A few weeks ago I was standing on the back deck of someone else’s vacation home with my hands wrapped tightly around an unfamiliar mug full of some coffee flavored like hazelnut, vanilla, or a combination of the two. We were among some of the Northeast’s finest fall foliage, something I’ve only seen once before this trip. It was two days after the first night I spent in my boyfriend’s childhood home. He, his mom, and I were all on this porch together talking casually about everyday things, just getting to know each other. I looked down into my cup and shifted my weight, briefly recognizing the moment. It wasn’t de ja vu and it wasn’t a memory. It was a feeling I’ve always wondered about and never felt — Home in another person’s home, home with another person’s family.
The week before I’d been halfway between Greenville and Spartanburg on my morning commute when I realized I had the kind of butterflies I couldn’t actually identify. Were they nerves or excitement? It’s often difficult to discern the two. I turned the Jason Isbell album up just loud enough to silence my mind.
Russ and I had already talked about my nerves. We’d joked about how cold I’d be up north. Did I pack enough coats? Would I need hand warmers? We joked about me digging up old southern accent I once sort of had and now barely remember. I wondered aloud about what I could bring to say thank you for the hospitality.
I’ve never “met the parents” before. I’ve never loved someone enough to get to that point. Obviously, I was nervous. I don’t have a large enough ego to believe that not one tiny piece of my personality, or one misstep could mess the whole thing up. So I moved with caution toward the weekend, not because I was meeting anyone scary, but because something important was about to happen.
I could go into great detail about the trip and everything we did. I could describe the colors of the leaves, and the beautiful historic hotel we visited on a road trip to the northern part of New Hampshire. I could tell you all the historic sites his friends and family let me drag them to while we explored Boston… and I will, one of these days… but not tonight. That’s not why I’m here at this keyboard right now.
When my family gets together we sit around a fire in the back pasture, tell stories, and laugh. We drink, we tell more stories… usually moving backwards chronologically, and laughing even harder. We detail our lives, what we’ve missed in the past few months and what we’ve shared over the years. Our bond is built around fires and tables covered in freshly steamed oysters with tiny bowls of cocktail sauce and melted butter. It’s an unspoken but certain tradition with all of the people I know and love best.
My first night at Russ’s childhood home was spent with his people — warm, nice, loving people — sharing stories over drinks around a fire… and I think that sort of speaks for itself.