Ida Mae Nowes

Nubbins Special Correspondent 

Mothers-in-law get a bad rap in my opinion. When I first met Merl’s mother, Floreen, I figured she was just another sweet, helpless old lady with a hearing aid and a walker. Then I got to know her.

She’s definitely old (91), sweet (she still bakes), and a lady (anyone who wears dressy hats is a lady in my book), but you can forget that helpless part.

Last week I thought I would do her a favor and take her to her doctor’s appointment when Merl was out of town. When I picked her up, she was already waiting at the curb.

“I would have come up and gotten you, Floreen,” I said as I opened the car door for her.

“Oh, I came down early, dear, to take a walk,” she said amiably, getting into the car. “I like to walk down to the end of the block if the weather is nice.” When I looked a bit surprised, she added, “I’m slow, but I’ve still got it!” and she raised her little fist in triumph.

“I see that,” I replied. Then I started the car and immediately the Beach Boys’ “Fun, Fun, Fun” blared out of the speakers. “Oops, sorry,” I said, reaching to turn it off, but Floreen said, “Oh no, I love the Beach Boys – leave it on,” and she started snapping her boney fingers to the music.

At the doctor’s office I asked her if she’d like me to come in with her, but she said, “I think I can handle it,” and I got the message. I waited obediently in the lobby. When she came out 45 minutes later, all she said was “Fit as a fiddle. Now, let’s get some lunch. I’m starved!”

“Oh, okay. Um … where would you like to go?”

“Have you tried the new Thai place? I love Thai food.”

“You do?” I asked, my eyes wide. “I mean, sure … Thai food it is.”

I never would have picked Floreen as a Thai-food kind of lady, but she was pleased with her curried chicken and noodles. Mine was good too, but while my dish made little beads of sweat appear on my brow and upper lip, Floreen was as cool as a cucumber. Before we left, she ordered an extra serving of Thai eggrolls to take home with her, which filled the car with an exotic spicy aroma.

“Do you have ‘I Get Around’ on that CD of yours?” Floreen asked. “I think that’s the Beach Boys.”

“Why, Floreen, I believe you have a bit of a wild side!” I said to her, and she smiled a little shyly.

“I’ve always enjoyed all types of music,” she replied, and I thought to myself that I had a lot to learn about my new mother-in-law. So, I found “I Get Around” and we cranked it up, rolled down the windows, and sang along as we zipped along the highway.

Which is why I didn’t hear the siren until the blue lights were right up on me.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” I said, realizing too late that I was zipping along at 15 miles over the speed limit–something I never do. Well, hardly ever.

“Oh, my,” was all Floreen said and I wanted to say, this is your fault, but I didn’t.

I turned off the music and rolled down the window as the police officer came up to the car.

“Did you realize you were speeding, ma’am?” he asked with a tone of formality, flipping open his ticket book. 

I was starting to stutter out some kind of answer when Floreen piped up, “Aren’t you Betsy Snodgrass’s boy?” I looked over at her with admiration. I had forgotten Floreen knows even more people around here than I do.

“Why, yes, I am,” said Betsy Snodgrass’s boy, though he was at least 40 years old. “I’m Buddy Snodgrass.” I noticed his tone was slightly less frosty.

“I go to Sunday School with Betsy,” Floreen said. “She talks about you all the time, Buddy. She’s so proud of you.”

“Why, thank you, Mrs. …”

“Demonbreun,” said Floreen, reaching her stick-like arm over me to shake hands with the officer. “Floreen Demonbreun. I’m so sorry we were speeding, Buddy. My wonderful new daughter-in-law just took me out to lunch and we got a little over excited. Would you like some eggrolls, Buddy? They’re nice and fresh.”

“No, thank you, Mrs. Demonbreun,” said Buddy, smiling and closing his ticket book. “You ladies slow down, now, and have a nice day.” And off he went. I looked over at Floreen and nodded my approval.

“Well-played, Floreen,” I said, continuing to nod.

“I told you I’ve still got it,” she said, clearly proud of herself.

“Well, I hope I’ve still got it when I’m 91,” I said, starting the car. She looked over at me.

“Oh, you will, dear. Of that I’m sure.”