The Porterfields Meet the Byrnes – Pre-wedding

Just over a week ago we flew down to Texas for our son’s wedding. We headed down early so that we could have a few days to meet Laura’s parents and relatives and help out with the wedding preparations. I have to admit that I was a little nervous as we packed our bags. I had hoped to lose 40 pounds prior to our departure and the wedding to bolster my self-confidence (at heart I’m pretty shy) and to NOT be forever immortalized in the wedding pictures as the “overweight one.” What was I thinking? Somehow I managed to forget the fact that we had Thanksgiving and the Christmas season between the engagement and the wedding….always a major “chow-down” challenge for me PLUS I tend to eat when I’m nervous. OK, I tend to eat when I’m happy, too, or sad or worried or glad or….well, you get the point. Just about the only time I don’t have a problem with wanting to eat is when I have a case of the stomach flu.

In any case, George and I, in all my chubby glory, flew on down to Houston and stepped off the plane into glorious warmth. We weren’t in Kansas anymore, Toto. This was Texas and it didn’t feel like winter at all. This was a good start to a happy occasion.

We picked up our rental car and headed over to meet Laura’s family. We’d talked to them before on Skype but this would be our first face-to-face meeting. I hoped we would do Jason proud and not embarrass him before his future in-laws. And I hoped we would like Laura’s parents. I really shouldn’t have worried. After all, we had met Laura and quickly discovered why Jason was head-over-heels in love with her. She was delightful. She had obviously been raised in a loving, nurturing home. The door opened and we were welcomed with open arms. In quick succession we met Laura’s parents, her sisters, an aunt and uncle and three cousins, her maternal grandmother, her paternal grandparents, a sister’s boyfriend, and one friend from Canada. During the course of the evening, several things became readily apparent.

One, this was an affectionate family. They liked to hug on each other. This was so unlike our backgrounds. I don’t think George’s family ever showed emotion around each other when he was growing up. In my family, I don’t have any recollections of my mother ever cuddling me. I do remember my father picking me up off his lap around age 5 and setting me down on the floor and saying, “You’re getting to be a big girl now. I think you’re too big to be sitting on my lap.” To this day, I remember how crestfallen that made me feel. So when my children were born, I was really looking forward to giving and receiving hugs from them. Unfortunately, my dear daughter was never much of a cuddler and her mantra as she grew older became “don’t touch me.” Luckily, our son Jason was the cuddler so I had at least one fellow feeler and hugger in the family. Now here we were surrounded by huggers. I was amazed and happy that Jason was gaining such a family and envious, all at the same time.

Two, this family was an active family. They apparently were very good tennis players. Laura, the cousins, and friends participated in a type of sumo wrestling, for wont of a better description. When I first met Grandma and Grandpa Byrne, they mentioned that they had been able to fly out to Texas early because they didn’t have to do their ski patrol duties that day because of the unseasonably warm weather. I didn’t think I had heard them correctly. I mean, this was an older couple. They almost could have been old enough to be my parents.

“Did you say ‘ski patrol’?” I asked confused.

“Yes, we’re on the ski patrol,” they responded.

“Ski patrol, as in sking down a mountain?” I continued.

“Right, we’ve been on the ski patrol for awhile now. We really enjoy it.”, they assured me.

Wow, I thought. Later I found out that they sail, have scuba dived, and are a lot peppier than I am. They both had amazing energy during all the wedding preparations and Grandma Byrne plays a mean game of Scrabble. But more on that later.

Three, they had a lot of relatives and a lot of nicknames for each other. I’d return to the house we were staying at in the evenings and work on a little flow chart that I had drawn up in an attempt to figure out who was related to whom, what their names were and what they were actually being called. I was doing pretty good, too until the night before the wedding when a whole group of new relatives arrived with children in tow. Abandoning the flow chart, I drew back to my second line of defense……smiling and waving.

I think it was the second day we were there that someone mentioned how much the ladies in the family enjoyed playing Scrabble. Jason had told them that I had played Scrabble a lot also, so soon I found myself sitting at the table with a Scrabble board in front of me and some very intense players surrounding me. Now let me just say here that over the years I’ve played a LOT of Scrabble games with my mother. It was always her game of choice. I usually couldn’t come up with a good enough excuse to get out of it so we’d play and the game would sometimes drag on for what seemed like hours. In an attempt to speed things up, we developed our own rules, like playing with 9 tiles instead of 7 and letting players take back and reuse a blank tile if they could substitute the actual letter it was representing. But that wasn’t the way we were playing Scrabble here. I racked my brain, trying to remember all those “Q” and “Z” words that Mom had on a list in the old Scrabble box. In the meantime Grandma Byrne was taking every Triple Letter spot that I opened up, Mom Byrne was coming up with obscure words that meant who knew what but actually existed and Aunt Pam was circling helpfully and offering to look up words in the dictionary for us.

I flashed back 40 years and heard my brother say, “Yeah, go ahead and look it up in the dictionary but you’ll lose a turn.”

“No one looks up a word in the dictionary unless their word is challenged and then they lose a turn if it isn’t in there,” I heard myself telling the ladies. I still lost, big time! But hey, it was fun. I hadn’t played Scrabble since macular degeneration had claimed Mom’s eyesight and I’d actually missed it.

That night, back in our temporary quarters, my brother called.

“Well, you’ve met them. So tell me, who’s more normal…..them or us?”

I laughed, thinking of my kooky family growing up. “Well, John, I’d say it’s definitely them,” I replied.

“Oh, darn,” he sighed. “See you on Saturday.”

“And John,” I continued. “Behave yourself when you get here.”

“Don’t I always?” he laughed and then I was listening to the dial tone.


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