The thing about families is that you are around them so much that you get used to them. They are normal to you. Every now and then something happens that makes you really think about your family objectively, however, and you realize that maybe the rest of the world won’t find them so normal.
This happened at Thanksgiving. My son arranged his work schedule so that we could go to VA to share the holiday with my extended family. Thanksgiving meals there have been known to have 30 people at the table. My siblings, nieces, nephews, their spouses and kids, plus various add ons gather around.
DS really wanted to go, and he intended to bring his fiance. He partly wanted to show her off. He partly, I suspect, wanted some equal time for all the days he has spent with her family, which is based up here and is local.
DS decided to drive down Wednesday night, but I prefer to drive down Thanksgiving day when the highway traffic is not bumper to bumper. And so it was decided that we would follow him down the next morning, until my husband privately raised the matter with me again that night.
“I think we should drive down on Wednesday too,” he said.
When I rejeted the idea, he tried again. “I don’t think it is appropriate for her to meet your family without you being there.”
What a silly man. Appropriate? This was my son and my family, not an etiquette convention. Besides, my son and fiance would drive into the night, arrive and go to bed, and we would be there before they woke up, most likely.
DH tried again. “I do not think it is really fair to expect her to meet your family without you there to run interference.”
Even as I opened my mouth to object, images floated into my head. Some were from holidays past. Others were fantasies in which my son’s fiance played a role. In all of them I saw my family in all of its overwhelming, distinctive, no standing on ceremony glory. We are a group of people who are “out there” in terms of personalities. We are opinionated, loud, often funny, and pretty blunt. Honest questions of curiosity can easily come across as the third degree. Even the quiet ones are no shrinking violets.
I love every minute in that chaotic milieu, but even I admit it could be a bit much for someone coming in from the outside. Since my husband had been just such a someone, he probably knew that far better than I ever would.
In the end I won but only because I was sure we would be there in time for the holiday dinner, so we drove down on Thursday. But at that dinner, as the din rose and fell, every now and then I would step outside of myself and my years of experience that made it all so normal, and wonder what my son’s fiance was thinking as she learned just what normal meant in our family.
Then again, since she had already met me, maybe she found things pretty much as she expected.
Do you have any holiday rules about things that can’t be talked about when the family gets together? (We have two subjects that are forbidden, since they managed to almost destroy past dinners.)
Do you have in laws? Would the day you met them make a good movie?