The Pilgrimage, or, We Are Not, in Fact, in Kansas Anymore

by Rachel on November 29, 2010

As we pulled out of his parents’ driveway yesterday, Eric said, “Well, you survived the first meeting with the in-laws.”

Apparently, they are, in fact, going to let him keep me. I’d like to think it was the pumpkin French toast, but let’s be honest — it’s probably the fact that I’m the first girl he’s brought home in a long time.

Anyway, I think Kansas and I are going to get along just fine.

The weekend was pretty uneventful, simply because his family is so normal. They reminded me of any of my friends’ families growing up…just down-to-earth Midwestern people. But what made them even more normal? That they all felt the need to warn me about a particular relative.

Since my family is both totally normal/completely crazy, that was all I needed to feel right at home!

Eric warned me. His mom warned me. His aunts warned me. Everyone wanted to know if I’d been debriefed about Eric’s grandfather.

I wanted to say, “My uncle bought veneers for a crack ho shortly before going bankrupt — trust me, I can handle this,” but then again, I had a good first impression to make. I kept my skeletons to myself and told them I was sure everything would be fine.

Anyway, the warnings were appreciated, but I don’t think they realized that I can and will talk to pretty much anyone. You say, “Crazy.” I say, “Genuinely awesome conversation” — and I mean it.

Once Eric and I knew his grandpa was aware that he had brought a girl home for Thanksgiving, we put our game faces on. I was prepared for the worst. Not dreading it, of course. Just prepared.

So his grandpa came to Thanksgiving dinner and he and I had a little chat and — unsurprisingly — I found him totally delightful! I could tell he had a good sense of humor.

And I was right. As he was leaving, he asked Eric to come out to the driveway to help him see to back out. This was a total ruse. He actually just wanted to get him alone so he could provide him with this.

I will give you one guess at what is inside.

Needless to say, I knew I had found someone in Eric’s family who got me.

One thing that I was a little worried about was the fact that Eric’s family really likes sports. They had all asked me individually at some point before this if I liked sports, and, well, we all know the answer to that. I simply told them that I like sports but I don’t follow any teams because I don’t like watching the games on TV. There may have been crickets when I said this, but I don’t care. There’s no point in pretending otherwise — I don’t want to spend the rest of my life tailgating and then going to the game. They should know that I’m only in it for the booze.

Saturday, we all went to Eric’s aunt and uncle’s house to watch the Kansas State football game. Given the way Eric loves K State football, and knowing that his family does too, I was pretty apprehensive about this. I mean, I don’t mind being in the presence of a football game…but I didn’t want to be thought of as uncouth if I spent the entire time…not watching the game. When I walked in, everyone there was wearing purple K State gear except for me. I was still coming to terms with being the only black person there, but I had a feeling not being dressed in purple was far worse.

Luckily, after the first quarter, his aunt offered us margaritas and his cousins got out the potato gun. And then his grandpa showed up. Tequila, firearms, and my new friend? I was beside myself, and giving Eric this gleeful look of, “See? I love football Saturdays!”

We spent halftime hanging out in the backyard, watching the potato gun shenanigans. I was standing with Eric’s grandpa, and we were talking about how nice the weather was and how pretty the backyard was.

“I mean, if it were 30 or 40 degrees warmer,” he said to me, “we could take off all our clothes and run around naked.”

I TOLD YOU HE GOT ME.

A little while later, Eric’s uncle joined us on the porch.

“So, Rachel, did you watch the MSU game today?” his uncle asked me.

Goddamnit! Really?!

I put on my politest voice. “Oh, no. I followed it a bit online though.”

Eric’s uncle’s eyebrows slowly started moving toward his hairline. “You know…it was televised. You could have watched it.”

“Oh, I know,” I said. My eyebrows went up too, but I was smiling and I got even politer. “But like I said yesterday, I really don’t like watching sports on TV.”

Eric’s grandpa started to laugh a supportive laugh, which I appreciated. I’m sure Eric’s uncle now has his doubts about our love.

A few minutes later, Eric’s grandpa called my attention to the fact that I was the only one not wearing purple gear.

“I know,” I told him. “It’s because I’m new around here.” We started to laugh and I knew he got it. “When you see me wearing a K State T-shirt, you’ll know they’ve fully accepted me and that I’m in this for the long haul.”

We all went back in the house to watch the second half of the game. At this point, I had showed off my potato gun skillz and, thanks to the margaritas, was feeling way more relaxed. I sat down on the couch with Eric’s grandpa.

“So,” I said. “do you have any funny stories about Eric when he was a kid?”

“Well,” he said. “Would you like to hear the story of Eric’s first date?”

WOULD I LIKE TO HEAR THE STORY OF ERIC’S FIRST DATE??!?!

As the other family members started to hear what was going on, there was a collective groan. Everyone kept apologizing and Eric was rubbing his temples and saying I didn’t have to listen, but I was like, HELLO?! This is the most fun part of meeting people’s families.

I mean, why else would I drive 11 hours to Kansas if not to hear about Eric’s first date?! That’s the point of meeting people’s families — you get to hear about them from people who see them in a totally different way, who have known them their whole lives, from childhood to the awkward years and beyond! There’s no reason to apologize for the oldest relative there telling me funny stories and handing out condoms. I mean, this stuff is in Eric’s DNA and I, for one, welcome any chance I can get to learn a little bit more about him!

And also — I hope that is a dominant gene and he does the same thing when we’re in our eighties!

Anyway, meeting Eric’s grandpa and seeing the condom was the highlight of my weekend, but all in all, it was just a good Midwestern holiday! Eric showed me all around Wichita and one day we took his dog for a walk. We watched a ton of TV and movies — ummm, can anyone tell me why “Eat Pray Love” was so intensely sucky and/or if you too chewed off your fingernails during HP7 like I did because it was the most stressful movie ever!? — whilst indulging in treats from his mom’s incredibly well-stocked pantry (which is bigger than my bedroom at home in Michigan). I wasn’t looking forward to leaving, but the drive home yesterday went really well too. I love taking road trips with Eric — somehow an 11-hour drive through Oklahoma and Texas just seems like a little jaunt to the other side of Houston.

Everything was going well until we got back to Houston last night. I was just so disoriented because it’s allegedly Christmas season but it’s also 70 degrees? I cried for an hour. I was inconsolable.

In what can only be deemed an effort to console, Eric has agreed to help me decorate a tree and my apartment. I’m trying to conjure up some Christmas spirit, but the fact that there are just 32 days left in this year and yet it still feels like September is freaking my shit out.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dori November 29, 2010 at 5:37 pm

I am so jealous of your 70 degree weather you have no idea. I would trade with you in a heartbeat.

That condom is the funniest thing ever. Hilarious! What was he doing with it!

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2 Kendra November 29, 2010 at 5:44 pm

I WANT one of those condoms!!! His grandpa seems awesome, I love those types of family members.

And yes HP7.1 was incredibly stressful! Had you read the book first? I mean, I knew what was going to happen and I was still practically biting my nails.

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3 Rachel November 29, 2010 at 5:47 pm

Yes, I re-read the last book over the summer because I hadn’t read it since the day it came out when I devoured it in one sitting. (Nerdy, I know. DJM.) I had forgotten how intense it was until I re-read it…and even more when I saw it! I seriously think my blood pressure was through the roof afterward.

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4 christine November 29, 2010 at 6:01 pm

” if you too chewed off your fingernails during HP7 like I did because it was the most stressful movie ever!?”

I just saw it last night and umm YES. I had read the book but I was still freaking out the entire time. I was just so stressed. I stress ate popcorn the entire movie. I wanted to bite my nails all off and I’m not even a nail biter. Then I CRIED. I never cry at movies. me + hp7pt1 = disaster clearly.

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5 christine November 29, 2010 at 6:01 pm

ps-my friend I went with told me she felt like she needed to be wearing a heart rate monitor during the movie haha.

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6 G November 29, 2010 at 6:16 pm

1 – You are freakin’ GORGEOUS in that first picture!
2 – I CANNOT believe he gave Eric a condom – absolutely hilarious!!! (Go grandpa!!)
3 – I absolutely loved your weekend recap – this post just proves once again how you are such a talented writer. I was seriously sitting on the edge of my seat smiling the entire time and feeling all excited!

Thanks for sharing! :)

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7 zenlizzie November 29, 2010 at 6:48 pm

I’ve grown up with warm Novembers/Decembers, so I’ve always relied on scented candles and Christmas lights to set the mood vs. actual winter weather.
I have a bunch of condom catalogue stuff at work with those matchbooks, condom keychains, etc. You can buy them with any design. You could have RachelWilkerson.com condom matchbooks made if you wanted! I think the matchbooks would be great for a bar, but I do wonder how Gramps had it so handy.
Sounds like you guys had a nice trip! I don’t think I could ever write about my inlaw experiences without sounding like a crazy bitch.

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8 Jasmine @ Eat Move Write November 29, 2010 at 7:20 pm

Is this your first Christmas season away from home? When I first moved to California, it sucked for me. I was so sad that the seasons didn’t change. Then, the next year, I felt the change that everyone was talking about and it didn’t bother me so much. It’s so hard to adjust that first year. You’re body is expecting steep drops. Now, I freeze at 40 degrees.

It’s all about finding new ways to “feel” Christmas-y. Like, tonight, I’m going to make my husband decorate our living room and Christmas tree despite the fact that Monday night football will be on. He’s going to feel Christmas-y if it kills him! :p

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9 Rachel's Mom November 29, 2010 at 9:46 pm

“They should know that I’m only in it for the booze.”

I am cracking up.

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10 Manon November 29, 2010 at 10:16 pm

Does Eric have a brother? Cuz this girl wants in on that family. Potato guns (and that thing is more like a bazooka than a gun), margaritas, and grandpas with condoms who want to run around naked? Ummmm….yes please!

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11 Manon November 29, 2010 at 10:19 pm

and PS, you’re problem with it’s supposed to be Christmas but it’s 70 degrees……I nearly felt the pain all over. Hopefully for you it will get easier……obviously it didn’t for me since I came crying back home after 4 years. I just couldn’t take it!

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12 jenna November 30, 2010 at 4:12 pm

Eric’s family sounds hilarious and wonderful! Kind of like mine actually, except I have the crazy uncle instead of grandpa. If I ever bring home a man who’s not a Tennessee fan, there will be glances exchanged.
HP7 was awesome. Very intense for sure. :)

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