My family’s Easter celebration this year was subtly different from last year’s. We welcomed a familiar face to join us once again, but he’s no longer my daughter’s boyfriend. Now he’s her fiancé!
I’ve known Matthew for about ten years and I’ve always liked him. He is smart and witty and compassionate and gracious—he is fun to be around. And he is so good to Alexis. I was happy and excited when they announced their plans to marry, and yet something concerned me. Matthew sees the world so differently than my husband, Bill, and I do. Our political and religious views are about as opposite as they can possibly be and I wondered how we’d be able to bond as family, given all our differences. What would our get-togethers look like if we were constantly trying to sidestep hot-button topics? And how would I make sure Matthew felt welcomed and had something good to eat at family dinners? He’s a vegetarian!
So, yes, I worried for a bit, but then it occurred to me that Matthew and Bill and I share something extremely important: we love Alexis profoundly and we want the best for her.
Now, that’s something to build a relationship on!
Once I recognized this, I remembered the many other things Matthew and I have in common.
We both love art. Matthew has a career in commercial art, as an art director. Because I worked in an art gallery for many years, the art world is an environment I’m familiar with. I miss that world, so it’s fun to have someone to talk about it with.
We both love puns, too—Mathew makes them; I applaud them. The bigger the groans he gets from the rest of the family, the better.
And we both love words—except for a few words which we both dislike—such as the word “artisanal,” which we agree is one syllable too long and sounds pretentious. We make a joke of the word by making it even longer than it already is. For instance, I’ll compliment Matthew on something he’s done by dramatically saying, “Oh, Matthew, you did that so artisanalistically!” No one else thinks it’s as funny as he and I do, and that’s okay. It is our inside joke.
Now back to our recent Easter . . .
As usual when I’m preparing a holiday meal, I had too much to do in too little time. The lamb roast was finished cooking a full hour sooner than I expected and I still had to pull the rest of the meal together (including, for Matthew, a tiny vegetarian Quorn roast which was surprisingly tasty) and I had to decorate a cake for dessert.
While my family crowded into the kitchen, enjoying wine and cheese, I began to turn two cake rounds into a bunny face. I cut one cake into ears and a bowtie. I spread icing on the pieces and coated them with coconut. With a stash of Easter candy on hand, I started putting features on the rabbit’s face. The nose looked okay and so did the whiskers, but the eyes looked squinty and I had no idea how to fashion a rabbit mouth. I glanced up to see Matthew looking at the cake with an expression of eager restraint, like he was dying to help but didn’t want to steal my fun. I gladly turned the task over to him and before I knew it that rabbit had everything he needed, including plenty of personality—and eyebrows!
(Who knew rabbits had eyebrows?!)
Our dinner was delicious and so much fun. We had lots of interesting things to talk about. We even briefly talked politics: all of us managing to keep it light and civil. Each of us added something to the mix. I sat at the end of the table, beaming: as I watched my family enjoying being together.
It was a perfect day.
The next morning, I looked at the photo of the cake and I smiled. It brought up a happy memory to think of all of us in the kitchen having fun.
Then something a bit deeper dawned on me . . .
I made that cake from scratch. I used quality ingredients. I triple sifted the flour so the cake would be light and fluffy. When I put it in the oven I watched it carefully to make sure it didn’t over-bake. I made the cake to the best of my ability. But when it came time for the finishing touches, it took help from someone else to really give it dimension and character.
I’ve done my best with my family, too. I’ve poured in love and care and plenty of hard work to make my family all it can be, and it is good. But the time has come for more. The time has come for us to be enlarged and to be enriched—by the addition of a great guy with a unique personality and a fresh viewpoint. (Yes, even if that viewpoint doesn’t always agree with mine!)
In time, I anticipate more changes will take place in our family, like a spouse for my younger daughter and (hopefully!) some grandchildren. Unexpected changes may take place, too—you just never know. What I do know is this: if I keep my heart open, always celebrating common ground instead of focusing on differences, my family will continue to change and grow, ever becoming more varied and more beautiful.
It will have dimension and character.
(And puns—plenty of puns!)