Brandon took me aside after dinner for a 'guys' talk'. Their three young boys were still boying around the garden, cycling, rattling, yelling and all things small boys do. Throughout the conversation their littlest one Alexander, 2 years of age or so, kept us busy by kicking a ball back to him. Inside the house, Jen was helping the lady of the house with the dishes, perhaps having a tiny bit of conversation along the way?
Who's Brandon? He is Jen's brother-in-law, a born and bred Australian. Technically, that makes him my brother-in-law as well. Yes, we do have relatives in Perth and they are the only ones. We finally paid them a visit, 90 days after we landed.
This was never an easy visit for me. Jen's sister were no stranger to me. She was my senior during Polytechnic days. I knew her in my freshman orientation camp where she was a group leader of another team. We didn't speak to each other much, if any at all. But I was probably on talking terms with some of her classmates.
When I first met Jenny at University, I narrowed my eyes and knitted my brows in wonder and told her, "You looked like someone I knew."
It wasn't an old trick or a lame pick up line. I wasn't making a pass at her and it was never love-at-first-sight. They did look alike. Jen managed to solve the mystery on that day after probing some of my background information.
It was always awkward meeting Karen since then. On every occasion, it was. From the beginning of time where Jen and I were just classmates, then business partners, then friends, friends, and then friends again before finally we had a long-distance relationship, got married eventually and now we are becoming parents.
Jen's parents - as well as her sister - did not seem to approve of me. To make things worse, they have a complex sibling relationship which remained enigmatic to me until today. All in all, it felt awfully awkward paying them our 3rd visit in 5 years and our first since we migrated. As usual, it was my mother-in-law's arrangement behind the scenes. When the MIL was involved in things, never risk incurring her wrath. That's basic wisdom.
We had a glorious dinner as usual. Brandon was an exceptional cook. He never failed to disappoint each time. Throughout dinner, it was the same awkwardness though I noticed a little difference. Karen spoke 3 sentences since we stepped into the house. That could be thrice of what she used to muster at that stage in previous occasions.
I noted that I could understand 70% of whatever Brandon said this time round, compared to probably 5% of it during my first visit. Am I getting localised slowly? I'm not sure but it sure felt good being able to comprehend and converse rather than nodding my head politely.
The only thing that positively encouraged me the slightest for this visit was Thommo, their pet dog. He could be the second dog I love after Chocolate. Thommo was friendly. All Golden Retrievers were but Thommo was a notch special. You could feel his love for you the way he interacted with you. Any non-dog lovers would be bought over by his attention. On top of that, he was extremely well trained and had the best behavior you could ask for in a dog. Thommo would always be the shining beacon in the sea of mental discomforts I experienced during my visits.
The moment Thommo heard me slotting the gate open, he came out barking. Within seconds he changed his dash into a light bounce. He recognised someone who loved him coming back to hug him. I did exactly that, forgetting momentarily that Jen had not driven in. I cleared the dog and the chuckling toddler from the path and guided her in.
|A brotherly hug. Daniel, the eldest, looking on|
|Great moments, once again|
|Thommo never fails to shake my hand|
|Waited outside the house when everyone is inside|
He wanted me to reconcile the differences between the two sisters. They didn't hear from us that we got married as well as making our move to Perth. There were enough past incidents to make us feel that they didn't want to have anything to do with us and we left it as that. With him making a move, I assured him we would make the effort to reciprocate, probably starting from the arrival of Albany. With that and the mozzies fast attacking in swarms, men, kids and toddler took refuge in the house.
Unlike the usual icy hostility, I witnessed a lukewarm attitude from Karen towards Jen in small bits for the rest of the night. While screaming kids were climbing on my back, doing headstands on my lap and pounding me with a massage ball, Karen chucked Jen stuff that we came for originally - the items my MIL wanted. On top of that, she mused a bit over Jen, loaned us a cot and gave us baby clothes than any elder sisters normally do and gave abstract bits of advice. That was seriously quite big deal.
Before we left, Daniel hooked on two cyalume bracelets on his Aunt Jen's wrist. When I reversed the car out of their long driveway, the entire family was standing and waving us goodbye. When we reached home, Jen thanked me for agreeing to come with her despite my initial reluctance.
The next visit should be better...