ysabetwordsmith: (monster house)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem came out of the August 4, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] chanter_greenie. It also fills the "hugs" square in my 5-20-15 card for the Wellness Toolbox Bingo fest. This poem was sponsored by EdorFaus. It belongs to the Monster House series. It follows "Unspoken Noise," "Gathered Here Today," and "In Our Many Images."

Warning: This poem contains some touchy topics.  Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers.  There is homophobia, (brief) teen homelessness, emotional whump, and other angst.  The decent characters provide support, though.  If these are sensitive areas for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.

"To Put Together a Family"

In the coldest, darkest part of January
my nephew showed up on the porch.

In his shirtsleeves.

I pulled him into the living room
and said, "What the heck is going on?"

"I-I can't stay at home anymore,"
he said through chattering teeth.
"I just can't. M-mom is a wreck
and my sister n-needs her and
I'm almost eighteen."

"You can stay here with us,"
I said firmly, drawing him into a hug.
"We've put up long-term guests on
the hide-a-bed couch before."

"It won't b-be for long," he said,
tentatively hugging me back.
"I'm going to c-college in the fall."
Then he slumped. "Or I was.
I don't know what will h-happen
to me now. I d-don't know what to do."

"Go upstairs and take a hot bath,"
I said, because he's freezing and
smelled of melancholy teenager.
"I will go out and get some of
your things from your room."

"Okay," he said, heading upstairs.

I tapped the hide-a-bed couch
with my foot. "Go ask your cousin
to throw some towels in the dryer."

"Going," said the monster under the bed.

I drove carefully over the snowy roads,
my knuckles white on the steering wheel.

My sister was surprised to see me.
"Why are you here?" she asked.

"To pack a suitcase,"
I said through my teeth.

"Oh," she said. "Good."

I clenched my jaw so hard
that it popped, on the way
to my nephew's room.

Fortunately a quick search of
his closet turned up a big suitcase.

I had no idea which items were favorites
and which were junk, so I just packed
some of all the essentials and what
few mementos I could find.

His school supplies were all
in his backpack, thank goodness.
In the bathroom I found his toiletries
stuffed into a leather travel case,
and grabbed that too.

Remembering my own youth,
I swept a hand under the mattress.


I tried the far side.
In one place, I felt a bump --
the magazines were actually
slipped inside the mattress itself.

I pulled them out, trying not
to look at the swimsuit-clad men
on the glossy covers.

Then I unzipped the pillowcase,
stuffed them inside it, and
resealed the pillow.

Suitcase, backpack,
pillow, good to go.

"He won't be coming back here,"
I informed my sister at the door.
"If anything else is needed,
I'll come for it myself."

"Understood," she said quietly,
and closed the door behind me.

At home I found my nephew
sitting on the couch with
his shoulder-length hair
wrapped in a towel.

Someone had loaned him
clean clothes and called
his boyfriend, who sat
beside him making
soft soothing noises.

"I brought your backpack,
personal supplies, and as
much else as I could cram
into your suitcase," I said,
setting everything on
the floor by the couch.

"Thanks," my nephew whispered,
squeezing me with desperate strength.

"You're welcome," I said.
"It takes a lot of work
to put together a family
and keep it running well.
It's worth every bit of that."

Boyfriend flashed me a smile.
"Nice that somebody knows that."

"My sister is ... having some difficulties,"
I said as diplomatically as I can muster.

That earned me a sideways hug
from the boyfriend.

It took a few days for my nephew
to settle after moving in with us, and
another trip to pick up stuff I missed.

Then a trip to the grocery store
for things that teen boys need and
my idiot sister hadn't bothered
to make sure that he had.

Things like a new winter coat and
the facial scrub he'd run out of but
been too embarrassed to mention,
plus a box of condoms and
The Joy of Gay Sex.

He blushed scarlet when
I handed him the bag, but
he didn't try to refuse it.

The next day I sent out
another invitation, and later
that evening the doorbell rang.

The boys were surprised and
pleased to see our gay neighbors
whom they'd met in the spring
when the couple first moved in.

"Do you do hugs?" they asked.
"We like hugging friends."

My nephew and his boyfriend
looked at each other, shrugged,
and hugged them both.

"We brought fairy friendship bread,"
the shorter one announced,
holding out a basket of muffins
with candy sprinkles on top.

"We heard you're planning
to start college this autumn,"
said the taller one. "Did you
know there are scholarships
especially for gay youth?"

"Uh, no," my nephew said
as he took two fairy muffins
and passed one to his boyfriend.
"I'd like to hear more about those."

In that moment I had no doubt
that, despite the challenges, he would
manage to put together a family.

* * *


"It takes a lot of work to put together a marriage, to put together a family and a home."
-- Elizabeth Edwards

Gay teens face many challenges including family acceptance/rejection and homelessness. They need understanding and support.

The Fairy Friendship Bread was inspired by a quickie version, but instead uses a real friendship bread recipe as the base, plus icing and candy sprinkles.

Explore some gay youth scholarships.


Date: 2015-12-23 04:33 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
That... female parent... really upsets me.

Your kid is gay? Are they working toward a goal, like college in his case, or a job they can live on? Do they treat others with respect? Do they respect themselves and find friends who support them instead of prey on them or bash them emotionally?

Then what's the BIG DEAL about whom they date?

Mumblegrumble. Whatever trouble she's dealing with isn't specified, but I sure don't see it as bigger than her relationship with her child. Too bad it seems that she's thinking differently.

Re: Yikes

Date: 2015-12-23 10:51 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
I am speaking from experience that you can do things differently. That you can have kids that are practically other PLANETS away from compatible personalities, and still FIND ways to make it work.

Even IF the kid is gay. Or votes (insert party of choice here.)

It's always a struggle, and we put the A+ in AWKWARD on some topics, but it is in NO way the kid's SOLE fault if they're almost-grown and do something totally Unacceptable to the family (I know someone who hasn't spoken to her mother in six years, because Daughter violated the Upstanding Citizen Code by voting Green party).

Re: Yikes

Date: 2015-12-24 02:17 am (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
Having kids is the ultimate crapshoot, a blind date that's supposed to last at least 18 years. You don't always get compatible matches that way.

NO SHIT. One of the big things that went into me deciding not to have kids was the question, "What if I had a child as alien to me as I am to my parents?" And, honestly, I don't think I'd have handled that at all well. I might not have made the same mistakes they did, but OTOH I didn't have any role models for handling it any better, either. And I'm not much of a gambler in general, so I really didn't want to gamble with someone else's life.

However, at least this is just a mismatch that both of them want out of; it could be a lot worse. I once knew a kid whose parents threw him out, and he wasn't 18 yet, and then the parents called the cops on the people who took him in and charged them with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. It was nasty.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-12-23 06:10 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] tadpoleacorn
I liked this a lot. ^_^

(no subject)

Date: 2015-12-23 06:16 am (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (Default)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
Fairy friendship bread! hee!

Thank you!

Date: 2015-12-23 06:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
It seemed like a fun idea.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-12-23 06:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rhodielady-47.livejournal.com
I am so sick of mean-spirited people, Christians especially.
You'd think the average Christian had never heard of the Golden Rule if you had to go by how they ACT.
Good poem.


Date: 2015-12-23 08:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
I agree that most people who call themselves Christians do a shabby job of following what Jesus said to do.

In this case, the family was not doing well -- they didn't have the emotional fluency to handle their challenges -- when the father died and everything fell apart. Mother is decompensating. Taking one major challenge out of the picture may reduce the stress to a level she can actually handle. And the gay teen is better off elsewhere anyway. Not an ideal solution, but a big improvement over the previous situation.

Everyone has some things they could not handle. Yelling at someone for not being able to handle those things just makes matters worse, no matter how pissed you are at the pile of FAIL they just generated. It's just that the things which are tolerated as "I can't cope with this" will vary over time and place.

Re: Yes...

Date: 2015-12-23 11:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rhodielady-47.livejournal.com
When you put it in that light, what was done sounds better.
I found out that a variation of this happened amongst my cousins on my dad's side of the family. I despised openly what had been done when I found out about it. NONE of them has ever spoken to me again.
I reckon I'm better off without....

Re: Yes...

Date: 2015-12-23 11:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> When you put it in that light, what was done sounds better. <<

Good. Bear in mind that she didn't kick her son out, he left because she wasn't meeting his needs and he thought he could do better elsewhere.

>> I found out that a variation of this happened amongst my cousins on my dad's side of the family. I despised openly what had been done when I found out about it. NONE of them has ever spoken to me again.
I reckon I'm better off without.... <<

Yeah, sometimes that shit happens.

I figure if the mother gets therapy for the grief, that might give her a better tool kit for handling other personal issues as well. But that boy is not likely to speak with her again any time soon.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-12-23 07:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lb-lee.livejournal.com
Oh hey, I've had fairy bread before! Never thought I'd think of it again.

Not gonna lie, I'm glad my sexuality stayed repressed til adulthood. Kept me safer.



Date: 2015-12-23 08:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>>Oh hey, I've had fairy bread before! Never thought I'd think of it again.<<


>> Not gonna lie, I'm glad my sexuality stayed repressed til adulthood. Kept me safer. <<

Huh. I had not thought of that. Late bloomers can have some serious problems, especially if they get married to a het spouse before realizing they are queer or trans or whatever. But they do get to skip the teen homelessness.

scraps from the QUILTBAG

Date: 2017-03-30 05:01 am (UTC)
callibr8: (Rainbow-of-Roses)
From: [personal profile] callibr8
>> Not gonna lie, I'm glad my sexuality stayed repressed til adulthood. Kept me safer. <<

Been there, done that, and yeah, that was the best choice for me also.
*offers 'Namaste' to Rogan et al*

Since I'm either ace or demi, it wasn't a particular hardship for me. *shrug*

I always have - and still do - get *much* more visceral satisfaction out of certain participatory musical experiences than most sexual ones -- and there's usually less mess to clean up afterward. :-)


ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)

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