Even the most traditional family has trouble getting everyone together at holiday time. Take my daughter and her husband. They have one set of in-laws and one set of out-laws but her mom was in North Puffin, I was in South Puffin, her brother was an hour away, hubby’s brothers are scattered across a couple of states and his folks live down in Vermont’s Banana Belt.
My daughter opted to strangle a turkey she had raised herself and invite everyone to her house to chew the feathers off. Them as came, came. Them as didn’t didn’t. Still, she got her mom, her brother, nieces, and the odd ex-brother-in-law and a couple of others. It was a houseful.
I missed Thanksgiving at my daughter’s house because Nancy and I spent our first-ever holiday together (it was grand) down here. She and I are known to all y’all but that’s not the norm.
Even the most traditional family has secrets; poly families often seem particularly closeted.
I ran into some friends at a Halloween party (they came dressed as vanilla wafers, all five of them): Paul and Polly Dent who first made our acquaintance over there, Evelyn and Owen McGregor, and Nicole Norris who was never married to Chuck. The Dents have two younger girls, one in elementary school and one in junior high. The McGregors have a couple of college age girls (Vickie, the elder, and Toni, the younger) and a pre-school granddaughter plus Raymond, a son in his mid-20s from Evelyn’s first marriage. It is an estrogen-rich household.
That’s the marital status.
Here’s the organization chart: Paul and Evelyn are lovers. Polly and Owen likewise. Nicole came into the group as Evy’s other lover and has fallen in love with Paul. Owen vacations each year with Cece, a lovely SCUBA instructor who lives here in the Keys. It is not your “traditional” family. Heck, it’s not even your traditional polyamorous family.
Confused? Need a spreadsheet? I have to keep emailing gekko to keep track of these guys for me.
The entire group (other than CeCe) shares a large, rambling Victorian farmhouse on the Eastern Shore, a house built for the hunkering down in the long winters. It has nine or ten bedrooms (there were more but they converted at least a couple of them into baths), three parlors, two dining rooms, a music room, a theater, and office space for Paul and Nicole, who mostly work at home and for Evelyn, a lawyer who brings a lot of work home with her.
Polly said she was going to hire the White House protocol officer to plan Christmas this year. Between them, thanks to the usual American marriage/divorce/remarriage, they have 18 parents or in-laws, I think, about 13 of whom are speaking to each other.
In addition to the place card nightmare, they have a secret.
Toni McGregor was 16 and unwed when she gave birth to now-four-year old Tina, the McGregors’ first grandchild.
When the test strip turned blue, Evelyn made everyone promise not to tell anyone. “Particularly not Cece.”
It was a damn fool promise, particularly since the window of opportunity for secrets like that is something less than 270 days. After that, the cat climbs out of the bag no matter what Evelyn wants.
That is not her only misgiving. She loves her life but it embarrasses her. She doesn’t want anyone in the family to know that Owen and Polly are lovers and she expressly doesn’t want anyone to know about Owen and Cece. Particularly not the Dents’ kids. Or Raymond. Or you. Or me.
She’s been known to melt down at the dinner table over the secrets she needs us to keep.
“I hate going home for the holidays,” Vickie McGregor told me, “but I can’t go anywhere else because I can’t talk about the things that are important to me. Like what goes on in my family.”
Queen Victoria and her namesake would not have liked each other. The queen might have been a bawdy wench but God help anyone who mentioned that out loud.