The Mafia Meets the Confederacy
Once upon a time, I met a Yankee. Bless his heart, he had no idea that, even before our first date, I decided he was going to be my husband.
My single-mindedness -surprised even me. I was pretty vocal that I wasn't ever getting married, so I wasn't a marriage-crazed woman. No, Patrick was simply that great.
Fast-forward a few months, and Patrick and I are one of those nauseating couples who sit on the same side of a restaurant booth seat so we never break physical contact. We were sure, too, that no one else in the history of the -universe had ever, ever, ever felt the way we did.
Barreling down the road to engagement, we realized it was time to meet each other's families - which made me nervous on account of Patrick's being a New Yorker. We Stepps were Southern centuries back to when our people settled in the Appalachian Mountains.
I eased my family in by first telling them Patrick was Irish-Italian, emphasizing the Nicchitta side of his lineage. For some reason, I don't know why, my family loves the Italians.
I made sure to tell my mama about Patrick's amazing -fettuccine alfredo. Visions of alfredo sauce dancing in her head, Mama took the news that my beloved was a New Yorker very well and asked when she was going to meet him.
Patrick and I flew into Charlotte on a perfect Carolina autumn day and rented a car to get to Albemarle. Patrick was still driving like a New Yorker when we turned onto the country road leading to my sister's home, the site of his debut. My mouth was watering at the thought of her sugary tea when something in the road caught my eye.
"Stop!" I shrieked. Patrick slammed on the brakes, gravel flying and a cloud of dust -surrounding us. "Why did you yell like that? You scared ...," he trailed off when he saw for himself why I shouted.
"Are those chickens crossing the road?" he asked.
We waited for the chickens to pass, my city boy's jaw still agape. I leaned out the window to take in the smell of a bonfire.
The Stepps were welcoming Patrick into the family with one of our traditions, a weenie roast topped off with s'mores.
When the last chicken clucked by, we headed on down the road and into my sister's driveway, Patrick driving a bit more slowly than before. I pointed out the craftsmanship of my sister's log house, built entirely by her manly-man husband.
I called Patrick's attention to the pond behind the house where ducks swam lazily. I showed him where a tree branch slapped me in the face during a careless moment on the four-wheeler. Patrick wasn't listening. His eyes were glued on the mass of people surrounding the bonfire.
He needn't have worried. My sisters barely let Patrick get out of the car before enveloping him in hugs. He had a few moments to relax until the crunch of gravel and the sight of a big white Cadillac signified the Grande Dame's arrival.
My mother stepped from her car, greeted Patrick and, to my mortification, said something along the lines of, "When are you going to take my daughter off my hands?"
Never mind I was an adult; Mama thought she was responsible for me until I found a husband. That I -waited until I was 28 to marry was inconceivable to her.
It looked like Patrick was settling in just fine with my family. Already, he was doing his best goomba impersonations and patiently answering my sisters' questions about whether the Mafia was real, and if it was, did he have any connections?
My manly-man brother-in-law, who had disappeared during the conversation, suddenly came out of nowhere toting a rifle. Even though I knew Mike meant no harm, I have to admit he made an intimidating sight, looming tall and with broad shoulders and giant biceps. He came right up to Patrick and held out the rifle to him.
"You ever shoot a muzzleloader?" Mike asked.
And with that gesture - a good ol' Southern boy sharing his prized gun with my Yankee - I knew Patrick was officially accepted into the Stepp family.
When the last sparks of the fire went black, we drove away, and I gushed about how well the evening had gone. Patrick quickly squelched my contentment.
With more than a hint of smugness, he said, "Now you get to meet my family."
Contact writer Melanie Coughlin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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