The old adage that “you don’t just marry a person, you marry a family” is never more evident than during the holiday season. Even if you don’t literally go “over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house”, the months of November and December are almost always filled with lots of family visits.
I remember the first Thanksgiving I spent here on the farm with Merritt’s family. We’d been officially courting for nearly ten months, and it was my first holiday spent alone with the family I hoped to join. It snowed lots and lots. There were snowball fights. A turkey that someone put in the freezer instead of the refrigerator. Lots of card games. And lots of family.
Merritt’s two older sisters had come back to visit with their husbands and children. Even though I already knew them all well, thanks to the nine years of friendship between our families, it was different to be there on a holiday, without the rest of my family. That weekend I developed a new appreciation for my future brothers-in-law, Reed and Tom, who had already married into the Acheson family. I had, in fact, known the Achesons longer than either of them had—but regardless, there were some family jokes, some family arguments, of which we were not part. Yes, we’d heard the tale recounted time and again: but we weren’t there. And despite the years we’d spent in the company of this family, we three were still relatively new to the family holiday traditions, and still had the tendency to take the family’s teasing too personally. Except, I hadn’t married into the family yet, so I was even more of an outsider.
I took a long walk in the snow and thought about what it would be like to spend every Thanksgiving in the midst of this family. What it would be like to raise my children with the other little people running around there. Whether I could ever feel like I belonged to and was a part of the Acheson family, and wasn’t just someone who married in to the Acheson family.
Four years later, I am counting my blessings on the same farm, with the same family—except, now I share their last name and even more of their inside jokes. That next year there was another turkey mishap that included a dropped pan, a burnt foot, a floor that had to be mopped of turkey fat, and no gravy—but I was thankful to still have my husband, thankful he was walking without crutches. Then, another Thanksgiving brought a tiny little bundle that has been such a big blessing in our lives: Ruth Ann was born the day before Thanksgiving two years ago. My in-laws stopped by the hospital to meet Ruth on the way home from picking up their oven at the repair shop–their oven (which has since had to be replaced!) had a habit of breaking on holidays, but that year it got fixed just in time for the turkey to be ready to eat when we got home with our day-old baby girl. Last year, Merritt braved Thanksgiving with my family, learning some of our traditions—like oyster dressing and playing pool after the big meal.
This year, we’re here on the farm once again. With two different Thanksgiving meals, in order to celebrate with family who can’t be here on Thursday because of work. Two different turkeys we’re hoping get to the table without them being frozen, dropped, or burnt. Two little girls who are looking forward to playing with their cousins.
And this year, just as I have the past three years, I’m counting my in-laws when I count my blessings. Not only do I have godly in-laws who have been married almost 38 years and are a living example of commitment and patience in marriage, but my two daughters have grandparents living practically next door who dote on them and are always ready to babysit.
Now it’s my sister-in-law’s boyfriend who gets to feel the outsider when he walks into the room thick with inside jokes, surrounded by eyes that are sizing up his worthiness to marry Marlys. But it’s good for him. Nothing like a crazy family to make sure you really love the person enough to marry into it. Nothing like a crazy family to make you thankful to be a part of it.