December 1, 2004 ~ The Old Rocking Chair
Some thoughts from the Thanksgiving visit with my in-laws:
I pulled the rocking chair out from the corner of my mother-in-law's living room and sank into it.
She smiled. "Do you like that chair?" she asked. "Is it comfortable for you?"
I assured her that I liked it and that it was comfortable.
"Oh, I'm glad, because it will be yours once you two get pregnant. It's perfect for nursing. I nursed Morgan in that chair. It was the first piece of real furniture his father and I bought."
I can't quite capture the moment with the right words, the words that will express the significance of the exchange and what it meant to me. You see, it was a very simple dialogue. But the words do not capture the warmth in her smile, the history of our relationship. The sense of connection, and tradition, and family, and love.
I know a lot of people who say the word "in-laws" as if it is a curse.
I love my in-laws. I treasure the time I spend with them. I recently remarked to a friend, "I think I won the in-law lottery." I did. They are incredible people, all of them, and I can't even express how grateful I am to have their support and love in my life.
Six years ago, I decided that I knew whom I was going to spend the rest of my life with based entirely on his words, from three thousand miles away. I stepped on a plane with a few clothes, a few books, some oil paints, a handful of keepsakes, a Tibetan singing bowl, and two Pysanky egg ornaments that I had made as Christmas gifts for Morgan's parents, whom I'd never met before.
Yes, deciding I wanted to spend my life with someone whom I didn't even know in person was a rather spectacular leap of faith, but what I didn't really think about at the time was that I wasn't the only one doing the leaping.
Morgan's mother and father agreed to have as a guest in their home this woman, their son's girlfriend, whom they had never once talked to or corresponded with. Not only that, but Morgan himself had only met her face to face once. The rest of his trust was based solely on her written word and a few phone calls. Morgan, who was just barely out of high school.
How many people would be willing to do that? Their eighteen-year-old son comes to them and asks if a woman he's only met once (but whom he's talked to in a chatroom a whole bunch of times!) can come live with them for a month over Christmas? A parent's nightmare. Yet they took me in, gave me a place to sleep, shared their meals with me, and included me in the family holiday celebrations. Me, essentially a complete stranger. They even gave me gifts!
I was (am) terribly shy. I remember those first few weeks, sitting quietly in their living rooms, keeping close to Morgan, trying not to be a burdensome guest. We were all strangers, then.
That was six years ago, six Decembers ago. Over those six years, something has slowly shifted. It was an imperceptible shift, really. It's not awkward any more, but natural. Friendliness and goodwill and blind trust have developed into genuine love. One day you look up and realize that you are not just seeing a person but loving a person. Laughing and sympathizing with Morgan's brother over dinner in a restaurant last week. Weeding my mother-in-law's flowerbeds a month ago and breaking to talk with her about her recent diagnosis. Riding with my father-in-law in his Jeep all over Asheville earlier this year, learning about all of his old haunts and smiling at his stories.
It's funny how, when I fell in love with Morgan, at first I saw with tunnel vision. My world was that one person. But it didn't take long before bonds formed firmly between me and the rest of his world, between me and the people he cares most about. One day I looked up, and I didn't love just this one man for himself. I was surrounded by all of his connections, his family, and loving them too.
Meanwhile, Morgan and I are trying our best to make it so that my mother-in-law's rocker will soon be put, once again, to good use. As I rock my future children in that chair, I will tell them that their father was once as small as they, and his mother rocked him that same way, in that same chair. And I will know that I am there, rocking them, not simply because I took a leap of faith and stepped onto a plane, but also because I had a whole family of people waiting on the other end to catch me.
This month, with my fellow WordGoddesses: