Meeting the Family
There is no doubt in my mind that my husband, Fred, was feeling exceedingly apprehensive. His commitment was actually a gutsy move, considering he had previously been engaged three times and could not bring himself to follow through to the point of saying “I Do” with any of the other ladies to whom he had been betrothed. Now he had married a young divorcee with a seven-year-old son. True love must have distanced him from dwelling on the obvious potential future difficulties.
Would his step-son grow to love him? Would he be able to live as a good role model for this child? And what about the new in-laws that he would instantly inherit, who lived many miles away in a Southern town, no less, and whom he had yet to meet? Had he, a confirmed bachelor, made the right decision to marry? He told everyone that he was only doing this once and that he waited until the right person came along. Could he adjust to a permanent partnership?
The New York borne and bred native peered out of the window of his company car as he, his new wife, and his young son headed South. He managed to maneuver through the frantic “bob and weave” traffic along the Washington, D. C. beltways well into their adventurous trip to North Carolina to meet the extended family.
He wondered exactly what his new bride’s Southern family would be like. Would his new father-in-law feel that he couldn’t possibly measure up to the expectations he held for his precious daughter this second time around for her? Her first marriage had not survived, and perhaps her father was wondering if this one was doomed as well. Would he already have one strike against him just because the other guy couldn’t make her happy?
Her family turned out to be remarkably different from his own, with her only siblings being represented by an older, stuck-in-the-hippie era sister, who was residing in communes all over the world, as well as a significantly younger brother, whose surprise conception currently made him a whopping twelve years old.
Fred was keenly aware that he was entering territory commonly referred to as “The Bible Belt,” and he had already been forewarned that she and her family took the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit very seriously. Assuming that he should refrain from smoking or swearing, both of which were second nature to him at that time, this visit would require concentration on his part in order to avoid any behavior or language that most people might consider normal, but could cause his new relatives to cringe and find him reprehensible.
His concerns were quickly allayed when his new in-laws greeted him with open arms, warm, genuine smiles, and an assurance that he was sincerely welcomed into the family. Numerous relatives were introduced to him that week, and he felt certain that he would never retain all of their names—particularly in view of the fact that it was likely that his exposure to them would only be an annual event.
As one of her uncles eyed him curiously, the inquisition began. Uncle Jack was a stoic character with a dry sense of humor, but their conversation quickly revealed that the two shared the common passion of golf. At last, Fred could enjoy some communication with someone with whom he could totally relate. Then in the midst of a lengthy dissertation about the condition of a local golf course, the uncle uttered a word that was less than appropriate! Whew!! He might be able to relax now after all. These people were going to be reasonably normal. The fact was that they were all incredibly friendly and kind, causing him to feel as comfortable as he could possibly feel. If he could only understand everything they were saying, it would be easier, however. A waitress at the restaurant where they had stopped for lunch on the road had asked him if he wanted a yeast roll. He could not determine what she was asking him. Did she say eastro? Bistro? He needed an interpreter for what was supposed to be English.
At the end of the day with the relatives, he knew that he must have made a good impression when the golfing Uncle Jack, enthusiastically puffing away on a big cigar, pulled the new bride aside and said, “Mary, that Fred’s really a nice guy…” He hesitated for a split second and then added his distinct clarification, “for a Yankee!” The ultimate compliment from Uncle Jack.
Blessed with an awesome son and daughter-in-law, three amazing grandchildren and the cutest great-grandchild ever, we joyfully celebrate year thirty-six of marriage this year!
Mary Anne Benedetto
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