“Trust me, my family will love you.”
I really wanted to believe him but the knot in my stomach grew with each breath.
“How can you be sure? You keep telling me we’re from two different worlds.”
“I can’t hear you, wait for the next light,” he yelled. His hotrod was extra noisy as the wind rattled the flimsy convertible top.
At the first red light, Liam stopped and looked at me.
“Look, I know my parents. They’ve always supported my decisions and will now too. They know I love you and will love you for my sake. It’s that simple. I know that’s hard for you to understand because your family doesn’t trust me, but my family’s different. Got it? Now please, just relax already!” Liam leaned over to kiss me as the car behind us honked its horn.
Unfazed by the angry driver, my young prince charming resumed driving his chariot, a yellow GT Cyclone with a blaring eight-track and additional speakers. His body swayed to the music as I checked the visor mirror one more time.
Turning down Grand Boulevard, I immediately noticed how closely the homes stood to each other. There were parked cars lining the street, small driveways led to carports. Children and teens played outside on what they referred to as the “island”. Liam’s neighborhood didn’t look anything like mine did.
After parking his car, Liam looked at me and laughed. “If you could see your face...”
Quickly I pulled down the visor mirror again. “What? What’s wrong with my face?”
“It’s nothing make-up will hide. It’s called fear.”
“Look, I’ve already told you, I’ve never met a guy’s family before. On top of that, we’re engaged and your parents never had a chance to meet me. Plus, they think you’ve got religion just to impress me and my family, not because you want to be a Christian. I don’t think the deck is stacked in my favor, you know. Oh no, is that your mom looking out the front window?”
“Yes it is. Just smile and wave, here goes. Like I said, this will be a piece of cake.”
When I opened the car door, the chilly autumn air took my perspiring skin by surprise. Quickly I wiped my damp hands on my skirt, straightened my hair, and walked to the front of the car where Liam waited. I felt like I was walking up the sidewalk of doom to the house of horrors. Before reaching the front steps, Liam’s dad pushed open the screen door and stepped outside.
His middle-aged balding dad, cigarette dangling from his lips, looked me up and down. Without warning, he blurted out, “So what the heck are you, anyway?”
“Dad! Is that how you say hello?” Liam squeezed my hand in his.
“Well, what nationality is she; she’s definitely darker than we are.”
I felt my face blush as tears welled in my eyes. As they tumbled down my cheeks, I tried to gather my wits about me. At nineteen years old, I wasn’t prepared for his bluntness.
“She’s Italian,” Liam responded.
“Good,” his dad began, “because I got tons of Italian jokes. Did you hear the one about…?”
Nothing coming out of his mouth registered with me. His words competed with my racing heart and pounding headache. Reaching the top step, we paused, allowing him to finish his joke. I forced a smile, extended my hand, and introduced myself. Liam opened the screen door for me so I could walk past his dad. Their small living room housed uncles, aunts, cousins, and dogs.
Liam’s dad followed us in, shouting, “Hey everybody, she’s Italian.”
“Perfect,” answered an uncle sitting in a tan recliner near the television. “I just heard a new joke today I haven’t told anyone yet.”
One-by-one, ethnic jokes and obscenities came my way. I tried to smile politely, while cringing inside. Excusing myself, I sought refuge in the kitchen with Liam’s mom and aunts.
“Don’t let them get to you or they’ll never let up. They’re harmless old Archie Bunker fans, that’s all. You’ll get used to it,” they laughed.
That night safely snuggled in my smoke-free bed, I cried to God. “I don’t want to get used to it Lord.”
Softly, God answered. “Liam’s family is why my Son died. He was ridiculed for their sake … you can be ridiculed for mine. Just be my light* in their darkness. Let them see me.”
As I did, we became family for eternity.
*“to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” Acts 26:18 (NIV)
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