My mother and my mother-in-law are both bright women, each in their own ways. But in keeping with my theme of praising mothers-in-law, we'll leave my mother-in-fact for another day.
My mother-in-law is a descendant of the French Negroes of Illinois. Her father, Joseph Perry Micheau, was born in Prairie du Rocher, Illinois, in 1888 and married Edna Julia Lewis in 1913.
Joe Micheau probably went to the school for black children in Prairie du Rocher which was run by the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, an order of Catholic nuns. Later, when the Adorers left Prairie du Rocher, Joe's wife Edna became the teacher for the black children.
Joe Micheau was an extraordinarily literate man. After leaving school, he continued to educate himself. He had intended to become a priest, until he met his future wife.
My mother-in-law and her three siblings benefited from their parents' interest in education and particularly in reading. My mother-in-law, born in St Louis, Missouri, about fifty miles west of Prairie du Rocher, attended the public Sumner High School for a year, then transferred to St. Rita's High School, a Catholic girls school, from whence she graduated.
Her innate curiosity, however, is what makes her so smart. At age 50, despite not knowing how to drive or even owning a car, she took an automotive repair course, just because she "wanted to know." The same impulse led her to learn how to make soap and glass.
She reads everything she can get her hands on. Sometimes she reads labels in the grocery store just to learn about a product even without wanting to buy it.
She's quiet and she listens. Those traits make her seem shy, but they're the key to what makes her smart.