Thursday, February 1, 2024

Sifoddling Along


By Marilyn Carnell

Meeting The Family

I was a 47-year-old divorcee and had been single for ten years when I began working at Campbell’s Soup and met Al Williams. We found we had many interests in common and developed an easy friendship. We shared the same profession – food science, had adult sons, collected art, and loved to travel. He was impressed that I owned an IBM computer. I was impressed that he invited me to attend an opera for our first date.

We also had differences. He was an introvert; I was an extrovert. His parents were successful business owners in Sacramento, California and his grandparents owned a ranch in Silicon Valley. I was a purebred hillbilly from the Ozarks of Missouri. He had lived in Portugal and traveled in Europe; I had never left American soil.

We decided to marry in 1988 and I thought it necessary to introduce him to my family before we took that important step.. Part of my reasoning was courtesy to my family, but underneath I thought it was important that he have an opportunity to get to meet them. He might want to back out.

We planned our trip carefully. We would confine the visit to one long day. Wearing, but avoiding any concerns about who would sleep where in my parent's home.

“What kind of car shall I rent?” Al said.

“I’m not particular. Get something mid-size and bland. We don’t want to look like show-offs.”

When we arrived in Kansas City, the rental agent said, “I have good news. You have been upgraded. Your car is parked at the curb.”

Through the window, we could see a bright yellow Cadillac. This was not a good sign for our mission. Nevertheless, accepted the upgrade and journeyed south in our sunny car to Pineville, Missouri.

We arrived at my hometown about 3 hours later and I slid low in the passenger seat in hopes that we would not pass anyone I knew.

If Al expected a quiet visit with my parents, he was sadly mistaken. It seemed my entire family had come to see the man I had chosen. They were circled in the packed living room to observe Al. I hadn’t seen some of them for years. They were there to pass judgment on my choice of husband. After all, they hadn’t had a vote on the first one.

We sat across from my father, the patriarch of the clan, and I fielded questions about our intentions. I was delighted to see everyone and chatted blithely – it was fun to see my cousins, aunts, and uncles gathered around me. I left Al to sink or swim in the attention of a bunch of total strangers.

The room was so crowded that multiple conversations soon broke out. Al sat next to my sister’s husband who was full of inquiries, but fortunately, answered them himself.

“What airport did you fly into?” Kansas City I suppose,” Will said. “Did you have a good flight? Was it a Boeing 737? “

“Those Boing 737s are nice planes; usually a very smooth ride.”

Al quickly realized that all he had to do was nod and smile. He liked that as he was not comfortable being the center of attention.

After an hour or so, we announced that we had to go if we were to be at the airport on time and made a hasty departure taking with us the blessings of my family. No one commented on our gaudy car. We arrived at the Philadelphia Airport about 10 p.m. that night. Mission accomplished.

We were married in the City Hall of Haddonfield, N.J. on July 14, 1988, and spent the next 31 years together. Al passed away on July 15, 2019. Like our trip to meet the family, our life together was an interesting journey.

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