A babe cannot choose the family it is born into. Sometimes, this can have devastating results.
A family cannot choose the babe that is born into it. Sometimes, this can be just as devastating.
We, as humans, do have a choice in how to treat the members of our family. But how do you cope with the realization that your child is not in line with the teachings that you have followed your entire life? And how, as the child in question, do you deal with the fact that your own family cannot accept who you are? Or can only accept you for who you are, and who you love, as long as this does not impact on the rest of their lives?
It is nearly Christmas when Jesse is told by his mother, Gayle, that he is welcome on Christmas Eve, as long as Devin–Jesse’s fiance–does not attend the family meal. Jesse’s mother is not against Jesse being gay, or Devin, but Sam (her first-born son, who she stood up for adoption) is coming round to meet her for the first time and she wants his visit to go as smoothly as possible. Sam was raised in Texas, has just left the Marines; he, of course, has an issue with ‘gay’.
Or does he?
Kaje Harper deals with more than just one issue in “The Family We’re Born With”. And, I think, she does it brilliantly. With integrity, Kaje tells the story of Jesse and Devin, of Sam and Gayle, of Jesse and Gayle, and of Sam and his baby brother. It is easy to condemn Jesse’s mother for not, fully, accepting Jesse. But Kaje doesn’t, she won’t let you either. She manages to give Gayle her own voice, her own humanity, her own dignity.
Although “The Family We’re Born With” is a short story, Kaje gripped my heart and didn’t release it until the final full stop. The starting scene is so powerful, the emotions so raw, that I struggled not to cry (I must remember not to read on the bus). Just four short hours later, when I finished the book, I had been on a roller coaster ride of emotions. And I was ready for more… This is something that Kaje must have anticipated because I could dive head first into “The Family We Make”. But that deserves its own review.
Jesse Calhoun met Devin Palmer five years ago, in front of a Christmas tree at a friend’s party. It was Jesse’s first holiday alone, away from home. Devin didn’t have much of a home to go back to. They found a way to make the season brighter, together.
Four years ago, Jesse brought Devin to his parents’ house and came out to them. It wasn’t all roses, but his family came around, and Devin has spent each holiday with the Calhouns since then. Jesse really loves sharing Christmas with family, and sharing his family with Devin.
So he isn’t prepared to hear his mom say, “I don’t want Devin to come to the house for Christmas Eve this year.” Suddenly it’s not smooth sailing, keeping peace with the family he was born with.