Guest Blogger Angie Arndt: Lemon Chess Relationships

by | Guest Blogger | 7 comments

Several years before she died, my mother-in-law asked me to name my favorite Bible story. I told her it was the story of Ruth. Not too many moments before we’d been having a heated argument about something insignificant – not a unique experience. My answer, the Bible story chronicling the love between a daughter-in-law and mother-in-law, left her speechless – definitely a unique experience!

By the time I’d married her youngest son, she’d been a widow for more than a decade. Her husband, a handsome Naval officer, died at age 54 after a series of heart attacks that began when he was just 32-years-old. So, as her friends were making travel plans with their retired spouses, my mother-in-law was learning to live alone for the first time in her life. In the eyes of those around her, she grew stubborn and hard-to-please. She was just as Naomi must have been to have changed her name to Mara … bitter. 

My mother-in-law was a typical Southern woman, accustomed to a rigidly-structured, matriarchal society. There were strict rules: “when ironing a dress shirt start with the sleeves first” or “homemade pie crusts are best.” As a newlywed and her next-door neighbor, at first I would quietly listen and then do whatever I pleased. (Someone had to keep the dry cleaners and grocery stores in business!) But later, I grew more confident. If she had a strong opinion on a topic, I had an equally-strong-but-opposite opinion. We argued about everything from careers to wall colors. (My poor husband!) 

When she developed cancer, I was given “the opportunity” to help care for her. I took that opportunity with much fear and trembling. As I watched her valiantly win that long battle against cancer, my attitudes changed. What I thought was stubbornness was actually courage and tenacity. What I took for offensiveness really meant she trusted me enough to be candid. Five years later, when she lost her battle to congestive heart failure, I realized that being able to care for her had been a gift from God. She had become my friend. 

I still miss her. I even miss our arguments. As I write this, I wonder, could Ruth have been strong enough to make it in a foreign land without Naomi? I don’t think so.

Here is my mother-in-law’s recipe for lemon chess pie. A little sour, a little bitter, but oh-so-sweet and worth the trouble!

Lemon Chess Pie

1 cup of sugar
½ stick of margarine or butter
2 eggs
Juice and grated rind of 1 lemon
Pinch of salt
Unbaked pie crust

Cream butter and sugar in mixer. Add unbeaten eggs, one at a time. Then, add juice and rind together with salt. Pour into pie crust and bake slowly for 20 – 30 minutes at 300 degrees. Makes one pie.

Your Turn: What about you? Do you have any Lemon Chess Relationships?


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  1. Angie Arndt

    Thanks so much for hosting me today, Lisa! As I read this today, I was again struck by how beautiful she was when she was young. But my husband’s favorite photo of his mom shows her dressed as a hobo for a Halloween party. She’s making a funny face, making us smile.

    Thanks again for letting share my memories!

  2. Dora Hiers

    Oh, Angie, your post floods my mind with memories of my relationship with my mother-in-law. We’re kindred spirits, you and I, except that I never had the opportunity to “care” for my mother-in-law before she died.

    Thank you for sharing your heart and this recipe!

    • Angie Arndt

      I think that the reason my mother-in-law “bumped heads” so often is because we were so much alike. But, I think you and I are kindred spirits, too. 🙂

      My husband read the post and his first comment was to ask when I was going to make the pie! (I’m afraid it’ll be with a store-bought crust. I never did learn to make homemade.)

      Thanks for commenting, Dora!

  3. Pat Trainum aka P. T. Bradley

    I love this post, and know well the “iron the sleeves first” thingy. My mother-in-law lived with us for 20 years, so I know about the head-butting thingy too. But we were good friends as well. Like you, I miss her.

    • Angie Arndt

      And have you tried to iron the sleeves first? They get all wrinkled before you finish the shirt — at least they did for me.

      But isn’t it amazing how God puts the right people in our lives at the right time? You were a wonderful daughter-in-law to live with your husband’s mother for twenty years. Even if you’re the best of friends, it’s hard to have two women in a household. I bet she loved you dearly. 🙂

      Thank you so much for commenting!


  4. Sandra Ardoin

    What a wonderful post, Angie! My MIL and I get along very well. My mom and my grandmother were not so fortunate.

    Ruth is also one of my favorite books.

    • Angie Arndt

      I’m so glad you get along with your MIL. ‘Sorry to hear about the friction between your mom and grandmom. Isn’t it weird how some relationships just don’t work, no matter how hard we try?

      I’m just glad we got along the last five years of her life.

      Thanks for commenting, sweet friend!