All Together Now

Notre Dame was the opponent, but we worried over a different matchup

November/December 2000

Reading time min

It was my mother's idea, spawned the summer before last while my fiancé and I drove cross-country from Maine to California. Bram and I were sitting outside a Wal-Mart looking at a map of Cooperstown, N.Y., when I called her from his cell phone.

"I have a great idea, sweetheart," my mama announced. "This Thanksgiving, when Bram's parents come west to visit, why don't we get extra tickets for the Stanford-Notre Dame football game? Then Alison and Joe can join us!"

I placed one hand over the receiver and whispered, "Would your parents like to go to a football game over Thanksgiving?" Bram's eyebrows furrowed. He remembered the time his not-so-sports-minded dad asked him if basketball teams actually had formalized plays. Bram looked at me and shook his head with a definitive "no." Unfortunately, my dear mama's voice was too excited, too gracious, too warm. "Mama, they'd love it," I told her.

And so, three months later, Joe and Alison Zeigler of Montclair, N.J., and Frank and Melanie Mauro of Stockton, Calif., would meet in the company of a walking Tree, dancing Dollies and the incomparable Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band.

Bringing our parents together for the first time was an exercise in love and sheer terror. Of course, all of them are wonderful people, and after almost two years together, Bram and I were confident that our future in-laws loved us to pieces. But we worried nonetheless. Would my dad's intimate knowledge of wheel specs, Claude King lyrics and '49er stats mesh with Joe's cache of New York Times quips and Manhattan sensibilities? Might the distance between New Jersey and California amount to more than just 3,000 miles of American soil? We dreamed up every possible nightmare scenario, and actually numbered them: Katie #14--My dad does his Mr. Bill impersonation at the dinner table. Bram #15--My dad asks your dad how many goalies are on the Stanford football team.

We still obsessed even after Thanksgiving dinner went perfectly. But how could Turkey Day not have been a success? A warm fireplace, bottomless glasses of scotch-and-water and my mama's fine hostessing all made for a fabulous fall afternoon. We ate, we drank, we looked at old pictures of me with varying styles of dental appliances. But there, in the air, lingered the specter of the football game. Would Bram's parents just sit and smile uncomfortably? Would some inane green-face-painted Fightin' Irish fan spill his beer on Joe's trenchcoat lapel?

Game day dawned with a chill in the air. The Mauros and Zeiglers cut a Cardinal-red swath into the stadium, wrapped in all manner of Stanford gear, but everyone seemed a little subdued. For the first half of the game, Bram and I feared the worst. Joe and Alison's seats were three rows in front of ours, and the stadium was too packed to finagle a seat change. So the four of us sat watching over them from behind like protective parents, while Joe and Alison sat by themselves. Every time they leaned toward each other to speak, I imagined it was something like "Do you think we might sneak out at halftime?" or "Why is the band major dressed in drag?"

But later, as Stanford rallied for a series of winning plays, Alison jumped out of her seat, whooping and cheering. Joe erupted with a "Hurrah!" and waved his fedora in the air, then whirled around and beamed at us and even did a little shake to the tune of "All Right Now."

Walking back to the car in the cold night air, Bram nudged me and smiled. There were my mama and Bram's, arm in arm, giggling like girlfriends. Beside them strolled my dad and Bram's, deep in conversation and slapping each other on the back.

Of course, Bram and I couldn't take any of the credit. We had merely brought our parents together, praying to any god who would listen that it just might work out--and then watched as these strangers joyfully set aside their differences to savor the prospect of becoming a family.

Later that night, as the six of us sat snuggled in a booth at Max's Opera Café, eating extra-large desserts with ice cream running down our chins, I felt as though everyone I loved had just moved to the same town. And that it was, indeed, all right now.

Katie Mauro Zeigler, '95, MA '96, is a publicist and writer living in San Francisco.

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