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Beneath their very different exteriors, however, Mom and Ency have a lot in common. They both strive, in their ways, to ensure the comfort of others; they love their children dearly and would do anything to see us happy; they are nervous and curious about meeting each other.

After I explained to my mother that Ency is a proper lady, one of good upbringing and acute attention to manners, she said, "So how do you want me to be? Phony-nice? Funny-entertaining?" It struck me that no matter how they behave, our mothers' intentions are all good -- they only want to make a positive impression for the sake of the family, because through David and me, they are family. Perhaps my worry is for nothing. After all, our parents are who they are, and we love them.

"You know what, Mom?" I said. "Don't be anything other than yourself, and we'll all have a great time."

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