There are three things you do not discuss in civilized situations. Or with friends and family. Either way, politics, money and religion are verboten. Figures that the first time I met my future in-laws it was only those things that came up. The following is the discussion that helped us make our big decision.
Kate and I stood at the door, a light snow falling slowly upon our heads. Gray skies faded to dark blue as the sun set, falling behind the gray clouds. Brisk temperatures were no match for the cold tension awaiting us on the other side of the door.
“You ready?” Kate asked.
“When can we start drinking?” I responded.
Kate flashed me her trademark smile. “Immediately.”
Kate’s mother opened the door excitedly.
“Honey!” she yelled behind her, “They’re here!”
Janice grabbed Kate and pulled her in for a huge hug.
“Mom,” Kate muffled into her mother’s embrace, “This is Craig.”
I stuck my hand out. “A pleasure to meet you finally in person, Mrs. Corbin.”
“Oh, please, call me Janice,” she said, releasing Kate and pulling me in for a nice hug.
The house was busy, family milling about, in the kitchen prepping dinner, kids running around. A classic holiday scene. Kate grabbed my hand, dragging me away from her mother and to hang up our coats.
“Hang in there, just stick with me and you’ll be fine,” Kate said, kissing me on the cheek.
The next hour was a blur. Meeting relatives, shaking hands, telling people about my job over and over again. Yes, I’m happy to be here. The town is great. I’m a programmer. Yes, she’s incredible, Kate is a heck of a catch. Dinner couldn’t come soon enough.
Eventually, we all gathered around the huge table in the dining room. The kids had their own small table near the TV in the other room. Keep the riffraff out, as her uncle Gary described it.
Dinner went well enough to start, we said Grace, toasted everyone, and dug in. It was clear that everyone was in a happy place, but they’d been after it for awhile before we arrived. The divisive conversation didn’t take long to get around too once the booze set in.
“Craig, what do you think about Franklin Spade? Could he be a good president?” her Aunt Bettie asked me.
“Umm, honestly, I’ve got my mind made up on who I’ll vote for, but I pretty much ignore the rest at this point,” I responded.
Kate smiled at me approvingly. A bullet dodged.
“Oh come on, you’ve got to have an opinion, Craig.” Uncle Steve said, butting in.
“Leave him alone, he’s being polite,” Janice said in my defense.
“The only people who want to vote for Spade are idiots,” Uncle Steve said defiantly. “You’re not an idiot, are you Craig? My Kate wouldn’t date an idiot.”
“Uncle Steve, you haven’t been paying attention, I’d dated a few idiots in my time,” Kate said. “But, Craig is not one of them. Plus, leave him alone about politics. This is the first time he’s met you! Ease up a bit.”
She smiled back at her family, but the look in her eyes spit fire. I loved her that much more after that moment.
“Kate, polite political talk be damned. This is our country we’re talking about!” Uncle Steve said, words slurring a bit as the glasses of wine took their affect.
“Oh, and I suppose you’re going to vote for Walker are you?” his sister, Candice asked.
“You’re damn right,” Uncle Steve said. “She’s a proven leader.”
“Bullshit, she’s run by the money in her pocket,” Uncle Gary said, chimed in. “At least Spade isn’t from Washington. He’ll bring something new to the table.”
“Yep, disaster,” Janice said.
“Typical response from a Walker supporter,” Gary said.
“She leads with her experience and her faith,” Janice responded.
Kate glanced at me from the corner of her eye and leaned in.
“Sorry, usually they wait until dessert for this bullshit to begin.”
“It’s fine, I’ll just stay quiet or neutral,” I said.
“Forget that, are you done?”
“Yeah, I can wait on dessert,” I said.
“Good, grab your drink, we’re going to hang with the kids. Just follow my lead.”
Kate got up quietly as voices raised, and pulled me by the hand out of the room. She squeezed my hand tightly as voices behind us asked where we were going.
“Ignore them, it’s just the wine talking,” Kate said, “Let’s hang with the civilized kids.”
The battle raged on despite our absence. Before long, it spilled over into the entertainment area where Kate and I had helped the kids clean up and play a board game. Things had got more heated after we left, and the drinks kept pouring. After awkward silences, Kate whispered across the board game.
“Well, this is my family. You still in?”
“I wouldn’t change a thing, I’ll never be out.”
“Good. So, the Caribbean or Mexico?”
“Which place should we run away to and elope?” she said, flashing me her trademark smile.