Woman devastated when daughter-in-law refuses to allow her to take care of her son's tomato seedlings

Tracey Folly

*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told to me by a family member, who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.

When I was younger, my grandmother would often tell me stories about her daughter-in-law, whom she hated. From the way my grandmother talked about her, there was no love lost between them. The two women butted heads on almost everything, and my grandmother frequently felt left out and excluded from her own son's life.

One story that stuck with me was the time when her daughter-in-law refused to allow her to take care of her son's tomato seedlings. Though it happened many years earlier, I could still hear the hurt in my grandmother's voice whenever she would tell the story.

My grandmother had exactly one son, and therefore she was "blessed" with only one daughter-in-law. One was more than enough. My grandmother and her daughter-in-law were like oil and water. They weren't made to mix.

Unfortunately, once my uncle wed his wife, the pair of them moved into the apartment directly above my grandmother, and the three of them would live there in complete and utter disharmony for decades until my grandmother passed away.

Shortly after her daughter-in-law moved in upstairs, my grandmother's troubles began. Among their many reasons to argue were tomato seedlings.

Every year, my uncle planted tomato seeds in boxes, and my grandmother nurtured the seeds until they sprouted. Then she took care of the tiny seedlings, watering them, and positioning their box so they would absorb the sunlight streaming in through her kitchen window.

After my aunt moved in, she decided she should be the one to care for the seedlings. "If they are your seedlings, then it's only right that I should be the one to take care of them," she told my uncle. "Now that we are married, they are our seedlings, too."

She insisted she could do a better job with the annual tomato seedlings than my grandmother had done over the past several decades. She was wrong.

My grandmother felt devastated when she lost custody of the tomato seedlings. She knew she'd tended them with love and care and didn't see why her daughter-in-law felt it necessary to take away her sense of joy and pride in nurturing the tiny plants every year.

One month after the new batch of tomato seedlings sprouted, they were nearly dead. Their leaves were yellowed, and their stalks were wilted.

My uncle knew what to do. He asked my grandmother if she could resume taking care of his precious tomato seedlings, starting with the ones his wife had nearly ruined.

My grandmother graciously agreed, and my uncle carried the plants from the second-floor apartment where he lived with his wife to the first-floor apartment where my grandmother lived. She nursed the little plants back to health in short order.

The plants thrived under my grandmother's care, and from then on, she was allowed to take charge of the tomato seedlings. It was a small victory, but it was a victory nonetheless.

What would you have done? Comments are welcome.

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Writing about relationships online since 2009.

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