Holidays With Relatives

If ever I'm in left in any doubt that God has a sense of humor, I just stop and look at the family I married into.  Southern, Baptist, republican, gun-toting, men-rule-the-roost conservatives, I couldn't find a more polar opposite family to marry into if I tried.

Not that they were thrilled with Blair's choice of a bride.  A mid-west, liberal, vegetarian, new age spiritualist who likes to mouth off her opinions, I was probably the closest version to Hell on earth they'd ever experienced.

Not that they would have the bad manners (as I did) to show it.  Everyone here in the South puts on a good face and my in-law relatives have never been anything but kind to me.  Still, meeting them was a shock.  In every relationship prior to Blair, I had been "the catch."  Mothers loved me.  So much so that when relationships ended, the moms would be calling me to see if things could be repaired.  So it was a real ego-jolt to meet Blair's family and realize not only was there to be no love-fest celebrating my very existence (!), deep at heart they were all hoping I would go away.

It took years for me to be even vaguely comfortable with them.  I remember the first Christmas we spent at my mother and father-in-laws.  Like any family, they have their own traditions around opening gifts.  My family's tradition involved ripping into our presents like mad-dogs hoping for a beef jerky treat.  Noise, shouts, laughs, and confusion reigned.

Gift opening at the in-laws was a bit different.  My father-in-law would haul out this rickety spotlight worthy of a Hollywood film stage and each of us would sit individually in what I came to affectionately refer to as "the chair of death."  Then he would film each of us opening our gifts.  I was okay with that part.  What rocked my world was that there was close to absolute silence while this was done, I guess so stray conversations or noise didn't mess up the holiday tape.  So each of us would sit there in a police spotlight, camera trained on our every move, while everyone sat in a circle outside the light and stared, silently, as you opened a gift, raised it to the camera, smiled and nodded a thank you to whoever bought it for you, and then moved to the next.

I learned to open gifts with record-fast speed that year.

But things improved, mainly after I matured (all of you who know me--shut it.  I'm a work in progress) and realized I could not--no matter how hard I tried or desired it--change these people. And I stopped fighting so hard.  I admit, I was an extremely unpleasant person to be around on holiday visits those first few years as I considered it my personal duty to point out to everyone how WRONG they were about everything and give a detailed list of reasons why.  I have a very patient husband.

I don't really know how I got on this line of thought other than we had lunch with my brother and sister-in-laws and their kids the other day and it struck me how much I still have to work for conversation.  Even after 13 years, it doesn't come easy. 

And yet, I can enjoy being around them now.  Now that I've accepted they won't change, some of their traits that used to send me into the wall now make me laugh. And maybe they've come to appreciate a thing or two about me (maybe).

These aren't people I would hang out with if we weren't related, but maybe God knows this and that's why he places certain people in our path.  To learn lessons that maybe we wouldn't be so brave or eager to seek out on our own. Lessons I've learned from my relatives include patience, tolerance, and an understanding that I don't have to like every aspect of a person in order to appreciate them fully as a person.  And that's just the skim of it. 

When people come into your life you don't care for or have a negative reaction to--take a closer look. 

They're always there for a reason.