David and I braced ourselves for the nippy, nighttime New England air as we stepped off the ferry and onto the ramp, headed toward the luggage cart. It was 10:30 p.m. on Martha’s Vineyard, more than 15 hours since we’d left our home in San Diego. “We’re about to get in the sixth and final vehicle of the day,” David said.
“Two if by car, two if by plane, one if by bus, and one if by boat,” I said in my best early-American proclamatory tone. David smiled. Despite the protracted day, we were in good spirits — with as many connections as we’d had, it was a miracle we’d been spared any delay. We still had a 20-minute car ride from the ferry in Vineyard Haven to David’s parents’ home in Chilmark.
Aided by high beams, Robert navigated the inky darkness and narrow roads lined by leafless trees. “Stop! Look there,” I shouted from the back seat. Robert slowed the Jeep, and the four of us watched as three deer sauntered along the side of the road as though it wasn’t the height of hunting season in Massachusetts.
After a moment of deer-gawking, the conversation turned to the week ahead. Between a few dinner invitations, a few birthdays to honor, and the big holiday, Ency and Robert were hoping to get some help with a few things they’d been putting off since our last visit. As tech-savvy youngsters staying with septuagenarians, David and I happily accept our roles as IT support.
There was a “disc player” attached to the TV in the kitchen that was giving them guff. That was a sound issue, which meant it was David’s territory (he’s the one who went to Cornell for electrical engineering, with a specialty in acoustics). Ency needed to figure out a better way to create a document with embedded photos — I volunteered for that, not because I already knew of one, but because I, too, could benefit from researching and finding a good photo-document format. David and Robert were going to work on the gas stove; they needed to locate a replacement part and then determine whether or not an expert should be brought in to do the replacing — no one wanted to blow up the house.
“And zere’s one more sing,” Ency said. “Vee need help with zee Facebook.”
That was definitely my department — David doesn’t even have an account. “What sort of help?”
Ency began to describe a post she saw on her granddaughter’s wall. “It said, ‘I can’t believe you did zat sing,’ and zere was a link.”
I recognized the post as spam and was about to begin explaining how to identify spam posts versus normal posts, but my train of thought was interrupted by a disturbing notion: my in-laws were lurking on Facebook, where I drop some of my most provocative posts. Politics, religion — ohmygod — sex and drug innuendos. Who saw how much? They still seemed pretty cool with me, so they must not have seen my latest gem, an Andy Rooney quotation explaining why he was an atheist.
But then I thought about the girls. My in-laws have two granddaughters — one in high school, one in college. I pictured all of the outrageous things my cousins of similar ages had been posting over the past year and panic rose like a bubble in my throat. “Are you sure you want to be looking at their pages?” My voice came out a scratchy, higher-than-usual octave. “I mean...there are some things you just can’t unsee.”
Ency said she’d already seen a photo of her granddaughter’s boyfriend kissing the girl’s cheek. I thought of the potential trauma she might suffer if she were to stumble upon pics from a first drunken college party. It hadn’t happened yet — for all I knew my niece hated alcohol — but who has ever survived college without getting drunk and doing something stupid? And if that happened with phones in the room, well, documentation seemed inevitable. I wanted to spare my in-laws the realities of today’s youth. But, more importantly, I wanted to protect myself from their scorn should they discover the truth — that their son had married a psycho-bitch with a very dark sense of humor, as evidenced by the kinds of things she posted on Facebook.
I’m not one to edit myself; my lack of a filter is infamous. The way I figure it is, if you’re interested in knowing what’s in my head, you have to take responsibility for however you react to it. But, for the most part, I’d always strived to be my least offensive around my in-laws. They’re old fashioned: they don’t use curse words, they’re nice. Since I met them, my number-one goal was to make them like me and then keep them liking me, whatever it takes. Because they live so far away, it’s been easy to shield them from most of my rough edges.
Over the years, I’ve grown to love David’s parents, and I consider Ency to be not only my mother-in-law, but also a dear friend. Maybe it was time, I thought, that I should give them a little more credit. Maybe they were already aware of my idiosyncrasies, all of our differences in values, and they just quietly accepted it. Maybe I can’t control what factions of people in my life know what, and maybe that’s okay. As my father often says, “What you think about me is none of my business.”
“Okay, well I just wanted to make sure you had all the information,” I said. “If you think there’s anything that could be posted that falls into a category of things you don’t want to know about the girls’ lives, then don’t look. Then again, if there’s something they don’t want other people to know, they shouldn’t post it.” I said this last bit for myself as much as anybody. “But, yes, I’d love to give you both a Facebook tutorial. Let’s do it the day after Thanksgiving.”
I made a mental note to fill my page with cute animal pictures.