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?”

Niece: “No.”

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?”

Margaret:  “No.”

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?

Remember, to leave a comment click on the ‘Comments’ tag at the end of this blog, and don’t forget to check out the latest Photoblog on the right.  Just put your cursor over the picture to read the caption, or click on one if you want to leave your comment.

Have fun!

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4 Responses to IN – LAWS

  1. Snuffygump says:

    Always nice to here Randy’s laugh. Now, I would never be able to tell which brother is which. Is Kenny the belching brother? Can’t recall the youngest name??? No body looks like Randy….why is that?
    Family reunions. Those were done on the Clark side of the family. That’s because, apparently, the Clarks all liked one another. They were held annually and always located in a different state, from New Mexico, to Texas, Oklahoma, or Arkansas.
    The Clarks did allow themselves to play one card game, why this one wasn’t considered off limits remains a mystery. The game is called Rook. I remember tables of four adults each sitting for hours, raucous laughter and merciless teasing emanating from each group.
    For me, my reunion experience centered around 3 of my cousins of the same age. They, like me, were the only girl in their immediate family. We banded together each summer, like we had always been together and pursued our own adventures. Since two out of the three had the last name of Lewis, it was pretty obvious what we titled our adventures….or rather, expeditions.
    The best Lewis and Clark expedition happened the summer the Clarks all gathered in the panhandle of Oklahoma. Rattlesnake country, home of one of the largest annual rattlesnake round ups held in the USA.
    We found rattlesnakes in the camp kitchen. We found them in our shoes. We found them in the bathhouses. You get the idea how plentiful they were.
    So, when half of the Lewis and Clark expedition got lost in the rocky hills surrounding the camp, there were some upset aunts and uncles, but mostly from on the Lewis side. Clarks were to savvy to get lost.
    In the past 10 years I have talked with my Aunt Vonie, who especially was upset that day, since her only daughter was among the missing. She cannot see the humor in that episode to this day. I can, because it was almost unbearably funny, to me, to hear her blowing on this metal whistle and calling out E.R.I.C.A.! I mean, who’s mother carried a whistle to summon their kids? The whole scene also was funny to me, because, I didn’t get in trouble, but all of the Lewis’s did!
    The Clark family reunions ended about 8 years ago. My father, at 91 years of age, is the last, official Clark, living, although he still has 2 out of 8 sisters still living, both older than he. I am glad that I have this heritage of one week out of the summer spent with all my fathers relatives, it certainly helped me to connect to a generation and era that has now faded away.

  2. Thea Phipps says:

    That was a great memory, Snuffygump! I had to laugh myself when I pictured the whistle-blowing Mom. At least it was marginally better than a gong.
    As to the video, the belching brother was Jeff, the one in the white shirt that smelled his wife (we still don’t know why). Every time we play that link, Randy and I laugh hysterically at the timing of my camera and the burp. It looks like it came from Randy. It makes me think of the scene in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels when Steve Martin, playing Ruprecht, asks Michael Caine’s character if he can go to the bathroom. Caine gives his consent, and, without getting up from the dinner table, Martin relieves himself in his pants with the same goofy, glazed look on his face as Randy’s.
    And as to why no one looks like Randy. . . he actually looks a lot like both parents, but none of the other kids do except Karl. And he’s the youngest, by the way. The members of that family range from black hair and brown eyes to blond hair and light blue, green eyes. Wide genes, I guess. But they all have the same feet, like they’d all been stamped out of the same foot mold. It’s scary. . .

  3. Cynthia says:

    Once upon a time, I went to a cousin reunion. Too many of us to invite the whole family. My boy cousins got into a game of ultimate frisbee. Bony elbows seem to run in the family, & a cousin elbow is a dangerous thing. One connected with the side of my brother’s head mid-game, creating a big bloody gash. So I drove him from Bull Shoals lake to the Mountain Home emergency room. My dad crashed the cousin reunion, intercepted us at the ER & asked if we’d be ok with him doctoring up the bro instead. We said yes & headed to Wal-mart for Super Glue.Dad shaved his head & glued his skin back together, creating this creepy flat eyeball on the side of his head. every now & then bro would tap the spot where the super glue was and it would make this awesomely disturbing plastic on plastic sound. Man, I love families.

  4. Thea says:

    That is one of the funniest family reunion stories I’ve ever heard.

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