Meeting the folks

Prairie Wool

Helen Row Toews

A while back, our 18-year-old daughter, Aliyah, summoned her courage and announced she had a boyfriend. Naturally, we were expecting this to happen – one day – maybe somewhere in the distant future when she turned 35. Sigh.

In any case, Aliyah was a little nervous to broach this news, then nervous all over again when the day came to introduce him to us in person. However, we like Arron and all is well.

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It’s a difficult business to introduce a boyfriend or girlfriend to family members, and I’m sure Aliyah also felt a bit awkward the first time she met Arron’s parents. I know I was embarrassed when I met the people who would become my future in-laws.

However, I was a bit of a nut.

I mean, yes, I was, and still am, a simple country girl from the sticks, but there was a period of time in my life when my nickname was “Wheels,” I rode a motorbike, wore a black leather jacket and had purple hair.

Let’s face it: none of these qualities makes a good first impression on parents.

Maybe if I’d driven sedately up the driveway in a non-descript sedan, or caught the Greyhound into town and walked primly to their door, or even had my father drop me off in a grain truck loaded with seed oats, I’d have had a chance. But no, I had to rumble into their driveway slouched low over the handlebars of a street bike with muffler issues.

Even after that, if I’d have worn a heavy woolen toque to cover my outrageously coloured hair, or knotted an old scarf of my mother’s tightly around my throat and complained of laryngitis, or pulled one of Dad’s, “Charolais Beef is Best,” caps low over my ears, I could have eased into their midst a little better. But no, I dragged a helmet from my head, revealing straggly, grape coloured locks. It was the “punk” era, what can I say?

If I’d have thought for two minutes, I could’ve slipped into some sensible footwear and a cashmere cardigan with lace trim, or popped on a brightly patterned muumuu worn by moms in the 70s; or even donned some filthy calving overalls Dad kept in the barn, anything would’ve been better. But no, I pranced in wearing enormous boots and leather jacket, with a scrape up one arm where I’d skidded my bike down a gravel road.

Thankfully, the whole “Wheels” nickname wasn’t acknowledged. It wasn’t like I had it emblazoned across my back in flames or anything, so I was safe there, for now.

Foolishly, none of this concerned me until I strode into the kitchen where my boyfriend’s parents were visiting his sister and her children. They’d heard me arrive (the whole neighbourhood had) and were now waiting, with trepidation.

There was a stunned silence as I entered the room, and the innocent youngsters who had been playing happily near the door took one horrified look, and flung themselves under the dinner table, cowering in fear. Despite entreaties to “Come out and meet the nice biker lady,” and offers of warm cookies and milk, they would not emerge. Nothing could persuade them to stand in the presence of so dreadful an apparition, and they clung to the table legs with tiny ashen faces.

That was my first clue that things were gonna be awkward.

Fortunately, they were wonderful people who accepted me despite their first impressions. But yeah, meeting the folks can be a tough gig.

I should know.

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