Together in a Place of Togetherness
We went away a few days ago. Like, away away. To a place where other people make the beds for you.
Our family of five packed up and ran off to Prince Edward County, Ontario for the weekend. It's a short drive from Ottawa, made slightly longer by three siblings arguing over who had the take the dreaded middle seat. (There is no window, only squish.)
Thankfully, anticipation quickly won over. Within a few minutes, the backseat squabbles faded to mere grunts as everyone settled in for a drive filled with open highway, blue sky, classic rock, and road coffees.
It's been a challenging Fall. We've had big, unexpected school changes for both Alexis and Jackson, some not-that-unexpected burnout for me, and Zoe has been taking on more than her fair share while I bounce back (which I am doing, thankfully.) The timing of this trip couldn't have been better; we needed this.
It was our first time visiting PEC, and also the first time all five of us were able to get away together in about three years. Due to work and school commitments, Aerik will often hang back when we travel. As a side bonus, this also ensures the pets don't go feral. Thankfully, he managed to get some time off, so we put other anti-feral measures in place, loaded up the SUV full of suitcases and road snacks, and hit the road for what was going to be a memorable weekend.
Togetherness. Just the five of us. No interruptions.
Just me, my beautiful wife, and the three kids of ours who might have Middle Seat Aversion Syndrome but are otherwise perfect beings. I was so grateful to have this time with all of them.
We were invited down by the Prince Edward County Tourism Department. They had read our family's story and thought it would be great to have us come eat, drink, be merry, and see how the area does when it comes to inclusion.
Oh, hello. Did someone say 'inclusion'?
That last part was the clincher for me. That’s what got me excited.
They wanted us, an out and proud LGBTQ family, to get up close and personal with local businesses, community members and tourist spots. Prince Edward County has recently been recognized for its inclusive marketing to - and overall acceptance of - queer tourists. But what does that look like close up? Was acceptance a deeply held value in the area? Would we be made to feel welcome everywhere we went?
That’s what I wanted to find out. That's why we were going. Because if you’re going to pride yourself on inclusion, I want to see INCLUSION. With glitter on top.
Let’s do this.
Sit right down and get ready.
No, you're not. Because nobody can be ready for how adorable this place is.
I KNOW, RIGHT?!
It’s called the Babylon Log House and it’s one of the many beautiful accommodations at Angeline’s Inn. I love this place. All their rooms are uniquely and exquisitely decorated, their staff is fun and friendly, they cater to every budget (super important thing to know when you're a writer). and it’s a quick walk up the road to downtown Bloomfield, where every shop should be spelled 'shoppe' because they're that cute.
And, uh, no big deal or anything, but this is also the very same log house Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Sophie Trudeau stayed in this summer. Much to my wife’s dismay, the first couple of hours were spent in conversations like these:
“Hey, Zoe! Guess what? I’m using the same table the Prime Minister used!”
“I know, honey."
“Hey, Zoe! Look! The kids and I are hanging out on the same couch as Justin and Sophie!”
“Not at the same time, honey. But yes.”
“Hey, Zoe! I—”
“You’re walking on the same floorboards? You’re breathing the same air?”
“ALL THOSE THINGS!”
She loves me.
Our first morning was spent having brunch in the log house, because who doesn't want to have brunch in a log house?!
(That is rhetorical, as we all know the answer is 'no one.')
Things just gloriously snowballed from there, resulting in a caloric avalanche of awesome. Our 48 hours in the County were largely spent gorging ourselves at incredible eateries, which is just about the best way I can think of to spend my free time. From eggs benny and coffee to chicken flautas and beer, we feasted until we could feast no more.
And then feasted again.
I was going to write more about the food because we ate a lot of it, but the visuals do it justice in a way that my write-y fingers simply cannot.
Instead, here's a picture of all five of us the first night we got there, enjoying a meal and one another's company without even one sibling fight! (In large part, I believe, because Zoe took the middle seat.)
Shockingly enough, "I'm bored" did not leave the lips of a single Knox family member all weekend. Our schedule was packed with things to do that kept everyone happy and busy. We saw a play. We walked along the beach. We skipped stones. We visited a holiday market. We saw a lighthouse. We found butter tarts (for me - we found them for me.) We went antiquing at a place appropriately named Dead People's Stuff and bought crates (also for me.) The kids hung out with a rescue dog at Three Dog Winery, which made sampling so much more pleasant for the grownups in the family.
Most importantly, we did this all together. That's what made it so perfect.
I could go on about the sights, the eats (oh, the eats!) and all the great places to spend a moment, a morning, or most of a day. But what I want to emphasize about our trip – what impacted us the most – is how wonderful the people of The County are.
Outside of this blog and other advocacy purposes, our family doesn’t make a point of showcasing our queerness. We don’t hide it, but we don’t go out of our way to promote it in our daily dealings with people, either. But for this trip, we put all that gayness on display. We wanted to see just how inclusive folks would be if they knew.
Within two hours of our arrival, Zoe and I held hands during the Santa Claus parade, surrounded by people we didn’t know. It was us and who I assume were hundreds of mostly local folks out watching their hometown parade.
The result: We were smiled at a lot and were handed candy.
If I knew holding hands could get you candy, I would do it all the time.
Zoe and I made a point of saying we’re married moms on many occasions.
The result: Absolutely nothing. No dropping jaws, no sneers, no flashes of judgment across the faces of shopkeepers, servers or other community members. No over-the-top uncomfortable affirmations about how "great it is" that we're married and we have kids. Frankly, It was massively anticlimactic. We were treated just like any other couple, any other family. Our kids were treated like regular kids.
You know, the way it should be.
There were a handful of times we went even further, and shared our story with the folks we met; how our family has two trans people in it, how our daughter came out first, followed by my spouse, and how we're all better people for it.
The result: we were met with tears, hugs, smiles, and sometimes a combination of all three. There was no judgment or confusion, no bigotry, only true happiness for a family that gets to live a more honest life.
The people made this trip, and they are why I would recommend it. From the folks who booked us into our lodgings to the ones who served us food, sold us their wares, or smiled as we walked down their streets, we were included. And I thank them for it.
Because when you're a family like ours, that means everything. It means comfort, safety and truly being able to enjoy your time away. To enjoy your togetherness.
Togetherness. I used to take that for granted. I don't anymore. I try to breathe in every moment we're together. This weekend away let me do that without worry or distraction.
We've had a lot of big change in our lives over the last three years, but the amount of love we have for each other - backseat squabbles excluded - remains a steady guiding force in our lives.
Love. Together. With sparkles.
(Note: I was not monetarily compensated for this post. However, my family's accommodations, food and activities were provided to us free of charge on our weekend away.)