Seven years ago today I was on the Lakeshore Limited coming back to Boston from Ohio, having just tortured my boyfriend by introducing him to my family for the first time. We'd had a whirlwind romance, meeting on the coldest day of the year (who goes to the bar when it's six below?) and only dating a few weeks before he left again. When I invited him to join me and my family for the weekend, he arranged flights from the middle of nowhere, NC to middle of nowhere, OH and I looked for flights from Boston to Akron/Canton, Ohio.
Since it was last minute, there were no reasonable seats left to Akron/Canton and instead I booked a ride on the Amtrak Lakeshore Limited. It's actually a lovely ride, and if you've never taken a train, I highly recommend it! It's relaxing and comfortable, with a dining car and cafe car, so you can enjoy meals and cocktails while you roll across the country.
The only downside to my arrival by train was that my new boyfriend would arrive five hours before me. I look back and giggle at the ridiculousness of it all. Ryan left NC on a puddle jumper and connected through DC and Cincinnati before arriving at the Akron/Canton regional airport. Can you imagine flying into a po-dunk airport to meet your new girlfriend's family without her? My parents picked him up at the airport, took him home for dinner and then Ryan and my father drove later that night to pick me up at the train station. What a trooper!
As if meeting my parents by himself wasn't hard enough, he was about to endure trial by fire (i.e. meeting my entire extended family). My mother's parents long ago gave up every holiday to the in-laws. With six children, it was easier for Grandma to declare the Sunday following a 'family holiday'. If you check your calendar, you'll find that Easter Sunday was the 11th, making our family Easter dinner on Sunday the 18th. Though I grew up in a suburb of Cleveland, the rest of my family all lives in a small farming community in rural Ohio. We are full of character, loud and boisterous and there's usually at least 25 of us for dinner!
Grandma makes a turkey, a ham, or both. Sometimes the main course was a cousin's 4H project and had a name, but thankfully this time was just a ham with no name. Every family brings their favorite side dishes and we serve them all on the long table, passing to the left family style. As you can imagine, side dishes will not make it around the entire 25 person table, so it's imperative that you sit near your favorites. We took our seats near the parmesan rolls and the jello eggs, Grandpa said the blessing and we started passing. That's when The Jello Egg Incident occurred. My cousin, just about 4 years old, seated across the table from us asked for a jello egg and Ryan.... gave him one. The entire table erupted "hey, don't pass across" and "no way, you gotta pass to the left" and "who brought that guy?"
Ryan held his own throughout the rest of dinner, though I'm sure he was counting the minutes until we could leave. He certainly gained points when he mentioned he drove a Dodge Ram 1500, liked off-roading when he lived in Virginia and that he actually let me drive the truck. Aunt R said I should marry him immediately if he let me drive his truck.
At the end of the weeknd, I dropped Ryan back at the airport, not entirely sure he would answer my next phone call, and I took the train back to Boston.
I think I'll make some Jello Eggs for Easter this weekend, since we won't be making it home to Grandma's this year.