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Getting to know the family

In September, a branch was added to the family tree with the wedding of my youngest granddaughter, Robin. I was happy to have the opportunity to welcome Jacob, her new husband, into my family and greatly pleased to meet members of the groom’s family as well.

As I hark back to my own newlywed days, it occurs to me that newlyweds seldom consider the family relationships they will automatically assume. I didn’t realize that when a bride and groom say “I do,” they are also saying, “I do accept the role my husband’s (or wife’s) family will play in my future life and in the lives of our children.”

How fortunate for me, when I married, that my in-laws, Marie and Larry McConachie, were a devoted and loving couple who would wholeheartedly accept me as part of their family. After his duties as an officer in World War II were terminated, my husband, Don, with a wife and baby to support, soon decided to accept his father’s offer to work at L.L. McConachie Company, the contracting firm established by his dad in Detroit, Mich. So that is where we moved, purchasing our first little house.

Don grew ever more involved in learning the contracting business and eventually became president of the company, a job that helped support me and our five children for many years. How lucky we were all through those child-rearing years to be close to Don’s parents, affectionately dubbed Nan and Pop by their grandchildren.

Fresh out of college at the time of my marriage, I was unprepared for my role as a new mother and housekeeper. Not once in those early years of burned or undercooked meals, dusty shelves and un-ironed shirts did I hear a word of criticism from my dear mother-in-law.

The eldest daughter in a Philadelphia Quaker family, Marie had helped in the care of a string of sisters and brothers. Used to hard work, she kept her home spotless, adhering to a routine of spring cleaning, which included every room, all the rugs and carpeting. She excelled in the kitchen and enjoyed cooking, providing nourishing meals that always satisfied. What wonderful pies she baked! I could never achieve their perfection, though she showed me time and again how to roll the dough just so. My mouth waters even now when I think of her raspberry pie!

One of Marie’s favorite places to visit was the J.L. Hudson Company, the city’s largest department store, in those days the pride of downtown Detroit. Dressed in her best and wearing a hat and gloves, she would board the bus in the early morning, usually with a grandchild in tow. Lunch at Hudson’s elite dining room would inevitably end with a chocolate sundae.

The number of grandchildren grew after Don’s sister, Jean, married and produced four more. All were loved and welcome at their grandparents’ home without discrimination. The children always knew where to find the cache of toys and games stored for their use. They were content to be tucked into bed for naps or overnights with Nan and Pop.

Larry, my father-in-law, was raised on a farm in Ontario, Canada, a middle child in a fun-loving family of six boys and three girls, all of whom I met through the years. What wild tales they used to tell about each other! Larry enjoyed gardening, had converted the next door lot to a victory garden during the war, sharing his abundant crops with neighbors and friends. In his later years, he built a backyard greenhouse where he grew beautiful orchids.

Never have I known a man who loved children more than my father-in-law. Whenever there was a family get-together, he could usually be found on the floor playing games with the youngest. His special delight was cuddling the tiniest newborn in his welcoming arms.

Larry and Marie McConachie were well liked in the community and had many loyal friends. My in-laws were simple folk, not well educated, but I could not have chosen better in the whole world.

As they embark on a life together, I wish the same good fortune for Robin and Jake.



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