When a person gets married to the love of his or her life, they assume they are separating from former ties and creating a whole new unit. Just them, Spouse 1 and Spouse 2, facing the world. They might add to their unit, making a baby here and there, getting a pet . . . But they now are a new, completely separate pod of creatures.
I am here to tell you that THIS IS NOT TRUE. It is a lie, like zero-calorie cookies and faeries in the garden.
You marry the whole ding-dang family, warts and all. You have as much success separating into a new, self-contained pod as finding Elvis in Argentina.
And the yoking of the two pods, the originals and yours (the offshoot), often leads to shock. Your shock, their shock, your friends’ shock, their friends’ shock. The list is endless, and in some families the shock never quite subsides.
Such is the case when Randy and I married nearly 30 years ago.
I came from a small university town with a population of well over 75,000. Randy came from a ranch. The nearest town had about 1000 humans. A mix of Cherokee Indians, rednecks, and little, old people in overalls – half of them his relatives. Everyone in the whole region knew his great-grandfather personally. I have yet to meet all my relatives, or, indeed, hear of their existence. I just found out that I have 3 full-grown second cousins. I hadn’t even known they’d been born until yesterday when my brother reconnected with one cousin via the internet and had forwarded an email to me. (Birgit, if you’re reading this, Greetings from Arkansas!)
In the old days, when my father-in-law was alive and mobile, every one of my husband’s family reunions ended in a knife fight. No one was ever stabbed, thanks to interference from my father-in-law, but, to put it succinctly, the Wild West was alive and well in the Stilwill, Oklahoma, City Park every 4th of July. My family never had reunions since we were scattered all over the globe. If any of us ever got together, we’d say things like, “Das Sauerkraut schmeckt wie Katzenurin,” or, “Dad, tell us about your childhood.” Which he never did.
Even food can cause shock between the two families. Randy introduced me to huge country breakfasts, which consisted of everything pork and biscuits slathered in fruit jelly. Afterwards, I had ringing in my ears from all the lard and was constipated for 2 weeks. I, in return, introduced Randy to homemade burritos. Refried beans, crushed garlic, cumin, chili powder, and cheddar cheese rolled in a tortilla. It never gave him a near death experience, but I can still remember the comment of Randy’s younger brother: “Eww!” This was from the kid who ate mounds of grape jelly on his scrambled eggs. “They taste like mashed beans in a wet napkin!”
And the food differences live on after 30 years of sharing meals. Just two weeks ago we had a mini-reuinion at my mother-in-law’s house. I brought a pasta salad. When I was making it, I didn’t just toss it all together in a bowl, without regard for whom it was intended for. I agonized over the ingredients. Do I put in black olives, or will they think they’re cockroaches? Should I use bottled Italian dressing, or mix my own without the garlic? Do I use the tri-colored rotini, or will it scare the kids?
I made all the right decisions, save one. I used the marinated artichoke hearts. Big mistake. My original reasoning had been, “What if Margaret (my mother-in-law) likes them? Or what if she would like to try one?” So I added them. After about 30 minutes of eating, my eighteen-year-old niece asked me what those green things were. “Thea, did you put cabbage in the noodles?” she asked accusingly.
Me: “No. They’re artichokes.”
She gave me a thumbs -up.
Randy: “Do you know what artichokes are?”
Randy: “Well, do you like them?”
Niece: “Ummmm, the noodles are good…”
Me: “I thought Margaret would like them.”
Randy: “Mom, did you try one?”
That ended the artichoke discussion, or, indeed, any future appearance of them at any more reunions.
I would now like to add a link. Here is a short video of that mini-reunion. My husband is the dark-haired man talking to his mother.
The burp was NOT his, but the work of one of his brothers, who tried to pawn it off on my sister-in-law, Judy, his wife. And they complain when I say “butt” out loud . . .?
In-laws. . . Gotta’ love ‘em. And I do!
Do you have any of your own in-law stories you want to share? Yes, you say, but what if they read this blog? They won’t. Just how big of a readership do you think I have?
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