When you fall in love, everything looks brighter. Your world revolves around the person you’ve chosen and you picture a future walking hand-in-hand, sharing private jokes, the two of you alone against the world. In the flush of romance you willfully ignore the fact that it won’t be the two of you alone. He has parents and siblings, aunts and uncles, and cousins, first, second and once-removed. You don’t stop to think about whether or not you’ll like his extended family. Your own rarely intrude.
You may have met the future in-laws, and perhaps a sibling or two, but until the wedding itself, you are only vaguely aware of the other relatives. Sometimes, the family you marry into is a grave disappointment, the boorish uncle, the over-bearing aunt, the elderly curmudgeon, the cousin with wandering hands. Every family has someone, although some are buried so deep in the closet along with the other skeletons that you may never discover them. I did not marry into that kind of family. I married a family that is the envy of my family.
My family is quite small and half of them live on the opposite coast. Growing up I had no extended family nearby. When I was young, I knew that if anything bad ever happened to my parents, I could call on my mother’s brother, who lived in New York, or my parent’s best friends, who lived in our town. These adults were my back-up parents, and as such, they occupied a place in my affection befitting people I knew I could rely on, without hesitation.
When I married into my husband’s family I acquired two more people that I consider back-up parents. I’m not talking about my in-laws; they occupy their own unique space. For back-up parents you have to go a tad farther afield. I’m talking about my husband’s aunt and uncle, Amy and Adam.
This designation comes with no obligations. In truth, the members of my generation are starting to envision a future when the roles will be reversed and we will become care-givers for those who came before. Rather, I use the term to convey a fondness and respect that would otherwise be difficult for me to articulate.
This weekend we will be celebrating Adam and Amy’s birthdays. I hope you’ll all forgive me for using this week’s post as a vehicle to wish them both a very happy birthday.
Happy Birthday. I’ll see you soon; have a gin and tonic ready.