Happy St. Patrick’s Day
heading into the first day of spring, which is also my twin
grandchildren’s birthday. So taking a break from politics, and the
reason I care about controlling the national debt, I want to just
tell stories today about family values, 2016. In this final year of
“Downton Abbey,” I have a wonderful, true British story to tell you.
When I was growing up, in
a small Catholic town, if one got pregnant out of wedlock it was the
equivalent of a national disgrace. One of my best friends
disappeared from school one day; no one would tell us where she
Using detective work
lifted from our Nancy Drew books, we group of friends found her,
living in a small apartment with her new husband and the baby. We
pooled our allowances to buy a baby gift, welcomed her back into our
circle, but she did not get to graduate with us.
However, she and her
hard-working husband, who owned a garage, went on to have several
more children; she became a local hospital administrator who many
years later helped me get through my mother’s admission to a nursing
home. And times have changed: She got invited to our 50th
graduation, where we saw photos of her many grandchildren. As nearly
as anyone can tell, one of the happiest marriages in our class.
Now on to England, around
the same time period, to another friend who also got pregnant out of
wedlock. She surrendered the child she felt she couldn’t properly
raise and that was the end of that: She and her husband, whom she
met later, moved here to the United States and became citizens and
friends of mine.
If like me you watched
“Downton Abbey,” you know how poor Lady Edith had to hide the
daughter she bore out of wedlock, pretending she wasn’t hers — this
was a full year’s plot line.
Well, last summer my
British-American friend told me an amazing story, of how her son
found her and showed up on her doorstep to get acquainted.
It happened the year I was
on vacation with my grandchildren so couldn’t take the annual photo
of my partner Chip launching HIS baby, his beloved boat. He
asked our British friends to photograph the event. Chip noted their
names and my friend’s son, playing as he sometimes did with the
information he’d found about her, stumbled on Chip’s website with
her name and photo!
A successful young man who
often travels to New York on business, he rented a car and came to
meet her. Now my beautiful, once-childless friend has a handsome son
who looks like her, and a daughter-in-law, just as I do, plus three
young grandchildren! He just spent a weekend here touring the North
Shore with her. It is clear to see that she made the right decision
for her child, giving him in adoption to a family who needed him and
helped him grow into someone very special. Isn’t that a wonderful
Now, moving on to my own
story, just to celebrate the romance of spring. I too did it all
wrong: Back when most of my friends were having formal weddings with
men to whom they are still married, I was running off to a justice
of the peace, first time. The local priest comforted my family about
the missing Catholic wedding with the very wise perception that it
was just as well, as I wasn’t likely to stay married anyhow. Seven
years later, my son was the child of divorced parents. Back then,
this was somewhat rare, and I think he’s still in therapy, and yet,
he’s also a wonderful young professional man with a happy marriage
of his own.
Next marriage took place
at Marblehead Town Hall. I wore my favorite jeans. Another seven
years, another divorce. Pattern here comes from me: I do not make a
good wife, but both my ex-husbands will tell you I make a good
person with whom to talk politics. My first husband and I now share
the grandtwins. Meanwhile he’d married again, had three more sons,
so our son, otherwise an only child, has three half-brothers. All
five of these guys, maybe a few grandsons, are planning a fishing
trip to Montana come summer.
My second husband
eventually married better too; it makes me happy to see happily
married couples. Chip and I don’t even pretend that this would work
for us! We live next door, in separate houses, thereby getting along
Having twin grandchildren
makes me thinks of another kind of family: the couple that wants to
have children, but for some reason cannot. If they can find a child
to adopt, as happened to the adoptive parents of my friend’s child,
fine. But something else wonderful happened in England, back in
A British woman became the
first to bear a child through in vitro fertilization, the
implantation of fertilized eggs into a woman’s womb. The baby was
named Louise Joy Brown. Since then, this has become a fairly common,
though expensive, procedure, which often results in the birth of
twins or triplets. If you think of it, you’ll notice more double
carriages being pushed down local streets than we used to see.
Nothing traditional about
all this! Science, bringing, as it often does, joy. Extended
families, like mine. The Internet, allowing adopted children to
expand their own family contacts. And yet, more traditional couples,
still planning white-gown weddings, pursuing their own romantic
Being married, and being
parents, can be very hard. Let’s celebrate all the different kinds
of people who do it well, one way or the other.
Barbara Anderson of
Marblehead is a weekly columnist for the Salem News and
Eagle-Tribune Publishing Company.