Feature photo by Uriel Akira
I had been dating my now husband for six months when we decided it was time for him to meet my family. This was a big deal since ours was a long distance relationship, him living in Michigan and I in Mexico. How did we meet? Well, that is an entirely different story. What you should know is that coming from a traditional Mexican family, meeting my boyfriend was important not only to my parents but to my extended family. Not only that, but I was also dating some “white boy from the Midwest,” a complete stranger. As my mother once said to me: “De donde salio este? Quien es su familia?”(Where did this guy come from? What about his family?)
Since he is a teacher and had a Christmas break, we decided it would be the best time to meet the family. We also decided that being at my house for Christmas Eve might be a little too much for a first visit. So, we deemed safe a Christmas Day arrival. Daniel was concerned with meeting the whole family all at once. I assured him that while we always have a big celebration on Christmas Eve, I did not think anybody would be around on Christmas Day, at least not everybody. Little did I know that everybody and their mother would decide to show up on Christmas Day for the recalentado (“leftovers”).
My grandpa took me to the airport, where I picked up a very tired Daniel, who had woken up at 3 a.m. that morning to catch the 5 a.m. flight to Mexico City. “Do you think I can take a nap when I get to your grandma’s?” I said: “Sure, I don’t see why not.” Little did I know his marathon would not end until well past 10 p.m.
As soon as we walked in the house, there was a line of people at the door to greet the “novio.” Everybody shook his hand, and within minutes he was sitting at the table and being interrogated by my uncle, the pastor, about his spiritual life: “So, how did you come to know Christ?” I was mortified, and Daniel kept giving me the “please help me” look. While he was being grilled by my uncle, my grandma made sure that I knew I was not being a proper “novia.” She asked, “Aren’t you going to serve him some food? He must be hungry!” and “Hurry, niña, he probably has not eaten all day! Go! Go!” As soon as Daniel was done answering a million questions, I proceeded to serve him a plate of food. Daniel tried to stop me and said “I can get it myself.” Big mistake. My grandma gave me a look and rhetorically asked “Are you going to let him?” I went after Dan and caught him in the kitchen, piling up the food.
“Are you trying to make my grandma angry?” I asked. “What is with all this ‘I am going to get my own food’ thing? Don’t you know we are in Mexico? Don’t you know my grandparents are very traditional?”
“Well, I am trying to be nice. It would have helped if I had not been left alone with your uncle to respond to questions about my relationship with Jesus… in Spanish!!”
The whole afternoon was turning into a disaster. Daniel was half awake, did not understand one third of what anybody was saying, and everybody seemed interested in either interrogating him or me about the future of the relationship. “Pa’cuando la boda?” (So, when is the wedding?) more than one person asked. I retreated to the kitchen, somewhat embarrassed of my family, of the whole situation. Then, I looked at them and really saw them. I saw the laughter, the way they all cared about me and my future, the conversations going around the table, the way we enjoy the seemingly interminable meals. I saw how much joy we had simply because we were together.
I went back to the table, sat down and held Dan’s hand. I whispered in his ear, “I am sorry. I hope you are not too overwhelmed.” He looked at me, shook his head and sunk his teeth in the tamal he was eating. My uncle looked at me and smiled, and I knew that I had found “the one.” Feliz Navidad to me.