I’ve met my dad‘s fiancee Lili before, but it was brief. This Thanksgiving was the first time I’d be in their new home, and with Lili’s daughter, Jenny. Add that to Jack meeting my father and sisters for the first time, and I would be meeting Jack’s sister and her family for the first time…and you’ve got yourself one of those situation comedy setups.
I’m not sure if I should be surprised, or relieved or just plain happy, but the family drama was probably the most minimal I’ve ever had during a holiday.
One of the reasons might be that Audrey chose to stay at The Parkers home (in the town we grew up in). She’s not quite ready for all this change (my dad only announced his engagement weeks ago), and I have to say, I respect her for setting the boundaries she needed to set to take care of herself.
My dad totally lied that Lili “can’t cook, but she can pick a good restaurant”. While I’m sure she can pick a fantastic restaurant (she works in event planning for a national organization), she can totally cook, and well. And she sets a lovely table.
These things might seem insignificant, and maybe I’m beating around the bush here.
When Dad told me about Lili for the first time, I was both happy for him and nervous. He’d been sober for less than a year and was already in a relationship. To be fair, I was in a relationship when I got sober (with Charles), but that ended and…well…I suppose I just feel like its comparing apples and oranges.
My mum and dad began their divorce about two years ago, and he started seeing Lili about a year after that. I’m not even sure how long my dad was technically “single”, so I worried a bit.
I met Lili for the first time last Thanksgiving in 2007. It was only for one evening. We’d gone out to dinner (yes, a fabulous Chicago restaurant) and then to a little party at The Parkers’.
My first impression was: “Well, what’s not to like?”
Lili is warm and friendly, charming really, and not in a “I’m trying to make you like me” kind of way. She is a woman I respect. She has history and soul to her, is extraordinarily intelligent and talented…and…well…she seems happy and my dad seems happy. Happier than I’ve seen him in I can’t even remember how long.
It’s still not easy, but the quality of person my father is lucky to be with, Lili that is, makes it easier. I guess I just try to look at it this way: This Is Reality and I can accept that (finally). Looking back, I see I’ve also made a conscious decision to embrace the fact that, well hey, who can’t use some more family? My dad’s side is pretty small anyway, and Lili and her daughter are turning out to be, for me, welcome additions.
I’m kinda nervous writing this. It’s still very new, as I said. Another thing I think helps is that Lili is nothing like my mother. Well, they have some things in common like being Eastern European and intelligent and creative and good mothers, but they are very very different people with very different talents and styles and tastes. It’s nice, I suppose, to not really have to compare them. Again, apples and oranges. Totally different realms of my life.
So this was my first time meeting Jenny, who is Lili’s only child. She is in high school, and is, well, again, pretty difficult to not like. She’s athletic and very bright in personality. It’s inspiring to me that she has taken so well to the changes in her life, regarding my dad and his family (us). I’m sure once we get to know each other better we’ll find ways to push each others’ buttons, since that’s what family does, haha, but for now…it was a pleasure meeting such a well-mannered, sweet girl. It’s clear that Lili rasised her daughter well. And that speaks volumes about them both.
One thing that creeps into my mind now and again is a sense of jealousy. It feels unfair that my sisters and I (and my mum) grew up with my “sick dad” (who’s alcoholism was on and off since I was about seven), and Lili and Jenny get the “well dad” (who has now been sober for over a year…is it two yet?)
So in a way it was relieving to live with everyone for a weekend and see my dad’s flaws come out as usual. His temper is very, very short and he’s quick to be defensive and childish. I believe he’s working on this stuff (just like I’m working on my own stuff).
I hope that doesn’t sound terrible. When he’s sober, my father’s qualities far outweigh his shortcomings. And, see? Who is being defensive now?
After our Thanksgiving meal, we went to The Parkers for dessert and coffee. Even though we’re not blood-related, the Parker Family is my family too. Mrs. Parker and my mum met at my preschool because Elena and I were in the same class. Then they both got pregnant at the same time and Christopher Parker and Nancy were friends. Then they got pregnant again at the same time and Wendy Parker and Audrey were friends. Mr. Parker might as well be my uncle and Mrs. Parker is like a second mum.
I adore their home. It was built in the 1940s and the interior decor is just as beautiful and timely as the outside, with well-placed modern twists. I feel like I’m stepping into nostalgic dreams. It always smells like sweet baking, and the music is low and pixelating and the entire family is so warm and welcoming.
And I finally got to see Audrey, who looks as beautiful as ever.
Though this isn’t the best photograph of Elena, you can tell how gorgeous she is as well. She is very much a sister to me, even if we should correspond more. I’m really quite proud of her. She is the editor of a magazine based in Chicago, and now has her own apartment downtown, with a French Bulldog named Tuck.
Mrs. Parker is one of my favorite women in the world. She tells stories so well and is always up for an adventure. I think it’s her curiousity that makes me love her so much.
And that, my dear readers…was my Thanksgiving Day.
More adventures to come!