that includes purging some more of her old children’s clothing. It means that once again she heads up to her attic to sort through boxes of adorable girls’ and boys’ outfits to send to her einiklach.
The jackets, dresses and ensembles she stores there are all adorable; my mother-in-law has fabulous taste. This is something on which all her daughters-in-law agree unanimously. Up in the attic, she has stowed the cutest rompers with matching sun hats, stunning coordinating outfits for baby girls and boys, and the most dashing little boys’ suits.

The thing is this, though. The clothes are hopelessly old-fashioned.
The pants are wide. Probably three modern pants legs could easily fit in there. The Victorian baby clothes are lovely, but just so not the look of today. And those suits are, well…suffice it to say that I like to dress my active boys in easy, casual wear. And those fancy, frilly girls’ Shabbos dresses are mostly dry-clean-only and look to be of a different era.

I’m a Brooklyn girl, but my mother-in-law lives upstate in a large comfortable home, which has enabled her to hold on to the children’s clothes for so many years. Those carefully labeled boxes hold loads of memories for her, and she talks sentimentally about the pretty little things she always hoped her einiklach would wear one day.

When March rolls around—and many times it begins in February—my husband, who visits his mother weekly, begins to lug in those bags. Those bags make their way into my small apartment and fill me with dread.

When the first bags of the season appear, I approach them with trepidation. I open the first one gingerly, and out comes a little girl’s purple plaid dress. It’s wool and dry-clean-only. Hmm…I courageously move on to the next article of clothing. It’s a mustard-colored pair of boy’s pants with a matching vest and bow tie. I raise one eyebrow and move on.

Next, I find coordinating ensembles for my little ones. The clothes have seen better days, that’s for sure. And it’s just not the kind of thing I would enjoy or that my kids would be comfortable in.

I sigh and call my mother-in-law. After some chatting, she invariably asks, “So what do you say to all the adorable things I sent with Tuli today?”

“Gorgeous,” I reply. “Thanks so much!”

“Make sure to snap a pic of Shloimy wearing the outfit I sent for him and send it to me, please. Tuli will get so emotional seeing Shloimy in that. It was his favorite outfit. And aren’t the matching ensembles just stunning? They may not be so useful, but I think they would be perfect for Yom Tov. You just can’t find such high-quality clothing anywhere today; they don’t make them the same way anymore.”
“You’re absolutely right.”

And so it goes. I would not want to hurt my mother-in-law’s feelings. She’s wonderful, and she thinks I value the clothing as much as she does. She sends them with so much love; how can I reciprocate with anything but a big thank-you?


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