Lil’ Joe … he’s been dad since I was 6. (And mom started dating him when I was 2-ish so I’ve never known a time he wasn’t in my life.) In my family we never say step or half … we are just family. Mom, dad, sisters and brother. I was 8 when my sister Alicia was born, 12 when Anthony was born. Stephanie is 18 months older than me and we are the result of mom’s first marriage.
Lil’ Joe is all of 5’2″ … and I think that is being generous. (I’m 5’1″ and always in heels so he seems much shorter than I am.) He’s one of the most physically fit men I know, working out religiously everyday for pretty much his entire life. Despite his short but muscular stature the boyfriends from my younger years were intimidated by him.
My father had predictable behavior when a boy was over. The then boy of my dreams and I would be watching a movie … and by watching I mean not really watching … in the depths of the basement with the lights out. Lil’ Joe would swing open the door and flip on a light and Mr. Make-out of the moment and I would jump to opposite sides of the sofa. He would then proceed to barrel down the stairs and walk over to a book shelf where he would pretend to choose a National Geographic from his collection and then head back upstairs … enough of an interruption to kill the teenage moment.
All in all I think I have a pretty remarkable family. Sometimes I wish I was closer to my older sister but we were close enough in age to be frienemies during our developmental years and now we have kids and careers. M younger siblings and I certainly don’t have the crazy childhood memories Steph and I have together but we are working to create crazy adulthood ones. (Please recall Anthony was my manny for 6 weeks in Alaska and went on a cruise with the boys and I the year before … so many good times.)
Recently Anthony has been bringing a new young woman around. (Her name is Jackie … it makes for very confusing conversations. My mother suggested we say little Jackie and big Jacquie but all I got out of that was I am fat and need to go on a diet.) Alicia has a new friend spending time with us as well and I have Ian. (Yes, we will just go by his name from here on in … Ian, Ian, Ian.) Family gatherings are suddenly a little more lively and no we don’t hold back for fear of scaring anyone away.
Last night, a Wednesday night, Ian and I cooked dinner and Alicia and her friend stopped by. There was champagne, wine, carbs, conversation and lots and lots of laughs, so many laughs they turned into tears. My family is fun, modern, and usually uninhibited. It makes for fabulous holiday gatherings and could-be awkward first meetings.
Ian met the parents just shy of two weeks ago. We stopped by on a Friday night to grab the twins and had a drink and introductions. The next night we went over there for a slightly post-St. Patty’s Day feast and the whole crew was there. Anthony was burping, my mother pouring the wine, my sister’s husband and Ant have a tendency to speak in character, often those of friends or other family members, and my main goal is usually to make Lil’ Joe blush and see the vein on the side of his forehead pop out … a sure-fire sign I have succeeded in pushing the limits.
A few examples of how to make Lil’ Joe blush:
On Ian being British ….. “Dad … he’s British. It’s like I was a virgin again. I never shagged anybody before … ”
On life after retirement: “See Dad, I knocked before coming into the house … just in case you were getting some …”
On dad saying sweet nothings to mom: “You’re just saying that cause you wanna get lucky.”
His response: I’m almost 70, we don’t do that anymore.
My response to that: Dad, I get hit on by men your age all the time. You do that …
On religious holidays:
Dad: Hi JB! It’s Holy Saturday.
Me: It’s gonna be anything but holy if I get my way.
This could all be slightly intimidating to a newbie. But it’s not. We love, we laugh, sometimes we disagree. We play games, tell stories, and respect each other’s choices and do not judge the past. (Or if we do we just drink enough wine that it no longer matters.) We welcome new friends with open arms.
Back to meeting the parents … Ian saw them Friday and Saturday and again on Sunday at which point we invited my brother to join us for dinner out. I threw poor Ian into the fire so fast he didn’t have time to think twice and by late Sunday night he declared what a great weekend it was and how much fun he’d had. He has since survived the first holiday gathering and meetings with extended family as well. He fits in quite nicely and should have Lil’ Joe blushing and shaking his head in no time.
Last night, while sitting around my dining room table, Alicia’s new friend and Ian were recalling the meetings and allowing us to see what it’s like to become a part of our family as an outsider.
“You don’t get introduced to your family, it’s like an initiation.”
For years I lived somewhat far away from my childhood home. I was in Florida, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Killingworth … which is apparently the equivalent of Vermont … and then Alaska. Family time had to be scheduled and planned and often involved overnight bags. For the first time in a looooong time I am close to home and I am loving what that means. Bring on more impromptu Wednesday visits, Sunday dinners, Friday happy hours, and more laughs than we can handle … and we are happy to share them.