Monday, April 17, 2006

It's the second-most wonderful time of the year

Sunday, April 16:

Easter. A time for celebrating by going to church. For adding tying ribbons to the waistband of your pants because the zipper won't close all the way. A time for forgetting to wear the hip shoes you bought for the occasion and instead absentmindedly wearing the casual sandals you slipped on to walk outside to feed the birds. For getting together with family and sharing a meal. A time for answering unending questions from family about the unborn baby.

My husband and I meet his family -- the only relatives in town -- at his aunt and uncle's club. We haven't all been together since Thanksgiving: aunt and uncle, mom and dad, sister, brother-in-law and adorable 5-year-old nephew, and dear widowed step-grandmother.

In the parking lot, we arrive at the same time as my husband's sister and her family. She gives the adorable nephew an Easter basket to give to my husband. I barely get a chance to notice it has baby items in it before my husband whisks it into the backseat. (Turns out to be a nice basket she must have put together herself, with a cute thermal receiving blanket and a little stuffed green elephant.)

My husband and his sister, they can be too efficient and too practical sometimes.

After meeting and hugging everyone inside the club, we stand around the circular table for 20 minutes because nobody is impolite enough to claim a chair first. That, and the Easter bunny impersonator is making the rounds from table to table -- wouldn't want to get too comfortable in a chair or end up standing in the buffet line when there's a photo opp with a giant rabbit to be had.

Then we stand in line for 15 minutes to get to the buffet. Every possible kind of food is here: shrimp cocktail under an ice sculpture, salads, fresh fruit, cheeses, eggs benedict, bacon, waffles, pancakes, pastries of all kinds, smoked fish, prime rib, leg of lamb, duck, chicken, turkey, ham, steamed vegetables, a table of nothing but Easter chocolate, a table of nothing but desserts like tiramisu, chocolate tortes, white chocolate ganache cake, cobblers with French vanilla ice cream, fruit pies and pina colada cheesecake. It's a hungry pregnant person's heaven. A few weeks ago, I hardly would have been able to contain myself with the selection and amount of food, but I find my appetite is leveling off and isn't as supercharged as it was in the first trimester. I can't even finish my slivers of cake for dessert; my stepmom would gasp. Besides, there are the pants being held together by ribbons to think about.

My mother-in-law asks various questions about the baby and the baby's room. No surprise there. I have brought the framed sonograms to show everyone -- not the most recent ones, which don't look that great, but the second set -- and I worry she's not going to give the frame back. (My husband has claimed it, anyway. He can be the one to fight her for it.)

My husband's aunt, though -- besides thinking the sonogram is an artsy photo of a dog (sister: “They’re having a dog!”) -- takes the cake. She brings a large bag with three boxes and insists I open the gifts right there. One is for the baby. My husband opens it, and it's a set of soft blocks by Baby Einstein. I can't believe my good luck: I added the same blocks to my secret registry. The other two boxes are full of maternity tops for me, one from Motherhood Maternity and one from Old Navy. The aunt proudly explains how, even though she's a size zero and never had a child, she tried on the clothes using a fake pregnancy stomach (they actually have those?!) and also asked for input from mothers-to-be who were shopping in the stores that day. I have to say, all the tops are lacking in hideousness. They're actually very wearable. And the aunt has provided gift receipts if I want to take anything back. I look around at the gifts everyone has brought for everyone and think, This is almost like Christmas.

She and my husband's uncle also want to give us a nice (ahem, large-ticket) piece of baby gear: a car seat, playpen, stroller or a highchair (that's what they gave my husband's sister and bro-in-law when they were expecting, and the aunt and sister spent the day shopping and researching the best to buy!) I tell the aunt it's my husband's job to pick out the car seat and stroller. So we have to wait on him. He’s actually really good at picking out the best X.

We go outside to photograph the adorable nephew during the frantic Easter egg hunt. He is so good his gift bag is full by the time it’s over. But he’s so generous he wants to share the toy- and candy-filled eggs with everyone. (We put them back in his bag when he’s not looking.) We photograph one another. We ask a nice stranger to photograph all of us.

And the weather is beautiful.

And if all goes well, this time next year, we’ll all be back to do this squishystressfulsmiley get-together again. With a new little person garnering attention at the round table where no one will sit.

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