It was the first time I was going to meet my boyfriend’s extended family.

Vintage Saks Fifth Avenue Powder Compact, H. L...

Vintage Saks Fifth Avenue Powder Compact, H. Liebes, Portland Oregon (Photo credit: France1978)

We had been dating 11 months, together at Michigan State for the first four, then from a distance. I’d met his parents and sisters nine months before.

I’d decided to transfer schools to be near where he’d gotten a job after graduation, Washington, DC.

But, this was between the end of fall quarter and the beginning of second semester, so I was still staying with my parents in Macon, Georgia, where they’d moved from Texas the year before.

This was one of my boyfriend’s family’s two big Christmas parties.

His mother was one of eight children and they all, and all their children and grandchildren, usually a group of 40 to 50, got together every year at the oldest sister’s house in Atlanta, Georgia.

Their family rules were that everyone brought a gift to exchange with others their age and the aunts bought gifts for everyone under 13.

My boyfriend did not explain the rules to me and I neglected to ask.

So, I was increasingly uncomfortable as the gifts were exchanged.

Not only would I not get a gift, of course, only right, but, no one would get anything from me because I had not done my part to bring something.

Then a package with my name on it was handed to me.

I opened the small, sweetly wrapped gift.

It was a compact from my boyfriend’s mother.

She had not neglected the new girlfriend, however vague our relationship.

I now understand that when your son brings someone home, brings her to one of your family’s big, family Christmas parties, he is saying she’s important.

Indeed, we were married within a month, two days before he reported to boot  camp.

She was a grandmother before the year was out.

There was only one more Christmas at home before her son shipped out to Vietnam.

Now, there are four grandchildren and, before she died a year-and-a-half ago, three greats.

For welcoming me into your family, Merry Christmas, Ruth.


Carol Covin, Granny-Guru

Author, “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers


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