The Thanksgiving Season was coming up fast, which, let’s be honest. This day has been merged with Christmas. And Hanukkah! Now it was the Holiday Season, just one big long holiday! Charleston was decorating for these holidays. The city streets were laced with garland and lights, you know, those large bells and lights! Well, our hotel was also being decorated. It was being done slowly not all at once. Garland first and then lights. After Thanksgiving the ribbons and trees would go up.
It was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving when David came in Tony’s and my room as I packed so Tony and I could leave after work on the next day. It was nice having David there most of the time now. He and Sasha seemed to be getting closer and closer. I felt like the two were truly family now. He knocked on our door looking…well, not so happy.
I looked at him. “Is there something wrong, David?”
My cousin came in the room and sat on my bed looking…well not at me. At his shoes, the wall... “I’m scared, Mitch.”
I stopped my packing and sat by him. I knew what it was, but I wanted him to say it. “Scared? Of what exactly?”
David shook his head. “When you came with Tony those years ago, told everyone not only that you were gay, but were living with Tony, an Italian Yankee, Catholic from New York City…I thought, what’s the big deal?” He shrugged. “But it is a big deal, isn’t it?”
I nodded. “For the McKenzies? Yes it is.” I took David’s hand. “Have you told anyone that you’re gay or bisexual?”
David frowned. “No, not really.” He got up and began pacing. “Michael knows, but not about anyone in particular in my life. He knows I’m here in Charleston and probably knows there’s someone involved…but…”
I nodded. “You don’t have to do this, David.” I cautioned.
David frowned and waved toward the upstairs. “How is that fair to Sasha? How is it fair to Alik?” He shook his head. “Why is this so damned difficult?”
I shrugged. “We’re not mainstream.” I chuckled. “But I heard you tell Sasha you love him. Do you love him?”
David grinned as he thought about Sasha. “Yeah, I do.” He laughed. “That big Russian is really something special.” He shook his head. “When he first told me he loved me…and it was him that said it first. We were making love, so I figured it was the heat of the moment.” Then he shrugged. “But he said it again afterwards. I knew he meant it if he said it then and has said it again and again! I was not ready, I thought, but…now…I love him unlike anyone I’ve ever loved.” He chuckled again. “As a matter of fact, I’m sure that I didn’t love anyone before I realized I loved Sasha. I can’t imagine life without him.”
I smiled at David. “That’s what I hoped would happen. This won’t be easy, but the person I worry about is Alik. Fortunately he doesn’t understand much English, but he’ll understand the tone if it gets out of hand. And it will get out of hand.”
David sighed. “We don’t do conflict well, do we?”
“I don’t know.” I grinned. “I think we do okay. The problem will be Uncles Earl, Calvin, Thomas and even JC.”
David nodded. “I know.” He threw his hands out in frustration again. “Why does it have to be so hard? We love each other! What’s wrong with that?”
“But you’re not supposed to love Sasha. He’s a man!” I said smiling. “And a Russian! He’s the enemy to most all of them.”
“But he’s not the enemy!” David protested. “He was born in Russia! It wasn’t a choice anymore than any of us chose to be born in the United States!”
I hugged David. “Then just tell them that.” I bumped our foreheads together. “And remember, Tony and I are on your side. I think you can count on Chuck, Rhonda, Mary and Sherry, too.”
David nodded. “Well, Sasha, Alik and I will be arriving on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day. You’ll be there tomorrow night. Can you sort of prepare the cousins that you mentioned, for what’s coming?”
I nodded. “Sure, I’ll lay the ground work, but you tell them.”
The Wednesday afternoon, after work, Tony arrived to my job and we left from there to head for Derby. And again we stayed at the Ellerby Springs Bed and Breakfast and the same suite. I wondered how they made money. It seemed they always had vacancies. Then again, I always made reservations well in advance. I never traveled anywhere without reservations. I hated games of chance.
The next morning Tony and I drove to the McKenzie home place. And as always the place was beginning to get a little crowded as family arrived and chaos blossomed. The many women were busy assembling the food, which in our family was never lacking where food was concerned. The men, however were gathered, talking and just visiting. Lazy bums. Tony and I walked in greeted by my parents, David’s and Michael’s mother and father, my cousins and nodded to by those uncles that were still not really accepting that Tony and I were a couple. It was Michael that came to me. Where was his wife?
“Okay, what’s going on?” He asked for he knew if anyone knew what was going on with his brother, it would be me. I never asked for that privilege!
I smiled. “He hasn’t told you?” I knew what he was asking about, but was I the one to tell his twin? Not a chance!
Michael shook his head. “He’s bringing someone, isn’t he?”
“Michael.” I sighed. “These things need to be discussed by you and David. Not told by me. You’ll have to wait. He’s going to be here in a few hours. Just support him, okay?”
That’s when the cousins I mentioned that would support him came up.
“Guys.” I began. “David is bringing someone. Just like I did.” I said taking Tony’s hand.
They all looked at Tony and then they all understood what I was saying.
Sherry was confused. “But his twin brother’s married! To a woman! How does that happen?”
Chuck frowned. “Really?” He asked annoyed. “They are separate individuals. Different fingerprints, same DNA, but different people. They love different people!”
“So, he’s bringing a boyfriend?” Rhonda asked.
“Who speaks…” I began and then stopped. “…well, he’s not American. There is a son that’s not even seven yet and doesn’t speak much English. We need to be on David’s side. He was very worried about this.” I waved toward our family. “With good reason.”
Mary was still trying to understand. “Why won’t you tell us? Is he another race?”
“They could be from another planet!” Tony groaned. “But we know them both. We trust this person and made them legally a part of our family for Mitch and me. Does David have your support?”
Chuck nodded. “Of course.”
I smiled. “Good. But get ready for the earthquake. This might be a disaster.”
It was about an hour later in the living room where those cousins and I usually gathered that Tony nudged me and then jutted his head toward the window. I turned to see David’s Mustang drive in.
I rose. “Okay, it’s show time.” I said to my cousins. Tony and I went to greet David, Sasha and Alik. The other cousins waited on the front porch. David got out from the driver’s seat. Sasha got out from the passenger side and looked at the house oddly. The tension was rising.
“This is…unique.” Sasha grinned at me.
I looked back at the house and then back at Sasha. “I’d say it was a house that love built. Mostly because all that love made lots of children!” I chuckled. “Did David tell you what to expect?”
Sasha nodded. “He did.” He looked at the many faces now looking at us. “All these people are family?”
I chuckled and nodded. “They are. But David told you that Grandmother got married young and was still having children when her oldest children were having their children?”
David nodded. “Meaning there are aunts and uncles younger than their nieces and nephews. Some we call aunt and uncle are really cousins.”
Alik jumped out of the back. “Where are we?” He asked in Russian.
I grinned. “This is where my father grew up. And he had fifteen brothers and sisters.” I told him in Russian.
Alik’s eyes grew. “Fifteen!? I don’t even have one!”
It was then the cousins had come up slowly.
“What language was that you were speaking?” Michael asked me.
“Michael.” David smiled a little uncertainly to his twin. “Everyone….this is Sasha Ledebev.” David began and held his hand for Alik. “And Sasha’s son, Alik. Sasha and Alik are from Moscow, Russia.” Then he smiled. “And Sasha is my...” he looked at Sasha. “…I hate the term boyfriend, but lover is a little thick…”
I smiled. “Significant other?” I said suggesting.
My cousins might be open minded, but none of them were prepared for this. Mouths dropped, eyes bugged and there was a lot of gaping!
Tony rolled his eyes. “You’ll catch flies, guys.” Tony grumbled. “Sasha’s moving here and trying to become Americans. He’s a nice guy. So he’s from Russia. What’s the big deal?”
“And I told you, Alik doesn’t speak English well.” I reminded them. I turned to David. “Did you bring the translator?”
David nodded and held up the device. “And I brought the charger.”
I bent down to Alik. “Alik, my family doesn’t speak Russian like your father and I do. Even like Tony does. They don’t know any Russian.” I said in Russian to the boy. “So, if you need to ask someone something, you’ll need me, your Daddy or David, okay?”
“Khorosho.” Alik said nodding.
“Okay.” I hugged him.
“You speak Russian now?” Chuck asked me.
I stood nodding. “I can. Not fluently yet, but I’m getting there.” Then I looked at my cousins. “Are we going to have issues? Should we get back in our cars and leave?”
Sherry walked forward. “Of course not.” She shook her head and walked up to Sasha. “Welcome, Sasha.” Then she hugged Sasha and then knelt down to Alik. “How does this thing work?”
Alik pressed a button and she asked again. “Kak rabotayet eta veshch?”
Alik grinned and said something in Russian. “Kak eto.” The device came back as… “Like this.”
My cousins were now gathering around Sasha and Alik chatting as I stepped closer to Tony. “I think you should stay with Alik out here first.”
Tony looked back at my many other family that was just staring at us knowing something was up, but not what. He nodded. “I think we better.” He walked over to Alik and touched the boy’s shoulder. Tony knew enough to instruct Alik to wait with him. Alik was looking and Michael and nodded taking Tony’s hand.
Alik frowned and pointed to Michael. “He looks like Uncle David!”
The translator said it in English.
Tony chuckled. “That’s Uncle David’s identical twin brother. They look exactly alike!” Again the translator did its trick.
This could have been amusing, but we all walked into the waiting faces of the other family.
Uncle Bernie came to his son David. “What’s going on, son?” as he looked at Sasha suspiciously.
“You’re all wondering about this.” David began loud enough for everyone to hear. “Well, here it is. This is my significant other. He is a very important person in my life. This is Sasha Ledebev. He’s from Moscow, Russia.”
“Just rip the band aid off.” I muttered to David.
“Why not?” David grinned and took Sasha’s hand.
Now my uncles were standing having let out gasps, my aunts were no longer gossiping and everyone was staring.
“What!?” “Impossible!” And there were murmurs from almost everyone and a lot of conversations we beginning its dull roar. Dad came over to me.
“You knew about this?” Dad asked me.
“Sure.” I nodded. “I introduced them.”
“This is all your fault!” Uncle Earl said coming toward me.
“David, a Russian!?” Uncle Thomas asked in disbelief.
I turned to Uncle Earl. “I hope it is my fault.” I turned to Uncle Thomas. “So what if he’s a Russian? The Cold War is over. He’s immigrating to the United States.”
“He could be a red!” Uncle JC said in a near panic.
“But he’s not!” David shook his head.
“How old are you, Comrade?” Uncle Earl asked snidely.
“Knock it off.” David shot angrily. “None of you would know what to do if he was a red.”
“We’d throw him out!” Uncle Thomas said quickly. “Throw him out on his Communist Ass!!!”
There was a huge crash in the kitchen area where the women were working. Aunt Hilda stood over the shattered pieces of a serving platter and she said something… “Genug!” I’ve learned two other languages, but this was another language! Then she walked toward her husband and glared. “Tell them!!” She pointed to the rest of us. “You can’t let this happen!”
Uncle Earl looked a little scared.
“Fine.” Aunt Hilda said. “You all know me as a sister-in-law and the mother of your nephews and nieces. What you don’t know, is where I was born.” She glared at all of them.
Uncle Earl put his hand on her arm. “Don’t, Hilda.”
“Not one of our children is simple and certainly isn’t stupid.” Hilda said angrily. “They wouldn’t bring just anyone to this family gathering if they didn’t feel this person was someone important! Worth knowing.” She took a deep breath. “I was born in Germany!” She said there were again gasps from others. “That nice and some say soft spoken father of mine was German. My mother is German.” She dared anyone to comment. “The reason my father didn’t talk much was because when we first got here, he spoke almost no English! He learned, but he kept quiet mostly to protect his secret. He was a Nazi!”
There were murmurs of disbelief from almost everyone now.
Aunt Hilda nodded. “Yes! The Heil Hitler and all that bullshit! He was terrified you’d find out, but unlike many of his countrymen he was a young man who needed a job! He didn’t support Hitler or his cause, but needed to keep his family alive! He had a wife and children. It was a job! But you…” she pointed at her brothers-in-law. “….are judging this man because of where he was born!? Not giving him a chance to find out what sort of man he is.” She raised her hands in exasperation. “So he’s Russian! You haven’t even spoken with him yet! He could be a red, as you say, or he could be a nice guy. You don’t know. You’re as bad as the Nazis were.” She shook her head. “Grow up, people! I don’t know this man, but I intend to find out! I’m going to talk to him, get to know him before I make judgments.” She walked up to Sasha. “I’m Hilda McKenzie.”
Sasha grinned at her shaking her hand. “Sasha Ledebev. It’s nice to meet you.”
She turned to the family. “See? He even speaks English!!”
Sasha nodded. “Yes, but my son doesn’t.”
Bernie’s eyes grew. “Son!?”
Dad walked to his brother. “Hey, my new step grandson is in his twenties now.”
I chuckled. “Alik is only six.”
Sasha grinned. “Six and a half.”
I nodded. “Right. Six and a half.” I smiled at Sasha. “Don’t tell Alik I said he was six.”
Uncle Thomas wasn’t happy at all. “This is all your fault!” He accused me angrily. “We let one fag in and now…” He was charging me!
I never knew Dad had it in him. My father stepped up between his brother and me slugging his brother knocking the man down and then all his brothers and sisters were backing up in shock. I did, too! “Don’t you ever….EVER…talk to my son like that again! Don’t ever charge at him like that!”
I balked at seeing my uncle on the ground and rubbing his bleeding jaw. “Dad!!” But I was grinning. I’d never seen him this mad before. Hell! I was proud of Dad!
Then Dad walked closer to his brother. “I was wrong about Mitch and Tony. I was wrong about Mitch! He’s a good man. Tony is a good man. They love each other! Mitch loves Tony and Tony certainly loves Mitch. I see it. We don’t know this man, but like Hilda said, I’ll get to know him.”
“They’re gay!” Thomas protested. “You always preached against them!”
“I know that!” Dad shouted. “Do you think they don’t know they’re gay?” Dad closed his eyes and then looked at everyone. “I was wrong.”
His brothers and sisters were not believing what Dad was saying.
“I can’t judge Mitch. I can’t judge Tony. The only one to judge is God! And as my son pointed out, He never said a word about a man loving a man. Humans did. Otherwise it would be a commandment. Our nephew met someone and brought him here to his family. I’m giving the man a chance!!” He walked up to Sasha. “I’m Mitch’s father, Richard.”
Sasha was smiling as he shook my father’s hand. “You have a wonderful son, Mr. McKenzie. He and Tony are the best friends I ever had.”
Dad nodded. “And my son is a good judge of character.”
My mother came up to Sasha. “I’m Mitch’s mother. Welcome to the McKenzies.”
Uncle JC and Earl were helping Thomas up and now Earl was being questioned. Probably why he thought to hide he’d married a kraut
I touched Sasha who was looking relieved now. “I’ll get Alik.”
Sasha nodded grinning at how well it was going. “Yes, great!”
I rushed out to where Tony was holding Alik and talking about the surrounding farm. Tony turned when he heard me coming. “We heard part of it, so we came over here.”
I grinned, kissing Tony. “I wish you could have seen Dad laid his brother out!” I swung at the air.
Tony grinned. “Aw, I missed that!?” He gave a kneeling bow of frustration. “I can’t believe he hit his brother! Which one?”
“Uncle Thomas!” I pulled Alik down. “Davayte videt’ papu.”
“Yippie!” Alik jumped. “Oni sdelali zlit’sya?”
Tony shook his head. “What are you two saying?”
“I told him let’s go see dad. He asked if they’re done being mad.” I grinned.
Tony nodded. “I hope so.”
I reached down to Alik. “You’ve got the translator?” I asked in Russian.
Alike held up the device.
“Don’t lose it.” I reminded.
Tony sighed. “I’ve got to study Russian more.”
“Questo sarebbe per il meglio.” I smiled saying that would be of the best in Italian.
“Esibire.” Tony muttered calling me a show off.
“Sei solo geloso.” I said he was just jealous.
Alik looked at the two of us. “That’s not English!” He said in English.
I nodded. “But that was! Good boy!”
When we got back in the family, I was pleased to see Sasha surrounded by my family and not attacking him, but finding out about him.
“Everyone!” I said loudly. They all turned. “This is Sasha’s son Alik.” Tony and I held one of Alik’s hands each. “But remember, he doesn’t speak a lot of English yet. He uses a translator, so ask him a question one at a time, or ask me or Sasha.”
Tony smiled. “Yes, Mitch speaks Russian now, too.”
Then all my aunts just melted. “Aw” and “isn’t he cute!?”
I looked down at Alik. “Oni dumayut, chto ty milo.”
Alik rolled his eyes.
“Sledite za vas shceki.” I warned him to watch out for his cheeks.