Sunday, March 25, 2012


So, Chris is back in Tromsø, having secured a Romanian passport. This time there is a girl in tow, identified as a girlfriend, works at the same place, a relative of Crina's. Looks like she is living with him, though this is not announced. I haven't asked Chris about the seriousness of this relationship - he has a history of being certain it is serious when it is not, so the answer would not tell us much. But going with him to Norway...Crina and her mother are clearly pushing for this...yeah, it's possible this is...a daughter-in-law.

Even if she is not, someone equally unknown to us will be. Unless we live in a closed group that is the way it usually is now. We send children to college, or to distant cities where their relationships are people unknown to us. Even with highschool romances, we know only scraps and imagine we know more because we know some relative, or their church, or some fact about them. My oldest son married his highschool sweetheart, so we "knew" her in some sense early on. But she was quiet, quiet, and we really haven't known her until after they were married and moved back here after college - seven years after she appeared on the scene. But we could kid ourselves that we did.

With Anca, we can't even pretend we know. This is even a greater distance than usual. She doesn't speak English, and as she will be working on Norwegian for the present, we can't expect her to. Facebook, color photos, and cheap telephone calls are an enormous advantage that earlier generations of parents did not have. We might have some picture in our mind that parents in earlier eras knew more about their son's girlfriends; that's really not true. Adding together internal migration on top of an immigrant nation, with college and/or faraway military service common in the 20th C, and the natural secretiveness of a good chunk of young people - our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents may not have known much either. You have to go quite a ways back in most families before you come to a time when you could 90% count on a woman knowing her new daughter-in-law well before the wedding.

Note to family: If you go to Crina's page and click the "photo" that she commented on, you can get a series of 25 pictures of Anca Pop. Or you could just friend her, which we will likely do. We scour the pictures for clues. Three pictures in front of a church! Acch, it's the Arctic Cathedral, tourist site. Still...

I give our particulars, not especially interesting to anyone but us (and perhaps, not even to us after a while), for two reasons: I am reflecting on the phenomenon in general. Parents everywhere do this, looking at pictures and wondering "Are you, thou stranger, going to be...?" Someone did that with me once, staring at a picture wondering "Is this a good idea for my daughter? Will I like this boy?" (Answer to the first question: yes, probably. Answer to the second: no, not especially, though they were polite enough not to mention it until years later.)

I don't recall I worried much in the opposite direction. Children operate under the myth that you can just marry that one person, with the family being almost irrelevant. But you marry an entire family, like it or not. And if they are dead, you marry their ghosts.

Reason two: We have done something like this before, with Chris himself and his brother, looking at bad photos, reading inaccurate descriptions, peering into their momentary faces, trying to see behind the veil, asking "Are son?" That time, they did it with us as well, asking others for clues as to who we were.


Sam L. said...

And so it is. Until you've met "their" family and spent time with them, the inner dynamics, likes, rivalries, problems, all are hidden. Many are revealed slowly; very few, quickly.

I'm on my second set of in-laws.

Texan99 said...

How interesting that Chris chose a woman who speaks his childhood language and does not speak the language of the country into which he was adopted.

Friends of mine adopted a Russian girl, but she was only about five when she came over, and apparently remembers little Russian.