Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Meet the Parents
So much has transpired since my last blog entry. I am weary from the last month of events, but so happy because of what has happened. In the past month, I traveled home and introduced my boyfriend C to my family for the first time. I also took and passed my Ph.D. preliminary exam--an achievement that means I am a short six months away from graduation!
I am excited and exhausted and happy :-)
Okay, the details:
My boyfriend and I flew home to Texas, and I introduced him to my grandparents, parents, and brothers. It was the first time my family has met C--in spite of the fact that he and I have been dating for almost two years now. When we began dating, Mom requested that I not bring C home until she was ready--but this year she asked to meet him, and he politely agreed to come along we me on a trip home for Thanksigiving.
I'd be lying if I said we weren't scared. Interaction with my family was so unbelievably miserable last Christmas that I wasn't sure that I wanted to spend time with them again, even without my boyfriend being there! Moreover, I deeply treasure and care for C; I didn't want to walk him into familial hell.
So as our airplane drew closer and closer to Dallas, the knot in my stomach grew tighter and tighter. Finally, about a half-hour from landing, I turned to C, put my hand on his leg, and said, "I don't know if I can do this." C expressed his discomfort, too.
Greeting my parents at the curb of Dallas Fort-Worth International Airport was one of the toughest emotional tasks I've faced in a long time. But we did meet.
And I'm so glad. My parents were awesome. They were so kind and hospitable and warm. They rolled out the red carpet for C, preparing wonderful meals on beautiful dishes day after day. We had long, wonderful conversations in which they got to know C. They taught C their favorite game--a complicated domino game called "42" which C picked up quickly, much to the surprise of me and my parents. And then the four of us played the game for hours on end during the holiday. Dad made a fire in the fireplace. Mom prepared meals. C and I helped clean up the meals.
Only one of my brothers spent the holidays with us--my youngest brother, J. He was good-natured and fun the entire time. J is perhaps the most liberally-minded member of our family, even more so than me. T, my next younger brother, continued his (now 14-month) boycott of family gatherings where I was present. But his absence was surprisingly not a big deal this time around. Our family really mourned his absence last Christmas, but we were quite accustomed to it this time around. No mourning whatsoever. And our time with my family was so warm that I actually felt pity on T for missing out.
My oldest brother, S, celebrated Thanksgiving with his wife's family. C and I did get to see them for about 3-4 hours one day, and I'm grateful we had some time with them. I'm also feel strangely grateful that we didn't have more time with them. S is perhaps the most conservative member of our family (even more so than T; I think T's boycott is based on homophobia, not conservative principles).
We also toured Texas for a few days. I was able to introduce C to both of my grandmothers and my one living (but now senile) grandfather. We also met up with one of my aunts and a few of my cousins. All of my extended family was delighted to meet C.
Our time in Texas exceeded all my expectations and even my hopes. I was stunned. As our plane winged its way back to Illinois, C turned to me and said something I never imagined he'd say, "I loved our time with your family. I'd like to go back someday."
:-) Thank you, God :-)
Part of me is still incredulous. Part of me still doesn't believe what happened happened. Part of me wanted to grab my family members by their collars, shake them vigorously, and shout, "who are you and what have you done with my dysfunctional, ultraconservative family?!" But I didn't pick up any fakery, and forgery, any "masks." Well, with two small exceptions, which I will keep to myself.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with them and was delighted to see C enjoying himself too :-)
God, how can this be? Is there a possibility that C might become a fully-accepted part of my family at some point in my life? :-)
I'm not going to get my hopes up yet. Well, I confess my hopes have gone up based on my experience over Thanksgiving. But Mom and Dad are thus far unaware of all the conversation C and I have put into marriage. They don't know about the three pre-marital counseling appointments we have had recently (a fourth one is coming next week). They don't know that we're planning to buy wedding bands at Christmastime to wear on chains around our necks as a token of engagement. They don't know of our plans to request a small traditional Quaker wedding in our church next summer.
I know all those events will come as emotional "blows" to my family. We may be back to square one after this month. There is such a tough emotional road in front of us still.
But I feel so grateful that we're even able to tread this road. Was this road even imaginable twenty years ago? Would any member of my family be supportive of our relationship thirty years ago? Would anyone in the country be supportive of our relationship fifty years ago? I'm so grateful for the change (that I perceive to be motivated by God) that has happened in our culture. :-)
And I'm happy to be back in Illinois, which is now under snow and ice. While it was nice to be with my family, it was clear that their home is no longer my home. It was wonderful to be there, but I could not truly "rest" there.
I am discovering a new home for myself here. A home shared with the man I love.