When Carlisle and Edward made a family: Notes on “Ordinary Time”

April 19th, 2019 § 1 comment

I keep my characters forever. Though it’s possible that one day, some of the characters from the world I invented when I was 9 will see the light of day (my career as an academic, which so far has turned out to be more fruitful than my career as a fiction writer, keeps getting in the way), even when those personalities lie buried in trunk novels, I keep continuing to see the world through their eyes and wondering how they would respond.

I’m finding that in the world of fanfic, which I came to much later, it’s not much different.

I wrote “For a Season” because I wanted to compete in the CarlWard contest, and I was already drafting Patroclus Rising, which explored a Carlisle and Edward pairing in the pre-Esme era. Not wanting to tread the same ground twice, I forced myself to imagine what could enable the two of them to come to each other in a world that Bella Swan had been a part of. And it yielded one of the best pieces in my writing repertoire.

“Ordinary Time” isn’t trying to reach the same heights. It’s just a check-in of sorts. At the end of “Season,” Carlisle and Edward have barely stumbled into a precarious happiness. They’re crammed into a small house with a preschooler, and they’ve embarked on a new relationship as partners. And it’s 2007: same-sex marriage is legal in only a handful of places, usually as “civil union,” and bans are being passed left, right, and center.

And then…there’s Rene. (Pronounced “wren,” for anyone who hits this blog post before the fic.)

Renesmee is born in 2006, which makes her not even a millennial. She is part of the unnamed generation, sometimes called iGen or GenZ. Even though she is homeschooled and doesn’t otherwise run into kids her age (and she no doubt is, even though I don’t go into that here), she is being exposed to ideas about sexuality, gender, and desire that would seem entirely foreign to the two men she lives with. To her, there is little particularly stigmatizing about loving someone of the same gender, and the categories of sexualities that she is comfortable with far outstrip those of her fathers.

One delightful review I got on FoS talked about Carlisle seeming too stereotypically gay in his growing house-decorating desires. I admit, the stereotype was an unintended fallout of decorating having been Esme’s hobby, but I was glad that the reviewer noticed that build. What I was headed for was that Esme used to do the decorating, and Carlisle’s slow ownership of his desire for nice things is really a representation of his slow ownership of a life without his wife. He allows himself to desire plates, and table linens, and flowers…what (who) else will he allow himself to desire? “Ordinary” picks up with Carlisle and Edward six and a half years later, when they are much more comfortable with these desires, and that comfort continues to evolve even through these three vignettes.

In any incarnation when I write a CarlWard pairing, I rest on the fundamental idea that no one in this vampire world exists within the bounds of human sexuality. I see Carlisle and Edward as being attracted first and foremost to each other, not to “men” as it were. In canon, neither of them found attraction to or sexual expression with a woman before their female mates. So it’s not that Carlisle is attracted to women, and then realizes he is attracted to men; it is that Carlisle is attracted to Esme, specifically, and then to Edward, specifically. Outside of these two, he’s pretty content to just be asexual, and so is Edward. The gender of the person they are attracted to is immaterial, and if you read carefully, I dropped a hint in about where they have landed with respect to identifying their sexual orientation. Over time, in the face of changing social acceptance (and with no small amount of help/pushing from Rene), I  imagine that they would come to embrace (and joke about their embrace of), labels like queer and gay. As the world changes around them, they are trying to keep up and find the best way to express their relationship to the world.

This “outside the bounds of human sexuality” brings me to the second line I was walking delicately in “Ordinary Time,” and which perhaps might be the thing others have the most difficulty with (though knowing my most devoted readers, perhaps not). Carlisle does not, in all my years exploring him, seem to live in a world of “either/or.” He lives in a world of “both/and.” Edward, his lover and husband, is still also his beloved son. The one identity might usually subsume the other, but it doesn’t erase it, and no matter who it might make uncomfortable, to write them any other way has never felt true to me. In my favorite CarlWards (cf. the last two chapters of “Intervention” by AllTheOtherNamesAreUsed, which delight me to no end), the authors have similarly left this ambiguity firmly in place. In 1918, their relationship went one way when it could have easily gone another, and the fact that they’ve backtracked and wound up on the opposite fork is not upsetting to either of them. Renesmee, of course, takes this all in stride and heightens it—seeing how much Carlisle enjoys being “Granddad” and refusing to deprive him of that. This mutability of relationship also extends to Rene—at this point, Carlisle has raised her for all but half a year of her life. And yet, he is mindful that she has a mother and a father, neither of whom are him. So he moves fluidly from calling her Edward’s daughter, to calling her his daughter, and back again. When they are asked to define themselves, they all choose “all of the above.”

So they have messy experiences in a messy relationship, in a very, very messy world. This is “Ordinary Time.”  Thank you to my dear friend twitina for pre-reading and not immediately declaring me ridiculous for writing a fanfic about the SCOTUS. Should you desire to nerd out on information about the cases which make up the bones of this story, head to Oyez.org.

“Ordinary Time” is the term in the liturgical church tradition for the time between Epiphany and Lent, and then between Pentecost and Advent. The American Episcopal Church, which is the denomination I’ve always imagined Carlisle would feel most comfortable attending, began allowing the ordination of LGBT clergy in 2009, and went on to eliminate official language defining marriage as only between a man and a woman and introduce gender-neutral marriage rites in 2015.

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§ One Response to When Carlisle and Edward made a family: Notes on “Ordinary Time”

  • Sally Hopkinson says:

    Oh, so excited to see this pop up in my email. And, then all three chapters came in from fanfiction! Woohoo! Lovely to see you and these characters make a return. Running over to read all the chapters!

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