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Family means different things to people. I consider myself incredibly lucky that I'm so close to mine - both in physical distance and in relationship. Most people I know don't have that connection with their family - especially their parents, and to some friends, there seems to be this need to continually push away. People fall into ruts when they deal with their family; methods of behavior that were established before they left home and that are often very hard to break. I'm not sure whether my rut was just shallower than most, or if I was just fortunate enough to figure out how to get out of it by myself, but my family is important to me. In fact the house we're building is in the same town as my parents - something which has caused more than one eyebrow to raise in surprise. Bear in mind that if we all actually had to *live* with each other again very few of us would survive, but my family usually gets along quite well. And it's something that has been a bit frustrating because the majority of people I know do not have that same bond, and therefore cannot understand it.
The topic of families is on my mind because Saturday night was the First Meeting of the Families. Richard and I were both a little nervous, although I'm not sure why. His mom and dad are open, friendly people. The first time I met them was after I had spent a day helping friends move. It had been raining, and so with the moving and hefting heavy things and such, none of us were looking remotely glamorous. So when Richard suggested that we stop by on the way home to visit his family, I had to laugh. It's not the way one envisions meeting the parents of the man you're in love with. Usually this is done when you have time to get ready - do a bit of primping, try to look nice so they don't take one look and immediately think 'in what swamp did he dredge *this* one up?' But anyway, we went to visit. His mom came to the door, took one look at me, grinned, and said "Richard, how nice of you to drop by", or something to that effect. This didn't faze me a bit - I'm quite used to it from my own parents, so I replied "Hi, and I'd like you to meet my friend Jennifer", gesturing to Richard. Right about that moment I knew that these were my kind of people. There is a warmth in his family that I recognize from my own - in the gentle teasing between Richard and his parents, and between him and his sisters.
Introducing his parents to mine *before* the wedding might have been a mistake though. Our moms together are a dangerous pair, because by the end of the evening our wedding included a belly-dancing aunt, topless pregnant bridesmaids (well, to give them credit, that one was actually my sister's idea), Richard swinging into the church on a vine, and me wearing wings and a fairy costume. They traded embarrassing stories about their respective children across the dinner table. We all spent most of the evening laughing. In other words it went well. Really well.
We have joked that it might be easier if one of us hated our family, because then figuring out that nifty dilemma of 'whose house do we go to on which holiday' wouldn't be an issue. In reality, however, I would gladly deal with this particular little problem than the alternative. I've seen what happens when one half of a couple has In-Laws From Hell, and it ain't pretty. Granted it's early in the game and both sides have got at little over a year to suddenly sprout horns and forked tails. But somehow, I'm not worried. Not one bit.