Our history as a family is summarized and referenced on this page. If you go to the category “History” in the menu on the right, you’ll find an alternative perhaps simpler route to all of the “history” posts: one twist, they appear in reverse chronological order!
This page groups and organizes our blended family’s history, the key history within the fabric of our collective tapestry. There was also the history of the parents as a couple, but that does not belong here. Obviously, you can’t cleanly separate the couple from the children, but in many ways I do. One exception: before there’s a family, there has to be a courtship, and two people have to fall in love.
Marie-Helene’s and my protracted courtship is chronologically the first post in the History category.
Another of our interwoven histories is comprised of the annual diaries listed in “Our Diaries.”
The core of all of our histories is that we were a more extended group living together than a typical nuclear family. That’s why we often called ourselves a household. The dynamics were more various and less conventional. Each of the parents had and has a different relationship with each of the children, and one of the distinctions is whether the relation is blood or not. There is typically more going on, in every sense of the term.
Our household was made up of two families initially. Each of Marie-Hélène and I had two children when we moved in together and created the family in Le Tahu in August 1994. Each of those two groups was from its own family unit and made up its own family unit in and out of our home.
Getting together was exciting for all of us at the time. There were so many adventures: visiting grandma in Marlow and grand-père in Brittany, spending day after day at Disneyland Paris and week after week at La Grée, gave us wonderful memories of those early years.
We lived in La Bellanderie for a year, a ramshackle manor house in the forest outside Paris, and bicycled together out of the property and through the forest to Rambouillet. The older children were all schooled in l’Ecole d’Hermeray, a real village school in a real village, which still had the means to send them on subsidized “classes de neige,” yep, ski holidays, and “classes de mer,” yep, sea holidays. Not bad, subsidized sea and ski!
The French do know how to take care of their children.
Then we made a third family, starting it pretty soon after we moved in together. Charlie and Alex arrived, Charles in Brittany in August 1995 and Alexander in Santa Cruz in January 1998. The latter prompted me to quit smoking for the second time (the first was from 1984 through 1988). This time I quit definitively, and measure the years of not smoking by Alex’s age. Great way to quit, by the way!
Now we had a real Brady Bunch, with embellishments. It was not his and hers: it was and is his, hers and theirs!
We married in the early summer of 1997. Things were coming together, if not always in the right order! Unfortunately, we never did go on a honeymoon, to the particular regret of Marie-Hélène (who has still not seen Venice)! Instead, we emigrated to California by way of a few days in New York City and a train trip across the entire North American continent: not entirely bad!
All of the older children latched on to Charlie and then Alex, and the “family” in the larger, household sense of the term came together building on their connection. Charles and Alex do have a lot of advantages: no missing parent, and four doting elder siblings. What they missed according to Charlie was a missing parent. He complained that he never received candy and little care packages by mail!!!
We belatedly had Charles and Alexander baptized in Brittany in August 2004. Things don’t necessarily get done in order in this complicated little world!
During the first three years (1994-7), until we moved to Santa Cruz, the children melded into a tight little crew. No family is entirely happy, but we were all very close and had all kinds of fun together, especially after Charlie’s (and later Alex’s) arrival created a common goal for all.
With our move to Santa Cruz, we became a temporarily unblended family. The French courts separated us for two years, from June 1997 through August 1999.
Nick and Tom rejoined us then, with the effect that again our interpersonal dynamics changed. They were already pretty hard to keep up with, and the coming and going added to the complexity, not to forget the entertainment.
We also lost all our furniture and almost all our belongings for three plus years at the hands of a crooked moving company, which again didn’t facilitate the move.
The hardest part was that each of our four older children had another parent living outside the home, Sunshine for Nick and Tom, and Pierre for Daphné and Alban.
Until we moved to California, Pierre and Sunshine were each nearby, in Paris or its environs. So contact may have had its difficulties, touched upon on these pages, 1994, 1995 and Le Tahu, but they were each there for their children on some level.
Once we moved to California, the other parent’s absence was felt more keenly, as both Sunshine and Pierre had little interest in visiting California. Not only could the children no longer see their respective other parent regularly on weekends, but also they would have to cross the ocean to see him or her. They did, of course, regularly, but the hole was still there.
The summer vacations since 2000 or 2001 first saw Daphné and Alban with their dad in France most of the time, and Nick and Tom with their mom in France most of the time. It was a time of R&R for the rest of us!
Then, as the older children grew up and away, only our third little family, the parents, Charlie and Alex, took vacations together.
By the time of the sunny photo of us with the Hanlons in a cafe overlooking the beach and the wharf, the household had been together again for two years.
After we’d been together again for six years, the provisional nature of families was already upon us.
Nick became the first to move out in the summer of 2005, and the first to move back in again! He spent a couple of six-month sabbaticals in Europe based at his mom’s place in Paris, and moved in and out when back in Santa Cruz. He seems to have settled in France.
Daphné followed a similarly uncertain process, moved out herself to San Francisco in 2008, and then to Tahoe in 2009. There she settled.
Tom was more direct, as is his wont, leaving us after Christmas 2007 and moving in with his mum in Paris, where he stayed for years. He seems to have settled in Athens. Athens?! Yep, in Greece.
Alban made occasional tours of couches in friends’ apartments, but remains the longest of the four in the family home and appears to have settled there, in the in-law cottage.
In late 2007, Nick, Daphné, Alban and Tom all attended Cabrillo, the local junior college, as well as worked part time. They have all spent considerable time in one way or another mulling over what they’re going to do next. Only Nick and Tom seemed to have found their way by 2010.
Then I moved out too. Sometimes Charlie and Alex were with me, sometimes with Marie-Hélène. The big blended family is no more.
No-one can take away the good times, but the end was no fun. Here is the last post chronologically in the History of our big, blended family.