Last week, Hanna and I were on vacation in my hometown (Holland, Michigan) visiting my parents, my gran, and a few close friends. While Hanna’s met my parents before, they’ve always come to visit us in Boston. This is the first time she’s gone back with my to the town where I grew up. It was also the first time that I’d brought a significant other to my childhood home.
I didn’t date through my teenage years (i.e. when I was actually living at my parents’ house), though my younger siblings did. So I got to be around for the “meet the parents” dinners, both awkward and not.
My brother dated one young woman pretty seriously throughout highschool and college and they hung out at my parents’ house a lot. She was really like a family member, long before they got engaged and later married. My sister dated a bit more (i.e. more than one person!), and some of the boys we got to meet — some not.
My parents were on the pretty chill end of the spectrum when it came to dating. There were no formal house rules that I remember, except maybe one they finally made vis a vis my sister about meeting a person before they stayed overnight. We had our own rooms, and my siblings were allowed to disappear upstairs with their partners, with the door closed, etc., no questions asked.
As the oldest child in the family, yet the sole person who hadn’t brought a partner home with them to-date, I admit I wondered what it would be like. Obviously, it helps when you know everyone’s going to get on well together. And mostly, I don’t feel like I’m a very different person than I was growing up — so it doesn’t feel weird to be introducing Hanna (who’s only known me for four years) to aspects of my past selves. At least not too weird.
It’s sort of strange and also sort of wonderful to fall asleep in your partner’s arms … in the bed you slept in as a child. Call me nostalgic, but I like to feel connected to family history, and there’s something powerful about establishing a partner as part of that family history, tethering them experientially to the places and material surroundings of one’s childhood.
It’s also fascinating to gain perspective on one’s childhood places and things through the eyes of someone who is an interested outsider. I admit to hanging around to hear what Hanna will report to other people about our visit: what stood out to her, what amused her, what creeped her out. All of that. New ways of seeing old, familiar things.
This is a rambling sort of post-vacation post … I’m still putting my thoughts in order. But I’d love to hear from y’all about your own experiences of taking partners back to childhood homes, of visiting the childhood homes of your partners, of integrating your past and present selves (or not). Feel free to wax eloquent, tragic, comedic, or some combination thereof.