This is Magu (pronounced Ma-goo.) She is my marvelous mother in law.
It took me awhile to find this picture. Because there are only three on her facebook page. Magu does not treasure pictures of herself. She does not take pictures with her cell phone of herself doing attractive poses. She’s a bit more mature and humble than that. Of course, her real name isn’t Magu; it’s Carolyn Krasawski, which is much lovelier I assure you. Bo named her “Magu” when he was about a year old, and I don’t even remember exacty why. She is married to “Papa,” so perhaps he was trying to group them or something, but anyway every grandchild since has called her by that name.
Isn’t it funny how children name *us,* eventually?
When I first met Magu I was 17 years old. And her name was still just plain Carolyn, which I thought was delightful. I had just moved to New England from light-years away in Nebraska, and she and Bob were in charge of the youth group at the church I started attending. Wednesday nights we all met at the church, and on Friday nights some fifty kids crowded into their living room, always someone carrying a guitar, and we sang and talked about the Bible. I became best friends with their daughter, Deb, and her little brother always tagged along with all our other friends. Because we were the cool kids.
Or something like that.
I lived about 30 minutes away so I spent weekends with Deb at their house. We stayed up late, slept in late, went to the mall every Saturday, and had lovely Sunday dinners at their house after church before I headed back to where I lived and worked as a nanny. They became parents to me, making birthday cakes every year and adding a pile of presents to their Christmas tree for me every year. It was three years later when Rob and I started to entertain the idea of dating (since he’d pretty much been in preschool before that.) The first thing we *had* to do was ask his parents what they thought, because we knew we couldn’t “just date.” If it ended as all our other relationships had (we were stupid back then and had no idea we shouldn’t be dating–aaak) then we wouldn’t be friends anymore, and since his parents had become my second parents, that really wouldn’t work and we knew we shouldn’t even start. If we were going to date, it had to be because it was God’s will, and we were supposed to get married eventually. They said yes, and the rest is history.
I learned about a million things from this lady. Here are just a few of them.
1. She taught me how to cook.
This was a pretty funny thing for me to realize, because the truth is that she hates to cook! But the truth is, she’s the one who taught me how. Before I moved to New England, all I knew how to make was chili (from a can) and macaroni and cheese (from a box–hey, that takes a bit of skill.) She didn’t like to cook–said she wished we could all just take a pill and be done with it–but knew we needed to eat. So she cooked. And I wanted to learn, so she taught me! Chicken parmiagana, stuffed shells, sugar cookies … even turkey, for which everyone in our family is eternally grateful, since I’ve become the chef of Thanksgiving for the past … many years. Here’s what she told me about how to make a turkey:
Put it in a pan.
Put it in the oven.
Take it out.
That’s it. And she’s pretty much right. So, if my family eats, they need to thank Magu.
2. She taught me the importance of studying the Bible.
On Wednesday nights, Bob taught our big combined youth service. We had a blast, and he was great. He had a wonderful rapport with teenagers, and we loved being there. Friday nights found us piled up in their living room with her in the teacher’s chair pretty often. And I loved what she taught! She made the stories come alive for the first time, and as she taught I discovered how many applications could be drawn from a single, simple-on-the-surface story. I saw the characters of the Bible as real people with real issues and difficulties and needs, and I saw God meet those needs and reveal Himself through His Word. Much of my current love for the Bible–and certainly for teaching it– comes from Carolyn.
To all my dear friends perusing this picture and noting all the long-ago pairings, please forgive me for using it but it is a great picture of us all, regardless. Look at our great hairstyles! And see my first paragraph. Ahhh, the stupidity of youth. 😉
3. She taught me to choose the hard path.
As I said, I worked as a nanny to a beautiful little girl for the first few years that I knew the Krasawskis. She was only about six months old when I started, which meant my days were extremely quiet! Carolyn and I would spend hours on the phone every day. We talked about the Bible (see #2!) and about the Lord, and also about the day to day questions brought up in an eighteen year old girls’ world. One of the biggest things she taught me was how to make decisions. She told me to pray first, to get some godly counsel, and then to make a list of the pros and cons of any given course of action, and then to prioritize those things to figure out which seemed the better way to go. And then she reminded me, that often Jesus’ way was the harder way. In fact, were there two possible courses of action, the one that looked more difficult was probably the one more correct. That’s been a major defining factor in my own life ever since.
4. She taught me how to make a home-y home.
Whether it was cooking dinner when you didn’t want to or building a fire, lighting a candle or decorating for Christmas, Carolyn was always doing something to make sure her house was home-y. And home was what I’d been looking for all my life. There were always soft blankets piled on the couches and often music playing. She made tea and had lovely magazines sitting out and piles of interesting books on the shelves. And when one of their kids would come home, they’d head straight for the living room and collapse onto a squishy couch across from Bob and Carolyn, who were probably reading the paper or a book, and wait for the question which amazed me … “How was your day?” I know that sounds really strange, but I honestly don’t remember having heard anyone ask that of a kid before. They really wanted to know, too. As in, they’d set what they were reading down and listen, and ask even more questions. It was pretty earth-shattering to my world.
I’m actually getting homesick for that old house as I write about it. Anyway, I determined back then that I wanted something just like it–welcoming and comfortable–there’s just no other word for it but “homey.” It was the kind of place you missed when you were away, and when they sold it to move here to Florida many years ago, it was a bit heartbreaking.
It’s okay. I’m almost over it.
5. She taught me how to be married without yelling.
In all the years I’ve known them, I have yet to hear these two get in an argument. I’m sure there are disagreements (I’ve heard … maybe two of them) but they’re handled pretty calmly every time. I’ve never heard one say a disparaging word about the other, even when discussing their differences. And in this world, you’ve got to admit that’s pretty amazing. Since I’d watched them live married without fighting, I actually had hope that I could do the same. Much of the reason I married Rob was probably due to the fact that I was 95% certain he’d never raise his voice to me. And that was a good bet. Thanks, Magu.
6. She taught me to open my doors and let people in.
Having people come over for Bible study or dinner or just to hang out was a revolutionary thought to me as a teenager — again, I’d just never seen it done before. Her home was always open, and no one even had to knock. I haven’t exactly gotten that free in this area, but I sure would like to someday. In the meantime, I did learn the power of hospitality in a sin-sick world, and for that I’m very grateful. They opened their doors not only at specific times, but on some occasions even for people who needed a place to live. Which has probably contributed greatly to my own tendency to collect random people in need of accomodations for a season. My life has been enriched and stretched by that example.
These people are actually all technically and officially ours.
There are a million more things she taught me, enough to fill a book. There are probably many more that I’m not even aware of. God gave me a wonderful gift when He put her in my life!
Magu, remember way back when Papa was the last male in his family, you’d only had a girl, and you thought the name was going to end with you? I guess there’s no worry of that anymore. Love you!