View From The Ridge

View From The Ridge

Sunday, February 6, 2011

In-laws and out-laws, reposted

Kirby wedding - 1935
Marriage is not just the joining the lives of two people into one, it is the beginning of a melting pot that starts the process of blending the families of the bride and groom, especially the parents.  Throughout history our books, movies, plays and stand-up comics have had a field day spinning tales of mother-in-laws that were depicted as the Wicked Witch of the West.  Some have played off of Rodney Dangerfield and said "Take my mother-in-law   -  Please!"  I have heard stories from friends who related how their mother-in-law was either domineering, controlling, interfering, in their face and space continually or some combination of all of the above.   Some mother-in-laws have caused so much friction as to completely destroy marriages.  Adam and Eve did not have to contend with that, nor did Jeri and I.  We were blessed with almost perfect mother-in-laws.  But today, I want to share about just one, my mother-in-law, Mildred Bess (Burlingame) Kirby. 

She was born 9-27-1916 in Chicago, Illinois.  She was the youngest of five children -  three sisters and a brother.  Her dad owned a bus line and when they decided to move to California in 1920 he sold all but one bus using it as their mode of transportation.  The five kids ranged in age from 13 to 3 and it took them 6 weeks to make the journey.  Every night they would pitch a large canvas tent to cook and sleep in. 

When they arrived in San Pedro that tent became their home on a rented vacant lot.  There were many people living in tents at that time, so it wasn't unusual.  About a year or so later, Millie is not sure exactly, her dad bought a lot up the hill from there and set the tent up permanently on a wooden platform.  Sometime later her grandparents moved to California and they all built two small houses on that lot where Milly has many happy memories. 

The kiss - Wedding in Grandma Bess' back yard
Millie met Wilton Kirby in church, they dated and were married in 1935.  She was all of 4'-10' and 95 lbs. soaking wet. They had three daughters; Judie, Jeri and Donna.  Jeri and I started dating when she was 15 and I was 17.  Her dad was just a tad bit intimidating and never said much to me but her mom was always friendly and encouraging. 

I remember writing to Millie while I was stationed at Harlingen going through flight school asking for Jeri's ring size.  I was coming home on leave for Christmas of 1959 and wanted to pop the question to Jeri.  Millie wrote back that she felt maybe I should wait and pick out the ring together, but she included the ring size.  That was the first of many times she has made gentle suggestions but never mandates.  It has always been our choices and her support for what ever Jeri and I decided.  As for the ring, I was not patient and purchased the ring anyway.  

When we were married in 1960 we left for Kansas  for 18 months and from there to Newfoundland.  In 1962 Willie and Millie drove 8,000 miles round trip to visit us at Harmon AFB and see the newest of their grand kids, Kris.   They traveled in a pick-up and camper visiting friends and relatives along  the way. 

After I left the Air Force and returned to college in southern California, mom and dad Kirby were always there for the kid's birthdays and holidays.  Millie was famous for her cakes in the shapes of animals and princesses and other various and sundry things.  She made clothes for the kids, gave them books and taught them about plants and flowers.  She was and still is a master gardener.   When ever we visited,  she would give Jeri all kinds of starts of flowers and whatever.  When she moved into assisted living she asked management if there was a small plot where she could grow a garden and they found one for her.  It's not much but it brings pleasure to her and the other residents and that's what counts.  

Son-in-law Tom and Milly

Mom Kirby is now 94, still spry and clear minded, walks without a cane or walker.  She enjoys spending time at family functions, still attends all the parties that she can, and is now an influence in the lives of her great grand-children.  She is such a joy to talk to and listen to the stories of her childhood from a time that is so different from ours, the war years and the struggles of that time and the early years of Jeri and her sisters.  She is a prize jewel among jewels,  a lady of grace and charm, one that everyone in our family treasures.  

Queen Millie at 90th birthday celebration

Her one flaw - she worries about everything and everybody.  Always has, probably always will.  It just shows how much she cares for every member of her family.

Millie and her three daughters, Donna, Judy and Jeri

Some of the tributes I have written have been about friends after they had passed away.  I wanted to share with you and her my thoughts while Millie was still with us.  She is a blessing sent from God to our family and she has enriched all of our lives.  She may never understand the impact she has had on everyone of us, but she will when she meets her heavenly creator.  She will be rewarded with many crowns to place at the feet of Jesus.  As a Mother-in-law, she has been close to perfection.  She raised her daughters well, taught them how to cook and sew, how to be thrifty, how to recognize value.  Jeri's motto on shopping is "Never pay retail!"  Gee, I wonder where she learned that?

Thanks, Mom, for being such an inspiration to your daughters and son-in-laws.  May God continue to bless you with good health and long life. 

With love, your favorite son-in-law (:=)   Mikey Q


  1. Great tribute, Mike...wait until Tom sees your closing...he may have a comment there! We all treasure Millie and are blessed that God is allowing her to be with us for such a long time.

  2. Beth Brown said...

    Millie taught me to crochet, well indirectly that is. Millie taught Kris to crochet when Kris was about 9 or 10. Kris in turn taught me.

    One thing you left out was Millie taught her girls to play the piano.

  3. Susan Chung
    can't say enough about her...I just picked up crochet again, after she patiently taught me over and over again, and am making scarves and baby blankets for many special people. Just recently I was able to hang out with Grams for a couple of hours, crocheting, laughing, sharing stories...I am so blessed to have her in my life and to live close enough to enjoy her friendship.

  4. Susan Chung: the other really great thing about Grams is the way she can invent uses for almost anything she needs to fix. Plastic lids become the most amazing things! She even found a way to crochet stepping stones:)I know she got that gift from her dad, and she has passed it on to me too. I always call her when I feel I have found a clever use for something ordinary.

  5. Right on, Mike! I'm so glad that Grandma Bess passed her "green thumb" along to her girls and in turn, we all have a love for gardening. Joe says that he would never have had the appreciation for flowers, etc. if it hadn't been for mom! Oh, and Mike....Joe's really her favorite! Me 3

  6. I so enjoyed reading this:) From the time I became Jeri's friend in the 50's & met Millie I thought she was the cutest & sweetest lady I'd ever met. And what a wonderful mom! I'm so glad I was able to see her again at your anniversay party...and she was just as I remembered!
    Marilyn Schuster

  7. What a delightful Valentine's Day story! Enjoyed reading it and seeing the pictures. What a tribute to a special mother-in-law. Heart warming! I remember her during the high school years as Judie, Jeri, and Donna's mom, but interesting to read about her as a person! Thanks for sharing.
    Sharon D.