Over a year after Kevin and I met and a few months before our wedding, one boring Sunday afternoon, he announced:
“I guess sooner or later you’ll have to meet my parents. Today is as good a day as any.”
Oh, at last, I was going to see the inside of the white with black trim Victorian house on the hill. Several times we took walks in the neighborhood where he was raised. He told me stories about playing in the street and his mom calling them, he and his two brothers, to dinner using a cowbell. My to be husband never talked much about his family but it was very obvious he adored his mother and always thought of her in a very special way. He was a middle child, like my mother, and she always tried to please her mother, and somehow felt it was never enough. At the time, I didn’t know about Dr. Adler’s birth order theory and being an only child didn’t have to face sibling rivalries. I didn’t give much thought, at the time, to the impact the original family makes on someone’s life.
We parked in front of the house and for a few minutes stood in front of it, in silence.
“Are we expected?” I asked and felt my heart pounding hard.
“No, they never go anywhere, they are home.”
Oh, I thought, they didn’t know he was bringing me over for the first time…
“But they know about me, right?” I needed to know what they knew, to be prepared.
He assured me they knew we were getting married and told me to relax. We walked to the front door and to my surprise Kevin had a key and he let us in without ringing the bell.
We stepped in and walked to the left in a semi-dark living-room. The lamp lit the face of a small, pale woman sitting on a blue couch. She lifted her eyes, smiled and continued to knit. I looked to my left and by the window I saw Dad sitting at a large desk, a deck of cards in front of him. He didn’t lift his eyes and continued to deal in silence.
“Dad plays Solitaire,” Kevin explained. “He never stops in the middle of a game, we’ll have to wait for him to finish.”
Of course, I thought, we were unexpectedly stopping by their house, interrupting their lives, I personally wouldn’t have liked someone, even my son to just come in with a perfect stranger. I thought they were going to hate me, for sure!
We walked towards the couch and Kevin introduced me to his mother.
“Rodica?” she said. “Is this a Russian name?”
No, I was from the country next to the Soviet Union. It was a Romanian name.
“And how long have you been in the country?” she continued.
“Five years. I was a translator for the U.S Embassy in Bucharest, I have a B.A in English.”
I had a Green Card, I assured her, just in case she thought I needed to marry an American citizen for other reasons. She continued to knit through my blowing my own horn to convince her I was good enough for her son.
Meanwhile, Dad finished his game and approached us. He was a skinny, bearded, small man with thick glasses. I think he smiled as he shook my hand, before he sat on the chair on the other side of the couch.
“We weren’t expecting him to get married,” Mom finally blurted out. “But he always surprises us…”
She sipped from a small glass of sherry and looked me streight into the eyes:
“I suppose you don’t know anyone in the Social Register.” She sipped again and continued:
“We are in the Social Register. Only the best families in America are in the Social Register. For a spouse to be listed in the Social Register, she has to be recommended by at least two members. When Kevin’s brothers married we still had friends who could recommend their wives but our friends died. “
Oh, Social Register… where did I know about The Social Register… Yes, I remembered, that was the black and red hard cover-book Cassandra was using when calling her friends.
“Is the Social Register a black book with red stripes? Hard cover?”
Mom put down the knitting :
“Yes, it is, how do you know?”
“My friends, who sponsored me to come in the States were using it when they called their friends. I thought that was the local phone book. Sorry!”
“You have friends in the Social Register?”
Indeed I had, I assured her, and letters of recommendation were no problem.
“Are you sure? Do they know you well enough?”
I assured her they vouched for me to come in this country, several letters of recommendation would not be a problem.
This twist into my knowing people in the Social Register made that first visit which started as a disaster, a huge success.
Indeed I received several letters from my friends and we were listed in the Social Register for a few years. Then, the dues became too large for us to continue and sadly, we dropped out.
Perhaps we should have made an effort to stay, now that we really belonged, but we didn’t!
Life went on…