Exploring the mysteries of a happy marriage
© by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, March 17, 2016

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.

But first:

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 went.

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 story!

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 just great.

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 1978.

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 dreams.

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.

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

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