Anyone who’s ever gotten married and spent a major family holiday with the in-laws knows that it can be awkward at first. No amount of love and welcome can make the different traditions and communication styles feel effortless to the “stranger.”
And by this, I mean the one who is only included because of their spouse, not because of a lifetime of memories and shared blood. I don’t say this to paint my husband’s family in a poor light. I admit that it’s awkward because that’s how most of this starts.
James and I have been married for six years now. Even before we’d tied the knot, I came down for the long Thanksgiving weekend as “the girlfriend” to see his folks and meet his family. I remember the moment, a year later, after James had proposed to me and I had a ring on my finger, when his sister threw her arms around me and whispered, “My sister!” It was one of those first moments that hinted that my heart was finding a place here to rest.
Becoming part of The Stephens Clan has been a process for me. I’ve had a bad attitude at times. I’ve made valiant efforts to contribute at others. I’ve lamented the far distances that separate most of us, making year-long relationships very challenging.
This year, I hit a shining milestone toward my membership in The Clan. Once again, like the hug from James’ sister that touched my heart and sealed itself forever in time, this moment had to do with the siblings.
We had an event to plan and we needed to do it by ourselves. James’ brother and sister and their spouses crammed together with James and me into a single bedroom of the house and, as we examined our schedules, we had a chance to share what was going on in our lives. We talked about what was important to us when we got together, and how we wanted to divide labor.
We were a team.
I was part of that team and I had as valid a voice as anyone else. As I placed a reservation and handed the phone to my brother-in-law to manage the billing info, there was a bonding that filled the room. I felt like an important cog in some big machine, something that would endure beyond myself. It would stretch out to the memories of my children. It would leave a legacy. It would knit me closer to these siblings from my husband’s clan.
This moment during event planning in which I realized that I belonged is my nugget of gratitude from this Thanksgiving that I’m bringing back with me.
What are you bringing back this year?