When Andy and I started dating he was in Delaware and I was living in California. We managed to see each other about every 3 weeks…mostly due to lots of cross-country air trips on his part. While he got to know my family from spending so much time in California, I think I saw his family once from the time we started dating until our wedding. Granted, Andy and I had known each other for 15 years, since our days of living in Hong Kong, and I had met them before but didn’t know them very well.
When my friend Liz got married she commented “It’s a funny thing that when you marry someone, you are supposed to instantly think of their family as your family, even if you don’t really know them.” That’s a little bit how I felt about Andy’s family. They are wonderful people but not having spent much time with them meant I felt much more like a “guest” when visiting than like family. Childhood manners kicked in in funny ways. About six months after we were married we went to spend Christmas with Andy’s parents. Though his parents had taken to being instant grandparents fantastically and were tickled to death with Trinity, I was paranoid she was going to TOUCH things in their house! It’s highly stressful taking a 3 year old to someone else’s house but when it’s ‘new’ family and you just hope you fit in, it’s downright terrifying!
His parents also tend to eat dinner much later than we do so there were awkward times of hunger. But there were the childhood manners again. You don’t ask for food in someone else’s house, you wait for it to be offered. And you certainly don’t go poking around their pantry or refrigerator! The following incident took place early in our stay. Andy grabbed a snack and did not seem to get the secretive glances I tried to throw his way that surreptitiously communicated “Grab me some too!” The conversation later went like this:
- Me: “I can’t believe you didn’t grab me some food too!”
- Andy: “I didn’t know you were hungry. Why didn’t you just grab some yourself?”
- Me: “Of course I was hungry! I was starving! But I can’t just go get food on my own, that would be rude! You, however are their son, you can grab food any time you want without it being weird….And how could you possibly not know…I was giving you the look.”
- Andy: “You are ridiculous. If you are hungry you should eat.”
Three years later we are again spending Christmas with Andy’s family. Lilly has carried the wooden camel from their nativity set around the house saying “Neigh, neigh!” and I don’t race to grab it out of her hands. The plastic building set parts the girls love are strewn across the floor in front of the fireplace and I don’t feel the need to follow behind them picking up every piece they drop the instant they drop it. Andy and I are planning a day out together tomorrow and I’m not worried that his parents will think we’re trying to take advantage of them for watching the girls (even though we really are ;)). I’m starting to understand his dad’s sense of humor more….And you know what? When I’m hungry….I grab something to eat. I told Andy last night. “I think I finally feel like family.”