His Family is My Family Too
Every Sunday was a family day in the Rosales household. We woke up at 10 a.m., had breakfast together, and went to mass. We debated about which restaurant to go to for lunch and rushed to make it to the movies. I had to let all of that go when I moved over 8,000 miles away from home for college. Here in Boston, I’ve purposefully scheduled myself to work on Sundays in order to keep myself busy, trying to avoid feeling sad for missing memories like that. I never expected that I would find another family here as well: my boyfriend’s.
Over the last three years, I had adjusted to my family-less Sundays. It became routine. But when religious holidays came around, I found myself having an extra emotional day. I was dating my co-worker Johnny at the time and after I went to Easter Sunday mass without my family, Johnny called me to check in on how I was feeling.
I definitely wasn’t happy. I missed my family. I was alone all day that Sunday, until Johnny invited me to his family’s holiday dinner. We had only been dating for about a month. It was probably too soon, but I said yes anyway.
I was overwhelmed by the amount of excitement and love that Johnny’s family had for me. I was the first girl he had ever brought home for Easter Sunday dinner. Nobody told me how big Italian families were, so I was surprised by the fact that I not only did I meet Johnny’s parents and siblings, but his grandma, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Within five minutes of meeting everyone, I had to excuse myself. I was overwhelmed by the love and care they expressed toward each other and me. I cried on Johnny’s chest.
That night, I laughed as his family searched frantically for the wine bottle opener because they insisted that there should always be a bottle of red and white wine open on the dinner table. I learned more quirks about them and settled into family traditions. It was the start of many more family gatherings to come.
At first, I was apprehensive of growing closer to my boyfriend’s family. I’ve never been close to a significant other’s family before. But Johnny’s mother reminded me of my own mom. Whenever she called to check on him, she would ask about me too. I was always amused by how different Johnny’s father was to mine. My father was always very serious, but Johnny’s father was lighthearted and goofy. When I talked to Johnny’s grandmother, I felt a similar warm feeling that I did talking with my own late grandmother. Last fall, we visited Johnny’s grandmother after baking apple crisps.
Johnny’s family has invited me to Memorial Day cookouts, birthday lunches, and even their Fourth of July family vacation in New Hampshire. They showed me insight into the true New England lifestyle, filled with lobster and clambakes. I introduced to them my favorite filipino beer, Red Horse, and my favorite filipino snacks, sapin-sapin, a layered glutinous rice and coconut dessert, and suman, rice cakes cooked in coconut milk and wrapped in banana leaves. They loved all of them, especially the suman.
A few weeks ago, I was invited to a last-minute Sunday dinner with Johnny’s family. We went to All Seasons Table, an Asian restaurant in Malden, Mass. I was excited to order authentic Asian dishes, but was worried that they wouldn’t be as open to my choices. Everyone ordered dishes to share for the table. I suggested crispy peking duck, roti, and soft shell crab roll. I was surprised that everyone was willing to try them. Johnny’s mother even came back for seconds for the roti dipped in curry.
Growing up in a Filipino family, I never imagined calling a group of Italian-Americans from Medford, Mass. my family. I was always the only non-white person there, but they never let me feel out of place. Johnny’s mother gave me pajamas for Christmas, a family tradition, and I invited his parents to my graduation.
It’s been a blessing to have my boyfriend’s family so close by, especially since my own family is so far away. I love my family and I know they care about me, but they’re not really close by and able to be here for me. It’s nice to know I have a second family here in Boston.