Monday, September 1, 2008


My favorite, and only, mother-in-law, recently posted her thoughts on the interesting approach I took to my studies ... on my honeymoon. Two unrelated thoughts arose together with her comment. The first, least `pataphoric, thought was that I, as an Auclair, am a force of nature — as any who have married an Auclair know that the words "passion" and "intensity" are far too tame words to describe our natures. It would be folly for Diane to mention ... So, like, you might consider not bringing three Java books on the honeymoon? ... so she didn't even bother bringing up the topic. But it also turns out that I'm actually the tame one in this marriage. Or, to put it another way, Diane sure is cutesy sabre-toothed tiger. That she would consider extending an invitation to her parents on our honeymoon cruise had nothing to do with retribution or quid pro quo (that is French) and had everything to do with family! They are as much a part of her as she is a part of them. I married into her family with my eyes wide open (I, besides visiting her family in the Philippines, where the cute little traitor — yeah, come visit with me, it'll be fun! — did not speak one word, ONE WORD, of English to me from the time the plane touched down to, months later, when the plane return to the good-ole U.S. of A., also read, cover-to-cover all twenty books her family gave me about Philippino language, culture and mores). I did put my foot down on that one, however:
Me: Um, no. This is our honeymoon: yours and mine alone.
Diane: Please, can we take my parents, too? Please?
Me: No.
You see where Elena Marie gets her powers of persuasion.

But the second, tangential, thought that arose is as follows. And that is this: I just don't get it, and I don't desire you to explain it to me, either; thank you very much. It seems that there is nothing more universally agreed-upon, and reviled, than that of the in-law relation. Where ever I go, when the topic arises, it's always presented with duty or disgust rather than delight: Oh, yeah, I've got to visit the in-laws, rolling their eyes as they spit out the words. Or even worse, it's a "joke", Tee-hee they titter so I get that they're "joking," aren't my "out"-laws funny? [trans: embarrassing]

Perhaps the reason that I don't get it is that I happen to view my family as something more than my parents, my sisters and myself. I now have four brothers, two married to my sisters, and two my wife's siblings. In which world would I have that blessing? Not in the world that most people here are living in: one time at work I mentioned I was going on vacation to St. Croix. Lucky you! was the response until I added I was accompanying my parents-in-law. The condescending reply was you must have the patience of a saint. When I countered I liked spending time with my in-laws, the condescension became bafflement, so I decided to drop it.

"Love your enemies" we are commanded [Matt 5:44] but it was only in an Amway conference that that commandment was put into context: "Love your enemies because you made them." The admonishment is not that our in-laws are our enemies (as I hear most people ruefully label them), it's that it's our choice whom we make friends, whom we make enemies, and whom we love. Here are the people how are the closest to you in the world. Wouldn't you rather they help you, and you help them?

In one very important respect, I have the blessing of being an Auclair. It seems, when I see myself in my cousins and siblings, in my Aunts and Uncles, I see the sharp, sharp pride and intellect that makes us impossible to be around for more than half-a-day. But we are so desperately vunerable — so full of pride that we always choose to swim against the stream, to climb the mountain on foot instead of using the ski lift, to shake our heads angrily when everyone else is smiling and nodding — but at the same time the slightest word or look crushes us into despondency. Delicate and strange creatures we are.

Or, perhaps, all these faults are just my own.

But one thing I've noticed in my family is a magical gift, a gift which I have felt the full force of the benefits: we pick a spouse, a cara spoza — a mate of the heart — that so perfectly excels us in so many ways. We're smart; they are smarter. We're jittery; they are an ocean of patience. We want to be alone; they are always socially graceful and the life of the party. We're angry; they are witty — so much so they diffuse us, walking time bombs, until we can't help but to smile, warmly, in return.

So, maybe this odd perspective on in-law relations is an Auclair thing. For me, I know exactly where I'd be without my cara spoza and her family, my in-laws, so I love her, and I love them with an Auclair intensity and fierceness and gratitude (always grudgingly given from my family) and sincerity. They see me for what I am, yet they accept me still. How is it not possible to have the greatest respect and admiration for people such as these, my in-laws.


Diane said...

It is we, who are most blessed. How dull we would be if our only entertainment comes from our resident Palanca winner, MTV dude, artist-in-residence ... Oh, OK. You married into an interesting family too. What a mutual admiration society we've created!

Eve said...

Yes, for once, the law that says opposites attract, isn't true in our case. Because to us...

interesting attracts interested;
interested attracts interesting;
brilliant attracts mensa;
mensa attracts brilliant;

love begets love!