Setting the scene: This is Nina and Roberto's first Thanksgiving as an engaged couple. It's Nina's turn to host Thanksgiving for her large family. Roberto's parents and oldest son are flying into town to spend the holiday with him. Roberto's family can join hers for the holiday meal, but her house is too small. Roeberto's house is much larger, but he lives in a subdivision on a cul-de-sa, parking is limited, and most of her family won't attend if they change the location. Their compromise? Nina will host Thanksgiving for her family on Wednesday night and join Roberto with his on Thanksgiving Day. Roberto is excited because this will be Nina's first time meeting his parents.
The Nina Chronicles 2: Worth Fighting For?
Finally, Thanksgiving weekend was here. I worked a half-day on Wednesday to give myself time to prepare. My family was informed to be to the house at five. Since Roberto’s parents were flying in today, I didn’t feel it was right of him to leave them to their own devices to come here tonight and spend time with my family. He argued but eventually saw my point.
Justin chose to stay where the food was. Typical male. Brendon surprised me by coming home for the weekend. Justin took my car to go and meet Tyrone for me. When they got back, Brendon, Justin, and my two nephews gathered around the TV playing video games, followed quickly by the men who arrived. The females were in the kitchen, finishing the food preparations though I had most of it done.
We got a big laugh out of watching Justin and my mom trying to fry the turkey. Good thing the process was almost idiot proof. They managed to get it done without getting burned or knocking over the fryer, which was a real concern of mine.
In addition to the turkey I provided, our meal consisted of ham, collards, black-eyed peas, macaroni and cheese, potato salad, dressing, rice, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, and sweet potato casserole. Mom baked sweet potato pies, and I made cheesecake. There were other deserts as well. Anitra brought drinks—cases of soda, gallons of sweet tea, and a case of bottled water. No alcohol allowed, house rule.
Dinner was organized chaos. My dining table is a four seater, so we set up the food on it and everyone sat and ate wherever they could find a seat—the living room, den, and even the kitchen. It was great. Folks actually lingered after the meal. My family thought gathering on a Wednesday was an awesome idea, and we agreed to do the same next year when we met at my older sister Cynthia’s house.
It was almost ten before we got everything cleaned up and the last person left, taking a loaded plate wrapped in foil with them. Justin took out the trash and I headed to bed, knowing tomorrow would begin early. I was going to church for the six a.m. Thanksgiving service. It was a nice way to begin the day, giving thanks to God for all his many blessings and only lasted an hour. I’d been before and really enjoyed myself.
After service Thursday morning, I returned home and took a nap. I asked Justin if he was going to his dad’s in time for their family breakfast, but he preferred to sleep in. Roberto called three times to see where we were before I finally roused everyone so we could make our way there.
The weather changed, turning cold and clear. Accordingly, I dressed in a long broom skirt and a hip-hugging sweater that was comfortable yet dressy enough to meet Roberto’s parents without being too formal. Justin was excited to see his grandparents but a little subdued by the realization they weren’t truly his blood relatives. The twins were a bit apprehensive at meeting someone new and having to be on their best behavior.
Me personally, I really hadn’t given the situation much thought. I would be with Roberto, the man I loved, on a holiday designated for families. While I’d encouraged and even demanded his absence last night, it was hard seeing my sisters and other relatives with their significant others when I was alone, again. Next year would be different.
We arrived a little after eleven. Roberto came out and opened my door. “What took you so long?”
“The kids wanted to sleep in,” I told him.
“Happy Thanksgiving,” he told them as they exited the car. “Nice to see you, Brendon. You’ve been missed.”
Brendon gave a sheepish grin as we all headed into the open garage to enter the house via the garage door.
“Are you sure you didn’t want me to bring anything?” I asked, uncomfortable with coming empty-handed.
“Just yourself. We took care of the rest,” Roberto assured me. “Come meet my parents. My mother’s going to love you.”
One look at Ms. Ortega’s stern features and I knew it to be a lie. The woman hated me on sight. Oh, she greeted me politely enough. Things went downhill rather rapidly afterwards. She spent most of the day conversing in Spanish, despite Roberto’s many admonishments to speak English. When I tried to help in the kitchen, she shooed me out, emphasizing that I was there as a guest. I didn’t bother telling her I spent almost as much time in this home as I did my own. She was nice to the children, which was the only thing good I could say about the day.
I didn’t win any points with her with my reaction to the food. I’m a black Southerner. Ninety-nine percent of the homes you enter in the South on Thanksgiving Day will have some version of the same traditional holiday fare on their tables. It never occurred to me that Roberto’s family might be different. Talk about a culture shock.
Dinner began with some type of bean soup. Then came roast pig. The turkey had been soaked in wine and was served with some type of tomato sauce. Mashed potatoes, empanadas, stuffing with ingredients I couldn’t begin to name, seafood paella, and corn and rice were also served. I tried to do the polite thing and cautiously try a bit of everything. However, I’m allergic to seafood so the paella was out. Also, I have this strange little rule about the food I eat. If I don’t like the way it looks, it’s doubtful it will get close enough to my mouth to discover how it tastes.
I tried to keep my expression pleasantly noncommittal as I nibbled at the food on my plate, doing more pushing it around than eating. Roberto leaned over and asked in a low voice, “Why aren’t you eating?”
“I’m still full from last night.” The partial truth rolled off my tongue without any forethought.
Roberto’s mom asked a question in rapid fire Spanish, and Roberto answered in kind. The few words I caught here and there told me I was the topic of discussion.
Jose, Roberto’s father, said, “Roberto tells us you had Thanksgiving dinner with your family last night at your home?”
“That must have been nice,” Jose commented.
“It was,” Justin answered and then went into a long speech about the food served.
“Did you save me some cheesecake?” Roberto asked.
I grinned at him as I assured, “I didn’t forget. I made a small one solely for you and threatened the kids with dismemberment if they touched it.”
He captured my hand, brought it to his lips, and kissed the back of it before laying it on the table and covering it with his. “I’ll make sure to show my appreciation later,” he murmured.
My grin blossomed into a smile, thinking of all the many ways Roberto excelled in doing just that. A smile which died when I caught the expression on Mrs. Ortega’s face as she looked at our hands. As I looked away, my glance fell on Enrico, who gave me a look of sympathy. He knew his grandmother didn’t like me. Roberto seemed oblivious.
I withdrew back into myself and silently counted down the hours until I could leave without being rude. Thirty long minutes later, Mr. Ortega pushed away from the table and rose. His action signaled the end of the meal. I helped clear the table, offered my assistance washing the dishes, and was politely but firmly declined.
Fortunately, Justin chose that particular moment to come and ask for the car keys to move the car out of the driveway so they could play basketball. I used the opportunity to escape out of the house.
Backing the car onto the street, I found a parking space at the edge of the driveway and turned off the motor, but stayed in the vehicle. I was deeply disturbed. It had been so long since I’d been faced with an antagonistic mother-in-law, I’d forgotten the feeling.
Tyrone’s mother had never liked me. We got along well enough now, but it was because we rarely saw each other. Once she’d accepted she couldn’t control me and understood that I would continue to actively encourage the twins to spend time with them, we came to a truce.
Ronald’s mother was deceased.
For the first time in the six months since saying yes to Roberto’s proposal, I was having doubts. I loved the man, no question about it. He loved me, but he also loved his mother. I’d been in uncomfortable family situations before. Did I really want to put myself through another? Granted the woman lived in Texas, but life was funny. What if some day she ended up living with us? I would be her primary caretaker. Me, the woman she couldn’t stand.
I refused to come between Roberto and his mother. Her reaction today had been so subtle, I knew Roberto didn’t have a clue, other than her refusal to do the polite thing and speak English so I could be included in the conversations. Not that I’d have had much to say anyway.
I’d understood more of what was said than I let on. Living in Florida, I couldn’t help but pick up a bit of the language here and there. Not to mention the two years of high school Spanish classes, many moons ago. I’d caught enough to get the gist of what was being said but not enough to respond.
Roberto tapped on the window and I rolled it down. “What are you doing out here in the cold with no jacket?”
“Watching the kids.” It wasn’t a lie. My eyes were on them but I hadn’t really seen them until this very moment.
“Is everything okay?” I could see the concern in his eyes.
“I know Momma can be a bit difficult to get to know, but she’ll grow to love you. You’ll see,” he tried to assure me.
I gave him a small smile I knew didn’t quite reach my eyes.
“Trust me. You’re a warm, caring woman. How could she not love you?” he asked.
Apparently very easily, I thought, but kept it to myself.
“It’s important to me that you two get along,” he continued. “The two women I love most in the world.”
I didn’t know what to tell him. The problem wasn’t with me. I didn’t know why she’d taken an instant dislike to me. It could be because I was black, or she might be one of those women who didn’t think anyone was good enough for her son. Or, Roberto’s first wife could have messed things up for anyone who followed. There was no telling, especially since Mrs. Ortega wasn’t volunteering the information.
I sighed. “I’ll try, Roberto.”
He gave me his gorgeous smile that revealed the dimple in his left cheek. “That’s all I ask.”
Breanna came over to the car. “Mom, can we go home? I have homework to do.”
I wanted to kiss her. Here was the excuse I needed to leave. I looked at the clock. It was two, going on three. We’d been here three, almost four hours. Not the whole day as I’d originally planned but good enough under the circumstances.
“I’d better get her home,” I told Roberto, trying to keep the relief out of my voice.
“She has all weekend to do it,” he protested.
“Not really. She’s going with youth to the state youth convention. It’s best she finish it tonight since she didn’t get the opportunity to do it last night,” I explained.
Roberto sighed. “I was hoping you’d be able to stay longer, give my folks a chance to get to know you. Who knows when my parents will be here again?”
“They’ll be here for a couple of days, right? We have two more days before their plane leaves,” I told him.
“That’s true. All right, I’ll see you later,” he said, his disappointment evident.
Anxious to leave, I asked, “Will you tell Brendon we’re leaving and send him to get my purse?”
“I’ll get your purse and send him over to you.”
Whatever your holiday plans, I hope your Thanksgiving goes better than Nina's. My family isn't doing a big get together this year. Instead, my oldest daughter is cooking, and my mom and I will drop in for to-go plates. I get to eat food I didn't have too cook and spend most of the day at home, doing whatever I want. I call that a good day.
If you've never read The Nina Chronicles and want to know more about Nina and Roberto's romance, please check out the following links. Binge read the entire series.