John’s Family Tree

John’s Family Tree

 

The year was 2023.

 

Supper was over and John opened his backpack. He had homework every night. His parent, Blake, sat down at the kitchen table to offer support. John’s other parent, Mike, was not home yet. He had been working extra lately and had a long commute besides.

 

One of the assignments was to create a pedigree chart, a genealogy. John put his name in the first blank: John Andrew Smith. He looked to Blake, his parent, questioning. What name should he put in the upper line, Blake’s or Mikes? He put in Blake Phillip Bigelow. In the lower line, he entered Michael Sebastian Crowell. When John’s parents had married in 2013, Mike had kept his birth name. Crowell’s name went where the mother’s name usually would go. When a child has two fathers, deciding which father goes on which line is a toss-up. The way John had filled it in made Mike appear in the mother’s position.

 

How did John get the last name Smith with parents whose names were Bigelow and Crowell? When he was born, Blake and Mike decided that in order to keep it clear that he was as much one’s as the other’s, they would give him a neutral name. They chose the most common American surname: Smith. That way, little John would not know which one of them had contributed physically to his birth. The presumption of equal contribution could be maintained; his name would not give anything away.

 

“Who were your parents?” said John.

 

“My father is Stephen Marks Bigelow and my mother is Mary Abigail Spencer,” said Blake.

 

John wrote the names.

 

“Who were Mike’s parents?” asked John.

 

“His dad is Fred Crowell and his mother is Dorothy, I don’t remember her maiden name,” said Blake.

 

John wrote these names.

 

They worked back on Blake’s side of the family tree. Mike helped John fill in his side later that evening.

 

After saying prayers, as Blake and Mike were tucking John into bed, John suddenly got really quiet.

 

Noticing this, Mike said, “Is there anything the matter John?”

 

John said, “I’d really like to know someday which of you is my dad.”

 

Blake and Mike looked at each other signaling the need to hide any alarm.

 

“We are both your dad,” said Mike.

 

“Yes, we both are,” affirmed Blake. “We both love you with all our hearts.”

 

“Is either one of you my mother?” asked John. “Every person on my genealogy chart has a father and a mother except me. Is there something wrong with me? Is it my fault?”

 

Blake spoke soothingly. “We both love you so much, we are trying to do a better job for you even than parents do in families where a father and mother sometimes do not love their kids enough.”

 

John left off asking and Mike and Blake decided to let his silence be the conclusion of that night’s talk.

 

John lay awake for a good time after this. He had often wondered what he only tonight was able to ask. Whose was he? Was Blake his father? He thought he looked more like Blake than Mike. Mike had a dark skin color and black hair. John’s hair and Mike’s were similar and their faces both freckled under summer suns.

 

“I must be Blake’s son, not Mike’s. I can’t be both. So I put the right name on the upper section of the genealogy chart,” thought John.

 

“Who is my mother?” he questioned. “Everyone else I know has a mother and all the people further back than my parents have both kinds of parents. Someone must be my mother.”

 

He lay there thinking of what kind of woman she must be. He thought, “My genealogy chart is half wrong, the Mike half, I think. I wonder if I’ll get a 50% when I turn it in.”

 

He turned over with a slight shiver of loss. “I love both my parents. They are so good to me. But they are hiding something from me. There is a secret about my life they will not tell me. They are not exactly lying; they only are leaving something unsaid. I do not really know who I am. They cannot mean to hurt me; they’ve never hurt me, but not knowing half of my history does hurt.”

 

The next day at school, each child showed his pedigree chart and told a short story of an ancestor. John told about his great-grandfather on Blake’s side-John felt this was the surest way to be honest in claiming an ancestor- who had taught carpentry in school and who was present when a young student slipped and had one of his fingers cut off in a saw.

 

Each student pinned his or her chart on the bulletin board.

 

Not a single student made fun of John for his pedigree chart; most didn’t even notice the difference between his and the others. But John still felt uneasy.

 

When his parents got John to talk about school that day, John’s uneasiness and the pedigree chart being the source of it became obvious.

 

Blake called a school board member and the superintendent. Over a series of meetings Blake and Mike and some other parents who they got to join their cause persuaded school officials to instruct teachers to drop genealogy projects from the curriculum. Ancestry was just too touchy. Kids would not be asked to tell of their origins and family background. It would save some kids from uneasiness.

 

But the subject was not closed as far as John was concerned. He promised himself that he would find his mother. Many questions came to him. What kind of a woman was she? In what way was he like her? What countries were her ancestors, and his, from? Had she and Blake and Mike met? Did they pay her? How much? Did she have other children? Where were they? Could he ever meet them? Why had she left him motherless? Would he be smarter and better if she, rather than Mike, had raised him?

 

“Mike, I think, is trying to be my mother. But he is not like my friends’ mothers. They are different than fathers. And Mike is much more like Blake than my friends’ mothers are like their fathers,” he thought.

 

In later years, when John’s capacity for investigation grew, he was told not to try to find his mother. Some laws stood in the way. The laws had been written to give sanction to the situation of two men married. If the mother was know-able, it would slight their dignity as parents, a slight the law had corrected. The child had to keep silent, to refuse his or her curiosity, to be satisfied with half a pedigree chart. Then the marital decisions of the parents would appear flawless.

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One Response

  1. I am afraid that dystopian fiction is not your forte. You start out with a genuine issue, one faced by all adopted and surrogate, IVF children and you deal with it rationally and sympathetically. But then you break free from the bonds of reality and soar into a finale tailor made to suit your own politics and religion. Try spending time with a gay couple and their kids. You will find them painfully normal and spending most of their time on the challenges of being good parents.

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