Dear Little One,
Since the last story featured my mom, I figured the next should have your dad’s mom. Dealing with your dad’s mom has always been an interesting challenge for me.
On the one hand, we’re quite similar. We’re both strong-willed yet caring and kind (mostly), we’re both very opinionated and passionate, and we both absolutely adore our child(ren). On the other hand, we can be exceedingly different. She is a devout Catholic, whereas I loosely define myself as “…Idk, agnostic? I guess?” She is highly conservative (especially fiscally), whereas I’m more “I <3 science and learning! Everyone deserves healthcare/food/shelter/education! (etc.)”
For the most part, we’ve been able to maintain a fairly good relationship throughout the last 11.5 years, but every once in a while we run into a point where we are so bafflingly different that we need to take a step back and recalibrate. Usually, this involves your dad stepping in and trying to bridge the gap and/or explain something.
One of these came up while we were planning our wedding.
Planning our wedding was annoying, fun, terrible, and exciting all at the same time. We were dirt poor and going to college, but we were determined to at least try to pay for the wedding ourselves (spoiler: we failed, but still did better than most). There were a lot of things we struggled to pay for, one of which was the food.
We couldn’t afford any of our venue’s 3 approved caterers, and they didn’t really fit our style anyway. So we decided to have a two-part reception. Cake and champagne directly following the mid-day ceremony at the venue, with a full meal to follow at your grandparents’ house. They had a family friend who did catering and offered to charge us only for the food and called her & her daughter’s labor our wedding gift. It was awesome.
We started to plan the menu.
We agreed that we wanted it to be basically an hors d’oeuvres/small bites buffet. Lots of little things that people could easily grab rather than specific chicken/fish/whatever plates. We also wanted to be very accommodating to people who were kosher, vegetarian, etc. At least partly because ~1/2 of my family and ~1/4 of our friends were vegetarian (including the best man & maid of honor).
Most people we knew with special diets were very kind and usually said things like “Oh no, it’s totally fine, we’ll be completely happy with just this side of pasta. Don’t worry about us! :)” But that’s not how I roll. You’ll get a full meal, dammit. With choices and everything!
So, as we talked this over with his mom, she starts going on and on about how she could do something with salmon and it would be great! We were confused, as we were talking about vegetarian food, which means no animal flesh. We said that, while that might work fine for most of the guests, it wouldn’t fulfill our vegetarian requirement. She paused, then uttered one of the most unique sentences I’d ever heard her say:
“But… fish were made on a different day?!”
She was referring to the fact that the bible says god made fish and birds on day five, whereas animals and humans were day six. For some reason, she knew chicken wasn’t vegetarian, but thought that fish was. To me, this seemed insane, but it actually explained why I’d seen fish given to vegetarians in some places in France. Not everyone is on the same page about what is or isn’t an animal, apparently.
I was speechless, but your dad stepped in and tried to explain it from a scientific standpoint, since he and his father are scientists. He started going into the taxonomic ranks (domain, kingdom, etc.) and talked about how they’re all in the Animalia kingdom, which means they are – scientifically – all animals. She just kept repeating the same sentence. While we didn’t necessarily get her to agree with the scientific rankings, she did at least agree to not put fish in everything.
Later, once she’d had some time to digest the information a bit, we talked to her about the different versions of vegetarian diets. Specifically, we explained that she was thinking of pescatarian, but our friends and family were mostly lacto-ovo vegetarians.
Over the years, she’s gotten much better about this sort of thing. But you won’t always be able to bridge those gaps with people. Throughout all this, neither side got angry, neither side got loud/shouty, and everything turned out just fine. Talking things over won’t always fix problems, but often it can help people come to some sort of understanding. This was not the last time we would come across this odd gap between our worldviews, but it was one of the most memorable.