I am reading the book of Ruth from the Old Testament. In the first chapter I looked at the women Naomi and Ruth for the gifts and talents they were given. Ruth, the heroine of the story, has much more of the story. Naomi is in the background. Although I was primarily focused on reading the story for the qualities of Ruth, I found myself drawn to Naomi.
Naomi was the mother-in-law. By the end of the first chapter she is a widow with no descendants. Her husband is dead and she is too old to have more children. Her sons are dead also. She has two daughter's in law who agree to travel back to Israel, Naomi's homeland. As they head away from Moab, Naomi sends the daughters in law back to their families. Orpah leaves, but Ruth says she is staying with Naomi. More than that, Ruth says that she is making Naomi's God, her God, and Naomi's people her people.
Although Naomi says that her life has turned her from being Naomi meaning Sweetness to Mara meaning better, there must have been something about the relationship between Naomi and Ruth that remained. Ruth obviously loved and respected her husband's mother.
I thought about my own relationship with my mother in law who has been gone a few years. Except for the years when our son was growing up and it was easy to call her Grandma, I never knew what to call her. I think I would have preferred calling her by her first name. I was a little uncomfortable calling her Mom, even though that is what she invited me to call her. Somehow we managed through the years. I avoided saying any name for her.
Someday, I may be a mother in law. I hope to be a cool one. I have decided to talk to any future daughter in law about what she is comfortable calling me. I hope it is Mary or Mom or Grandma, but I will entertain other options, as well. I hope to revisit the name game through the years so that perhaps any daughter in law of mine will feel as comfortable with me as Ruth did with Naomi.