This year we made a trek up to Montana to spend Christmas with my in-laws. The drive. Oh, the drive. I could make it on the regular, that lovely drive. Washington, Idaho and Western Montana are a road tripper's dream scenery-wise.
Family get-togethers are seldom easy for me. I come from vastly different stock than Mario, which is part of what makes us work so darn well. The yin to my yang, that man. But when you get contrasting people together, an introvert whose therapist once described her as "not what I'd call 'easy-going'" starts to ruminate. What ifs. Anticipation of any and all possible social scenarios. Plans A-Z of how to prevent awkwardness.
This is not to say I don't get along with my in-laws. I care for them deeply, actually. Still, those fundamental differences can be tricky to navigate. Less so than in the early years, but walls are not always easily dismantled. I've learned so much from them: ranch life, textile arts, living without a plan. Love. Boy do they love each other in their perfectly imperfect ways. It can be hard for an outsider to shine in these situations. It just takes time.
After over a decade in this relationship, I'm finding my groove. The anxiety period before visits becomes shorter and shorter. The visits themselves feel more natural. An easy rapport is in the works, which makes me happy. We've also figured out how to maintain our own unique way of life while gelling with theirs.
My in-laws own a beautiful property on Flathead Lake, just south of Glacier National Park. Normally we stay in our favorite little waterfront cabin across from the main house, but with winter in full swing we instead opted for a room at the little inn down the street. An easy walk between the two, but with the advantage of indoor plumbing and heat. It allowed everyone their space, and the opportunity to have quiet family time just the three of us.
No matter how many times I go up to The Lake (as we call it), I'm always in awe of its breathtaking beauty. You know those places that make you realize just how vast the world around us truly is? This is one of those places for me. For Mario, too, I think.
It was a beautiful visit full of laughter, love and Apples to Apples marathons. Christmas morning brought gifts, sure, but also much more: Togetherness. Connection. Kinship.
It was the best kind of day.