The Outlaw Mary Jane

I belong to an exclusive society whose password is “I do.”

We call ourselves the outlaws and bow to a fearless and fertile leader who launched this club 57 years ago.

Grandma Mary Jane makes selective use of her vast literary cache. A wordsmith, she, more than anyone I know, has mastered the art of holding her tongue.

This is the greatest lesson of any outlaw, but particularly for one as witty as she.

Sometimes the exact right thing to say is nothing at all.

I marvel at her discipline.

In April, we welcomed our ninth member and offered some tips for negotiating the exhilarating and challenging course this particular family maintains.

  • Brush up on your seven-letter Scrabble words because this family’s got game.
  • The correct time is 15 minutes early and, if you’re right on time, you’re late.
  • Learn to love broccoli. It shows up at every meal.
  • Be careful. Watch your intervals. Buckle up. Wash your hands every time you sneeze. (They’re a rather cautious lot.)
  • Celebrate.
  • Be kind.

Our leader negotiates her life gracefully. A dedicated yogi, she’s also centered and calm.

Four years ago, she lost her husband and we learned that the outlaw Mary Jane had another attribute we admire.


Here’s one of the world’s greatest mother in-laws, posing with her father and mother-in law at my wedding.
Grandma Mary Jane, circa August 2012. She hasn’t aged a bit.
Molly (christened Mary Margaret) and one of her namesakes Grandma Mary Jane.
Grandma Mary Jane, Molly and the next generation of grandchildren — Guy, Wilson, Sam and Ben.
Grandma Mary Jane enjoys the theater. She came to Appleton to see the Secret Garden in 2007.
She’s a goofball. Here is evidence of the only time my mother in-law has ever been on my back.
Celebrating Grandma Mary Jane’s 80th birthday.
The Midwestern outlaws. Listed in order of membership years we are: Mary Jane, John, Dennis, Me, Cary, Clay, Steve, Melissa, Chip. Go Outlaws!

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