Family Peculiarities

Brandon and Ethan asked me recently if they could make family trees on They either saw a commercial on TV or, since they’ve been playing a lot of games on line, saw an ad for a Free Family Tree with 3-month trial membership!!!1! They were disappointed when I told them they couldn’t after explaining that a credit card was required for this free trial, how automatic billing would kick in after the trial membership was over, how I would forget to cancel the account, and so on, ending with “And that’s why we have nice things.”

I was going to make a family tree – a project that’s a little more extensive that what I have time for today. Also: I’d need to talk to my Mom to get accurate dates for births, marriages, and divorces – again, a bigger project than what I have time for today because we can talk for hours and hours.

I have explained some of this to friends before, which has usually ended in confusion. Although a picture would probably be helpful, I’m hoping that seeing it in writing will give you enough time to re-read and comprehend instead of me having to stop and explain again.

My mother, née Holly Harlow (1947), has 3 brothers, 2 are older (Bud, Terry), 1 is younger (Bert). They each married women named Sue – that’s right: 3 Sue Harlows all living in pretty much the same town. To distinguish all of these aunts from each other when I was little, we appended the first letter of their maiden name to Aunt Sue. So, there is Uncle Bud and Aunt Sue B. (née Susan Blake), there was Uncle Bert and Aunt Sue S (née Susan Sailer), and there was Uncle Terry and Aunt Sue K. (née Suzan Kinne).

What? What’s that? Suzan Kinne? That’s my last name. That’s right folks: my mother’s brother married my father’s sister. Holly Harlow (1947) married John Kinne (1944) and became Holly Kinne. Suzan Kinne (1947) married Terry Harlow (1943?) and became Suzan Harlow. To make this even neater, Uncle Terry and Aunt Sue K. had two children – Shane and Kelly. Double cousins! Sounds genetically sketchy, but it’s not! I swear!

To make things even more fascinating in a coincidental way, Shane and Kelly are four years apart, just like my brother and I: Shane (1965), Kelly (1969); Devon, aka Smokey, (1968), Me, (1972). Very neat indeed, although it’s technically not quite that neat; my mother miscarried twins at some point between my brother and I. When I was little, I used to think that I might not exist if the twins had survived and of course I was (and still am) sad for my Mom.  But I used to think of those twins fondly, kind of like imaginary friends but not (I had one of those too); I think I was too old for imaginary friends by the time I found out about the twins.

Back for a moment to the Aunt Sues: luckily my Dad’s brother Scott (1959) did not marry a Susan, but in 2008 his youngest brother Joel (1965) did marry a Susan. So ha ha – yes, we1
technically have another Aunt Sue.

Because Scott and particularly Joel were closer in age to my cousins, I never called them “Uncle Scott” or “Uncle Joel”. In fact, I just realized my oldest Harlow cousin, Uncle Bud & Aunt Sue B.’s son Rocky (really Roswell Harlow III) was born in 1960 and is only a year older than Scott.

Moving on to 1964-1965 – a productive and scandalous year in Woodstock. My cousin Shane was born in 1965 and so was my youngest uncle, Joel. That’s right: Aunt Sue K and Grandma K2 were pregnant at the same time. Aunt Sue K both had a baby and welcomed her youngest brother into the world in the same year. She and her mother were pregnant at the same time. Again, sounds genetically sketchy, but it’s not. In telling this story, I have had people pipe up to say that there is a similar situation in their family.

Even more crazy (and fodder for gossip): Aunt Sue K and Uncle Terry did what today is basically not such a big deal, but then – in the mid-60’s – was a serious scandal, serious business. Aunt Sue K, who is awesome and talked to me about this in FL when we gathered around my Dad, was going into her senior year of high school when she got pregnant. She was not allowed to return to Woodstock Union High School in her delicate state – that simply was not allowed. She wouldn’t have finished school were in not for an exceptional teacher who was able to overcome/ignore the social stigma to help her finish high school: Arnold Howe. The reverence and gratefulness that she has for Arnie Howe’s persistence in pushing her to finish school and graduate was still in her voice as she told me about this.

And now I’m wondering what year my cousins Linna & Amy & Heather were born; was Aunt Sue B. pregnant that year too? (Added 1/6/2011): Aunt Sue B. was pregnant with Linna ’64-’65 also. What a bumper crop of babies!

But there is one more pregnancy I am sure of. My Dad and his high school sweetheart, Nancy, continued to date even after he went into the Marines. From what I understand, his unit was deployed on a ship into the Mediterranean and then, when things heated up in Vietnam, they returned to the states and had some leave time before (and maybe after, too?) additional training Camp Lejune and Camp Pendleton. He had enough leave time to both get Nancy pregnant and have a huge fight and break up with her. He saved a letter from my grandmother that I scanned (page 1, page 2, page 3) & transcribed. It is hilarious and scary, all rolled into one:

    Sun. P.M.

    Dear Johnnie –
    Good news Johnnie – Nance isn’t pregnant. You had her so upset by going into the marines, I guess, she just skipped 2 months.
    I’m glad in one way, she doesn’t have to tell her father and I don’t have to tell Grandma K. but I’m sorry in another way. I was kind of looking forward to a grandchild but now you kids can get engaged and married like you should. Once again my prayers were answered. Aren’t we lucky?
    That’s all for now. Our love is still with you – finish up this week on the rifle range in grand style!
    All our love
    Mom Dad Due & Scottie
    Thurs. 11-8
    Dear Johnnie –
    I didn’t send a letter yesterday so I’m going to try to finish this one & get it in the mail this morning. I’ve got 15 min. to do it so it will be a short one.
    Nancys father got a new rifle for hunting – It’s a Ruger .44 cal. put out by a new company. It has a real short barrel on it. He has a scope on it too. Real nice. Nance, her father & Bob came over last nite to show Dad & wouldn’t you know, last nite was the Rotarys Farmers nite so he was out with Chick Wells.
    Racicots have moved into the school house. Red fixed it all over & it looks good, he has much more room there.
    Steve T. stopped for a minute last nite. Guess it was just a social call, he didn’t want anything in particular.
    [Ben’s writing] Hi John in for breakfast 8:20. The Tester was here this morn. got 9 more cows to calf this fall – am shipping 6 jugs will ship 10 jugs before Dec 15 – been cutting wood & think about 5 cords more wood than ever before – not to cold. The Tester Patsy – 50 lbs Winky just fresh Polly 48 lbs almira 42 lbs Pat 48 lbs. so you see I have some good ones. the rest in the 25-35lbs average. John Pesky new manager of Boston Red Sox & ice hockey to get started pretty soon will probably beat rec. center. Good luck to you
    [Betty’s writing up sides of letter] Scottie messed up the envelope!
    with Love
    Mom Dad Sue & Scottie xxoo


I love this letter – I would love to pick it apart and point out all of the things it says about my grandparents, but alas – I’m almost out of time. From what I understand, my Dad had also taken up with my mother (as they say) during his leave and my mother still feels guilty about it; had she known about all of the unresolved things between Dad & Nancy, in particular that there was a fight but extenuating circumstances (i.e., a baby on the way), she never would have gone out with him, taken up with him, looked at him cross-eyed. I think – maybe – my Dad did offer to “do the right thing” and marry Nancy, though this part of the story is extremely hazy for me – I have no idea who did what and how they felt about it. Nancy ultimately found someone else, (I would even go so far as to say someone better), who is at her side to this day.

So to the ladies who gave birth in 1965: you all have my respect for the courage it took live through that under the microscope of small town life. And also, to all the Aunt Sues out there: every time I see Sue Bee Honey, I think of all of you and your initials.

Footnotes! Footnotes are fun and I am a dork, it’s true.

  1. My brother, Shane, Kelly, and I.
  2. Yup, we did the initial thing for our grandparents too – Grandma and Grandpa K, Grandma & Grandpa H, though many of my cousins just called them “Gram and Grandpa” or “Grammy and Grandpa”; I guess my brother and I were a little more persnickety about titles.

One thought on “Family Peculiarities

  1. Yup. My mother's brother married my father's sister and I have double cousins–both adopted, just to complicate things. My parents met at my aunt & uncle's wedding. :^D It does make for a little twitching, but at least it's not inbreeding! ;^D


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