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My Turn: Happy Mother’s Day to my mother-in-law, Gig

Susan Marie and Bob Davniero with his mother,

Susan Marie and Bob Davniero with his mother, Gertrude "Gig" Davniero-Ellison. Credit: Davniero family

I was newly married and took charge of buying “our” gifts for friends and family on both sides. I remember our first Mother’s Day gift to my mother-in-law, Gig — an engraved teacup set for display.

Unaccustomed to real gifts from her son, Bob (he always gave cash inserted in gift cards rather than buying something). Gig was happily surprised. “A gift from Bob . . . that’s different. . . . How lovely the cup is,” she said upon unwrapping her present.

On our next visit I saw the teacup set, proudly displayed on her bedroom dresser. From that first Mother’s Day present, she always graciously thanked us for our gifts, and usually put them on display. Our offerings were not ignored.

I wasn’t always as gracious as Gig, often exchanging her gifts for something else. Looking back, I realize I could have been a better daughter-in-law. I often would give Gig cards adorned by cats, because I loved cats, although Gig didn’t.

Throughout our marriage, as “customary” for the wife, I did all of the holiday planning. Bob and I often celebrated holiday dinners with long visits at my parents’ home, while Gig’s holiday visits were brief morning breakfasts at her house.

And when I was at her house I wasn’t the best guest, often monopolizing the conversation, while she silently smiled and listened. Bob, as my compliant, obliging husband, accepted whatever I decided for our holiday plans.

My mother-in-law is gone now, yet I will always remember how she and my mother conspired, plotting to arrange for Bob to phone me for a blind date.

It was 1979 and Gig’s son phoned, and it was the blind date that changed my life. We met at Gig’s house. There Gig stood at the front door to welcome me. It was the first time I met her, too. I recall looking at this comely woman, smiling at me as her blue eyes glistened beneath a pile of blond bouffant hair, framing a natural, pretty face. I remember thinking, “How can this blond woman be my Italian date’s mother?”

After greeting me, she stepped aside to allow her son to meet me. It was the beginning of her stepping aside to make room for us in her busy active life. At that time, divorced from Bob’s father and remarried, she often traveled with her new husband. In fact, she barely made it to our wedding, and wore a gown from her cruise as mother of the groom. Yet her house was always open to me — my wedding shower was held there. And Bob and I married at the church she attended.

After Bob and I married, I soon realized Gig was very sociable and loved to entertain her extended family. Although there was always room and place settings for us, I preferred visits at my parents’ home, where I grew up. As a result, I often turned down her many invitations on behalf of Bob and me. Yet, Bob was not forgotten as Gig always had “the black/white cookies Bob loves . . . just for Bob” as part of her dessert spread.

Many years passed and Gig, now widowed and living in a retirement community, was struck by cancer. The prognosis was not good. Yet when remission came and stalled the deadly process, we planned Mother’s Day.

Our gift that year was our invitation to take her to dinner at Chateau La Mer in Lindenhurst. Gig graciously accepted our gift. This present seemed to genuinely excite her, and she told family members, “Bob and Susan are taking me out for Mother’s Day.”

Alas, Gig died the next morning on Mother’s Day, May 11, 2001. We never were able to give her that last gift. This memoir is a belated Mother’s Day gift to my mother-in-law, Gertrude Davniero-Ellison. Happy Mother’s Day, Gig!

Susan Marie Davniero,


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