By lens and by line, this is life on film.
Airport reunions, existential conversations along the Wild Atlantic Way, forgotten backpacks on Irish islands, future in-laws introduced, pints of Guinness, a sandy, jubilant dog on the beach. This is life on film – volume 7.
“This time tomorrow, they’ll be here,” I whisper to David. It’s the middle of the night in our Bromma apartment, with the only brightness coming from the FlightAware tracking app on my phone. It’s happening: the parents are meeting the partner. In T-minus 24 hours, these two disparate unions in my life will collide and the bloody, custody battle for me will begin – sort of. Introducing your partner to your parents is a big milestone for many, particularly when your family foundation is close and the value of your parent’s approval is high. I’ve always romanticised the idea of merging my two worlds, but for me, the need to have my partner love my family, and be loved in return, is non-negotiable. And what better way to ensure an everlasting bond than to throw everyone together for one week in a tiny one-bedroom apartment and a one-week road trip across Ireland?
I could have sold our airport reunion scene to Qantas for their next film advertisement. Think clumsy introductions, running embraces, nervous energy and goofy grins with long, emphasised hugs. In the first few hours, David was a novelty to my parents; a shiny, new, undiscovered treasure that they could analyse, question and playfully embarrass or banter with. Immersing them into our life in Stockholm, and inevitably our relationship, was both a precious and significant thing. When you love something so much, you can’t help but want the people around you to love it just as equally. We showed them the city through our lens, taking them to our most frequented and most loved places. We walked the cobblestone streets of Gamla Stan, fulfilled mum’s wish of visiting the ABBA museum, tried the famous Thai Basil cocktail at APO and lunched at Fjäderholmarna in the Archipelago. We introduced them to Shuffleboard and Padel, indulged in a Swedish meatball smorgasbord and toured the unique art across Stockholm’s subway stations. There were also nights where we just enjoyed the simplicity of staying in together. We cooked, drank wine, watched Eurovision, played endless rounds of Monopoly Deal and forced my jet-lagged mother in the kitchen to cook recipes from home that I had missed. Here, sat around the dinner table eating home-cooked curries and exchanging anecdotes, felt like a pretty perfect way to pass the time together.
There is no such thing as a stress-free road trip, and anyone who tells you otherwise is a psychopathic liar. Mum and Dad were first-timers to Ireland, so David and I decided to the plan the trip around the Wild Atlantic Way; hitting Derry, Donegal, Achill Island, Galway and Dublin. Confined to small B&B’s and a semi-SUV is an extremely intimate environment to willingly place yourself, your boyfriend and your parents into. They say that the best way to test your compatibility with someone is to take a trip with them. Heed my word: it’s true. There were definitely pain points and moments of tension, along with uncomfortable dynamics and dramatics, but the real deal-breaker is whether you can laugh about it afterwards. Over the week we traversed through mountains, ravines, farms, teeny wee roads and inner-city bypasses. We climbed Malin Head, dived into the Donegal sea, fed donkeys on our doorstep, played cards by the fire in old-time pubs, danced in said old-time pubs, visited Knock Shrine for a douse of holiness, ate our body weight in pub-grub and drove around spectacular landscapes on unplanned, lost routes. I understood the rarity and fortune that it was to travel around a beautiful country in the company that I had. There was one night in particular where David’s family came to meet mine for dinner in a nearby village. Between gleeful conversations, comparing life in Australia vs Ireland, singing Happy Birthday to David’s mum and everyone passing jokes at each another, David and I stole a moment. “Omg, look! It’s actually going so well!” I joked. But in reality, that’s all we ever wanted. Because although life can be a painful and illogical mess, the family we are given and those we choose, can make it a pretty damn good one.