Married in College: Our First Holidays with the Families
by Emily Herring Dunn
So, I know it’s the beginning of December. Thanksgiving has just passed, Christmas trees are going up, and the holiday season is truly beginning. It’s my favorite time of year. From Halloween to New Years days are full with non-stop happy wishes and holiday cheer.
However, when you are spending the holidays with the new in-laws who were not expecting they’re 18 year old “baby” to be married off so young, then you may run in to some problems.
Let’s go back to the first holidays of mine and my husband’s married life. While we had, at this point, obviously told our parents that we were married and had gone through the ups and downs of tears, yelling, concern, lectures, and all that jazz, we were now venturing in to a new territory. We were venturing in to family traditions. The thing was, we were introducing each other in to different family traditions, so to speak.
Our first Thanksgiving was spent with Clark’s family. While typically Thanksgiving is a huge ordeal, lucky enough for me it wasn’t as large my first year in to it. I was also lucky enough to have my older sister go with me because her college was nearby enough and she was unable to fly home to California to be with her husband.
It began with his mom not liking pumpkin pie. I brought my own supplies to make the dish, unable to believe that this wasn’t a tradition of theirs. My sister promised to help me; not only with the pie, but with support.
My pie was the last thing allowed to be made. After all, both sets of Clark’s grandparents and his great uncle were over. There was wine, turkey, roast, deviled eggs, sweet potatoes, pecan pie—the whole works. However, I was determined to get a pumpkin pie made so my sister and I would have some taste of home.
I was finally allowed in the kitchen. I put it together while the oven was preheating, finished rapidly so I wouldn’t be in the way, put the pie together and put it in the oven. I set the timer and walked out of the kitchen to socialize and wait.
However many minutes later, while everyone had started eating and was enjoying the Thanksgiving vibe, the timer went off. I bounced out of my seat and went to the oven. However, opening it up cautiously with the ovenmit, I noticed something rather strange—the oven was COLD.
Much to my dismay, someone had turned it off. As I took the pie out of the oven, half cooked but still nearly entirely liquid in the middle, I heard a voice behind me. “Oh, my, I completely forgot your pie was in there and I turned off the oven. I thought I had turned it on.”
I turned to see my mother-in-law standing behind me. The same woman who had been sneaking in and out of the kitchen as I cooked and was even in the kitchen as I placed the pie in the oven. The same woman who had admitted to despising pumpkin pie. The woman who was the reason this family had never had pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving.
I was livid. I went to Katie for comfort, feeling as though the action had been done to show me my new place in the family. Later, I even cried to Clark. He said to let it go, and prayed with me. Unfortunately my feelings are still hurt (yes, even now), but thank goodness I have Jesus Christ and the Lord above to help me with that! I did get past it, moved on with the day, and even got some apple cider made for everyone to enjoy! I just couldn’t be there on Thanksgiving and contribute nothing—even if my mother-in-law truly did not want my help.
Christmas was definitely a different ball game. At the beginning of my freshman year of college, only a month before my husband and I secretly wed, my parents moved to Germany thanks to the US Army. Having to have gone through all the steps of the whys and hows over the phone, it was much more difficult for Clark.
Luckily, my parents made it easy on him. Nervous and shaking, we got off the plane and readied ourselves to meet my mom, dad, and little sister, Molly. We were greeted with hugs, kisses, and questions of our flight. My dad even hugged Clark! It seemed too good to be true.
This is the part where I’m supposed to intersect and tell how you awful it got, right?
Well, Clark is a lucky man. Although there was the occasional, “I just wonder if you guys got married too young,” from my mother, and side tracked counseling sessions from my father (a minister), it truly was a great experience.
While it was much different for Clark only opening one present Christmas Eve and the rest Christmas morning, he was shocked to find that he had just as many gifts as me.
We attended church the night before (Christmas Eve) and were paraded in front of my dad’s new community. Taking part in the service by reading a scripture, Clark was red in the cheeks. Then with our typical night of wild rice soup, twice baked potatoes, and watching “Scrooge”, Clark was content.
Although he did consistently talk about what his family’s traditions were, he grew to love my family’s as well. He even insisted the year after that we buy “Scrooge” to watch it. He also insisted that we do the Advent Wreath, something that is a very fond tradition with my family.
I am not saying that my family was better than his. I am simply saying they had different ways of accepting us into their homes. I know it was difficult on them.
It was difficult for Clark’s mom to understand that, at home, I helped my mom cook and was always in charge of the pies. It was difficult for my parents to understand that Clark’s whole family gathered Christmas Eve to open presents.
It was hard for both of our parents to understand why we got married so young.
Still, our parents got through it, much like we did. With the love and support of family, I think anything and everything is possible.
That’s why this time of year is my favorite. It is full of friends, family, and ultimately love. What is that quote? “Love actually is all around.”
Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for all that we have, and Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. What time of year could be more beautiful than that?
While Clark and I are still figuring out how holidays are going to be spent each year, we always keep in mind our first holiday experiences. Perhaps it’s to recognize how much we have grown since then, and even how much our families have grown since then.
It’s all a process, but what we always have to remember, even if someone turns off the oven or reminds us that we got married “too young”, we just have to remember that “Love actually is all around.”