Two moms, four daughters – a unique family
Hatchbacks and vans stand idly in driveways of neat, cozy houses. Smoke billows from chimneys. Even on a cold day in late January, the detritus of childhood – balls, bikes, hoops – lie scattered about.
But in this landscape of traditional familial bliss, in one house, there lives a family not quite like the rest.
Annette Taylor McDonough and Seymour Rudecoff, two 49-year-old women, sit by a wood-burning fire, glasses of red wine in hand, and recount how they decided, as single mothers, to buy a house and raise their daughters together.
Five years ago Annette and Seymour were colleagues working together as florists and event organizers at the Aspen Branch, a local flower shop. Both freshly divorced, the women found a sense of solidarity in the shared difficulties of single motherhood – the challenging middle-age dating scene, the complications of shared custody and, most importantly, the difficulty of saving enough money to buy a house.
“I think we looked around and saw all these young kids living together in houses and making it work, and we kind of piggybacked on the idea,” Seymour said.
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“So Annette and I decided to put our resources together and buy this house,” she continued. “The real estate agent had some difficulty understanding the bedroom situation, you know, that we weren’t lovers.”
But they worked it out with themselves, if not their real estate broker, and moved in together three years ago.
“One big family’
The children (Annette has three daughters; Seymour has one) were initially skeptical of the idea of living together.
“Our kids thought we were crazy at first,” Seymour said. “But soon we were one big family. Annette’s kids are my kids, and vice versa. That was always the feeling.”
They are an odd couple. It is almost night and day – Annette, tough and crackly like the fire behind her, stays mostly silent in an all black outfit. Seymour, a mane of brilliant white hair bursting from a ponytail, talks excitedly and continuously in a bright orange sweater.
The women claim that life together has been smooth, with only one real domestic dispute, about what they won’t say. Annette believes that, like in any relationship, the two women understand that open communication does wonders to ease tensions.
They share housework evenly and, although they rarely cook for one another, they seldom eat alone. All but one of their children have left for college, but they say each other’s company has prevented any acute empty-nest syndrome.
They even have pet names – they call each other “Shirl” after the 1970s-era TV show “Laverne and Shirley” in which two lifelong best friends shared an apartment together.
Both women are currently dating, but Annette says there are no “steadies” at present. They rarely bring men home to the house – the walls are thin – but will always introduce their boyfriends to each other. They share the same complaints heard often by women of their age – “most men our age are just such losers,” Annette says – but neither seems bitter or discontented.
The two women say most men are understanding of their situation and seem to accept the notion of two straight women living together. If a man raises his eyebrows when he comes over for the first time, Seymour has her response down pat: “No, we’re not gay and please wipe your feet.”‘
Seymour and Annette shrug off any suggestion of feminism. They don’t consider themselves groundbreakers, but are grateful to those who made female solidarity acceptable; without them, their situation would not have been possible.
They are currently trying to sell their house. Seymour wants to move to New York to pursue her stage managing career. Annette stares silently into her wine as Seymour talks of moving.
It’s clear that these two women, both fiercely independent, have become attached
There is much talk in America about the disintegration of the family, of first wives clubs, annulments and divorces. But for these two women, a nonconventional family has provided many of the conventional family values – camaraderie, support and, in their own way, love.
“I think it’s weird what’s happening to the American family, but I also think it’s great what’s happened,” Seymour said. “Two women couldn’t have done this not that long ago; we could never have had this extraordinary story.”