“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” (Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina)

Some years ago the Admiral and I lived next to a family we referred to as “the Clampetts.” If ever there was a hapless collection of individuals, it was they. We loaned them our lawnmower, they put in the wrong kind of gas and ruined it. We loaned them a ladder, it mysteriously disappeared. Their 14 year old daughter got pregnant. He lost his job. She was too distractible and unstable to work. And yet, somehow they maintained their good humor, kept plugging away and all things considered, we liked them and admired their perseverance.

They came to mind when I read about Sherry Johnston, mother of Levi Johnston, possible mother-in-law-to-be to Bristol Palin. Ms. Johnston was arrested on drug charges involving Oxycontin. There is no report whether she was abusing it to numb the pain that must come from being associated with the Palins or whether this was an entrepreneurial venture. In any event, the soap opera that continues to develop is a reminder that some families seem to attract more trouble than the Universe deals to most of us. I half expect to hear an organ in the background.

Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston are bringing a child into an extended family with lots of ‘splainin’ to do. Let’s tick off the issues: single mother, high school drop out father, druggie paternal grandmother, and vacuous self-absorbed maternal grandmother. To Levi’s credit, he did tattoo Bristol’s name on his finger, a sign of devotion if there ever was one. But Levi, who described himself on his Myspace page as a “fuckin’ redneck,” may not be the kind of boy you want to introduce to your parents as prime marriage material. His Myspace page was littered with the word “fuckin’,” and it may be that that is the one skill of which we have evidence, though I doubt that it’s one that will actually make him a living.

As little as I respect Sarah Palin, I take no pleasure in what is unfolding in her front parlor. The blessed event of a birth will soon give way to hard work, heartache and challenges. Perhaps Grannie Sarah should focus on that, not to mention that job she has, before going into Shameless Self-Promotion mode.

On the other hand, “Stash,” would be a good name for the baby.