Okay so I am in love. No seriously.
No, not in love with Abram. In love with his adorable little cousin Brianna. She is absolutely one of the most gorgeous little girls I've ever seen, with her sassy beaded braids, and big, inquisitive eyes. She's almost eight, going on almost eighteen.
"Your hair is pretty. Is it weave?" She asks, reaching out and grabbing one of my week-old box braids. Her five-year-old twin sisters giggle at this question. I've been surrounded by children since Abram and I arrived at his family's barbeque.
"No, actually, it's my hair. Just like your braids." I tell her.
Sitting here amongst all his family and friends, I can see why Abram is such a fun-loving, positive person. His family is wonderful. Happy. And huge. Throughout the day I have been introduced to five aunts, four uncles, and a host of cousins and 'just-like-family' friends. His grandmother birthed ten children. God bless her.
I was the most nervous about meeting his parents, but his mother and father have been nothing but overly nice to me. Mrs. Montgomery greeted me with a big hug, as if I have known her for years, and I caught the approving elbow nudge Mr. Montgomery gave Abram upon seeing me. Thank goodness. Abram seems to be very close to them so approval from them means a lot.
What impresses me about his family is that they are all so perfectly functional. They remind me of the Cosby Show, all of them successful, either professionally or personally. All of them content.
"Can I take one out?" Brianna asks, fiddling with the end of the braid she still holds.
Before I can answer, Abram swoops in, saving me from having to tell the girl no. "Brianna, how about you let me borrow her for a little while, okay? I want her to meet the rest of the family." He bends down and picks her up, floats her up and over me and onto the other side of the bench I am sitting on.
"Okay. Bye Ata." She's still tickled from her flight over the table as she runs off to play with the other twenty or so kids running around in the vast yard.
"Sorry about that, I know they can be a little overwhelming." Abram looks handsome as ever, even more so as I observe him in this element, around the other men in his family. All the Montgomery men resemble one another. I make a mental note to capture them with my camera later.
"No, it's fine. I think she's adorable." I say.
"Yeah, just wait. You haven't been initiated yet. You're still considered 'company' right now." He says seriously, then bursts out laughing.
"Abram! Come here for a minute, man."
His attention is suddenly yanked away when his uncle Herbert calls him over to help man the grill for a moment. I take this opportunity to absorb everything in. This is... nice. It is said you can tell a lot about a man from the type of family he comes from. If that's so, then I have no worries when it comes to Abram. His family is what I envision mine being in about twenty years. Except considerably smaller.
"Ata, come in the kitchen with me hun, I have to bring out some more desserts." I am startled out of my daydreams by Abrams mother, Mrs. Montgomery. She's already heading towards her big, three-story brick home when I get up to follow.
We walk through the cream-colored Florida room and into the kitchen, which is probably about three times the size of the tiny, cubby-holed food room I call a kitchen.
"So Abram tells me you're a photographer, what kind of photography do you do?" She asks, pulling a batch of freshly-baked brownies out of the brushed-chrome stove.
I don't know why I am so nervous. I guess because the last time I had the whole 'meet the parents' experience, I was in my first year of college. I've forgotten how intimidating this moment can be. The Mother Assessment. Often worse than a father assessing a man's suitability for his daughter, is a mother's judgment on how worthy a woman is for her son.
Mrs. Montgomery is different though. Very laid back, nonchalant even.
"Well, technically I'm not a real photographer yet, but I am looking to do more photo journalistic work, like those in Newsweek and Time in the future."
She's been asking me questions like this for the last couple of hours, feeling me out, as was expected.
Her eyebrow raises slightly and she smiles toward me. "Well you certainly have high ambitions. That's a good quality to have. I hope you can achieve them. From what Abram tells me about you, I'm sure you'll have no problem."
"Wow. I don't know what he's been telling you, but thanks." I chuckle.
She walks over to me, gets close like she's going to tell me a secret.
"Can I tell you something? I think you are just lovely, Ata. I'm so happy Abram met you. Abram is not one to talk about his personal life with me unless he really likes someone. He has mentioned you to me three times this past week. And you are here. I've seen him looking at you with that look. So I am sure you must be something special." She offers a warm smile once again and I realize that I am definitely passing her test.
Wow. I don't even know what kind of look she's talking about, but I guess his mother knows him better than I do.
"Well, thank you. That's probably why Abram sounded so nervous when he invited me last week. I didn't know this was such a big deal for him." I say, picking up the tray of brownies we have just finished neatly stacking.
"Yeah, I don't know how far in detail you all have gone into, but Abram has had some very....challenging relationships in the past. He's very sweet, but he rushes. All his life he has been forging ahead into things prematurely. So don't you let him pressure you into anything, okay?"
All of a sudden I am uncomfortable. I realize I don't really know Abram. Sure, we've had conversations about our pasts, but what does she mean by challenging? Why is she worried about him pressuring me? The questions cloud my mind like a sudden awakening. I have been living a fairytale for the last few weeks and haven't really worried about wondering if he actually could be too good to be true.
I assure her I will not rush into things prematurely, whatever that may be, and we walk back out into the backyard just as Abram is approaching.
"Hey, I didn't know you had gone in the house. Thought the kids had you tied up somewhere." He offers that dazzling smile that I'm sure has melted many a heart.
"Yeah, your mother needed some help with the brownies and cookies." I say, distracted.
"Oh okay. Is everything alright? You having fun? Sorry people keep calling me away. I should be free for the rest of the day though. I told them not to bother me anymore."He touches my arm, takes the tray and carries it the rest of the way to the table where all the delicious-looking food is set out.
"Yeah everything's fine. I'm just absorbing it all in, that's all. Your family is very different than mine. Your parents are adorable. I'm glad I came."
He smiles again, kisses my hand, then my cheek.
"I'm glad too. I was...kinda hesitant at first. My mother can be a little overprotective. She likes you though, so that's cool."
"She's very nice. Doesn't seem overprotective to me at all." I say, looking up at him.
"Oh, well, you'll get to know her more...I mean, you know, as we hang out more. I'm just glad she likes you."
Man. What a difference a day can make. Up until now, I've been thinking of Abram as this perfect being that seemingly dropped out of the sky just for me. A man with no dramatic past, no overprotective mother, and definitely not any challenging relationship history. Naive, yes. But blissful nonetheless.
The reality bell rings loudly in my head. It's time for Abram and I to have a talk.