In honor of our current visit to the in-laws in New York, and since Sprite's Keeper's Spin Cycle topic this week is "the first time..." (no, not that first time...), I thought I would take a trip down memory lane to the very first time Jimmy brought me to New York to meet the parents.
So back we go...
Back when love was new, and Jimmy seemed exciting and fascinating, instead of an annoying pain in the butt...
Back when my hair was much larger, and I was much thinner...
Ah, here we are...1991.
I had just spent Christmas with my mother in Texas, and had been invited by Jimmy to join him and his family for New Year's. Jimmy and I had been dating for about 10 months.
Now you have to understand that at this time, Pop was still on his hiatus, (For those of you who don't remember the story, read this. You should read it because it's a good story. But if you're too lazy, I'll synopsize - Mommy and Pop were separated for 20 years, during which time Pop lived with another woman, called "That Woman". He then...returned.) so Mommy was living alone in the family house. And I didn't get to know him that well until years later.
Apparently, the fact that Jimmy was bringing a woman home from California to meet the family was a pretty big deal. You have to understand that Jimmy was a bit of a...how do I put this? A Lothario? A Don Juan...He got around. But long term commitment? Not so much.
So this was very exciting for his parents. Which is why both Mommy AND Pop came to the airport to meet me, even though they were barely speaking at the time, it being year 15 or so of their separation. I remember walking down to baggage claim, and seeing Jimmy standing with these two small and very intense people. They decided to take me out to dinner on the way home from the airport. I recall very little about this meal, but Mommy remembers it very well. She says she was terribly impressed because I ordered a huge salad, and ate every bite. She says I had a "hearty appetite" (remember the New York accent, so this sounds like "hawdy appetite". When I've asked her over the years why this big appetite thing impressed her so much, she explains that she thought that I must have felt at home with them to be willing to eat so much in front of them, something that apparently most girls don't do. I hated to tell her that really, I just eat a lot. As you will see, these are the kinds of things that impress Mommy.
That night, Mommy insisted on giving me her bedroom, because I was the guest. Which was very sweet and a little embarrassing, and totally in Mommy's character, and would have been okay if Jimmy hadn't been so very Jimmyish, and decided to sneak into his mother's bed with me in the middle of the night. This is creepy on oh so many levels, not the least of which is that there was a crucifix the size of a truck steering wheel hanging over the bed, which I found...not so sexy.
The next morning, I awoke to crisis. Which is per usual in this household. Every time we EVER visit, there is a crisis. EVERY time. They range in seriousness from the death of a relative to a broken washing machine, but are all greeted with hysteria. And I probably should have caught on to this, but of course, didn't. This first crisis was a doozy. Grandpa Tony (Mommy and Aunt Grace's father) was about 88 then, living with Mommy at the time, and suffering from Alzheimer's. First thing on the morning after my arrival, he suffered some kind of attack, and they had to call an ambulance and take him to the hospital.
Everyone left with the ambulance in a blur of panic and insanity, leaving me alone in this house, which I had never been in before. I remember calling Mama in Texas, and asking her what I should do, and she, being rather sensible about these things, and certainly understanding a thing or two about making a good impression on people, told me to "make myself useful". Maybe "do some cooking".
So I went to work, and cooked a big Southern meal - fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy. I thought I should make something that Jimmy's family would like, but was a little foreign and exotic to them. I rooted around in the freezer and the pantry and basically made do with what I could find. I then set to work making myself useful.
As Mommy tells it, they got home from the hospital, walked into the kitchen and found me folding Grandpa Tony's underwear, which had been in the dryer, and she knew I was "one of the family".
The rest of my visit was a whirlwind of strangers. Jimmy introduced me to every human being he knew on Long Island - a blur of parties and dinners and visits to stranger's houses. I met friends, relatives, third-cousins twice removed, old girlfriends, Jerry at the deli, Francesca at the dry cleaners, Joe at the drug store, Gino at the Italian restaurant, John and Edmund at Hoy Ming, people who Jimmy thought might be relatives, but wasn't really sure, people who were cousins through both sides of his family (yes, Mommy and Pop are second-cousins, which speaks volumes...). I thought that all of this social madness was because Jimmy was excited for people to meet me, but I realized later that this was simply what Jimmy did every time he visited Long Island. Which might be why these trips are so exhausting...
And apparently, I passed the test. I guess it was a test. Mommy tells me now that there were three things that particularly impressed her about me:
- The aforementioned folding of Grandpa Tony's underwear.
- I "drank the black coffee". Which means "espresso" in Mommytalk.
- I "ate the tripe".
So there you are people. I won over my in-laws by doing laundry and eating everything that was offered to me. Which I guess isn't really a bad foundation to build on. I must remember this when Jude brings home a "girl". If she folds Jimmy's underwear and eats the tripe, she's a keeper.
Please visit Sprite's Keeper for more "First Times".