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  • Kristan Higgins

Love letter to my mother-in-law

Updated: May 4, 2022

polly & bacon

She loves bacon.

My mother-in-law, Polly, is 81 (don’t tell her I told you). She’s about five foot nothing, maybe 100 pounds, grew up in Ireland, the fourth of fourteen children. She didn’t have a particularly happy or easy childhood…she had to live with relatives after a time and didn’t get to see her family as much as she wished. There wasn’t a lot of extra money. She went hungry sometimes.

She moved to the US in the late ’60s, all by herself, and found work at a bank. She loved New York, made friends (one of her first American pals is McIrish’s godmother). She sent money home, and, after a few years, went back to Ireland to save the family business—a pub that had gone under. She worked like a dog, pouring her hard-earned savings into the place, cleaning it, fixing it, getting it up to code, then bartending and waitressing, tossing out those who became too rowdy. She got married, and after a couple years, they came back to America. McIrish used to sleep in the bottom drawer of a dresser, because they didn’t have a crib.

polly at football game

The tall and the small!

Polly works harder than anyone I’ve ever met. There’s no task too small, humble or dirty for her. She can stretch a penny till it screams for mercy, and because of her financial smarts and work ethic, my in-laws were able to live the American dream—buy a house, put two of their three sons through college, thanks to her financial savvy.

She’s a master gardener and has transformed her backyard into a tiny Eden. I think she works too hard, maybe, and doesn’t relax enough, so nothing makes me happier than the chance to spoil her a bit. We bought her a recliner a couple of years ago with strict instructions to my father-in-law that this was Polly’s chair, not his. I like to have her visit us as much as possible, so she can relax on the porch, drink sweet wine and visit with my own mom. They are great friends, those two.

the princess and polly

With the Princess

This weekend, we brought Polly to Family Weekend at the Princess’s college. Polly loves being part of a crowd, and she got to spend lots of time with her beloved first grandchild and celebrate the 21st birthday of the Princess’s beau with his family (she loves him, of course, and his lovely Irish family). She ate a cheeseburger that was bigger than her head, and watched what she calls an “American football match,” and slept in a big hotel room, in a king-sized bed all by herself. I’m pretty confident she had a great time.

the bunny

She feeds wild bunnies.

I’m so lucky my husband was raised by this smart, kind, brave woman. She is adored by her three sons, two daughters-in-law, and five grandchildren. Polly, we love you! You’re the absolute best.

(Here’s her little wild bunny friend. She planted lettuce just for him. I told you she was the best!)


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