I’m thinking today of the children’s playground song about two people “sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage.”
Remember singing that in the elementary school courtyard? It was considered the obligatory way to taunt a boy and girl who dared to cross the cootie-line and actually be friends. And yet somehow the male/female pairing that was teased in elementary school became the expected norm by high school. (We’re going to gloss over the awkwardness of any kind of relationships in middle school. The less that most of us have to remember middle school, the better.)
I knew, by the time I finished my freshman year of high school in 1987, that the playground song’s love-marriage-baby sequence wouldn’t come true for me. I knew I was attracted to girls, but even if love someday miraculously came my way, marriage was utterly impossible.
A decade later, love still hadn’t come my way, and same-sex marriage was still completely unimaginable. So with help from a sperm bank, I skipped ahead to part 3 of the song, and my son was born in 1997.
Years went by. The question of whether people like me could marry went from an impossibility, to a social and political argument, to a court case, to licenses and wedding bells. I rejoiced as couples in my state were the first to marry in the nation. But it took a couple more years before I had enough time and energy in my single-parenting life to think about looking for part 1 of the song for myself. And then I met an interesting, smart, kind, funny, attractive, and totally awesome woman in 2006, and she thought I was pretty nifty too.
More years went by, of loving and caring for each other, mourning death and loss together, facing medical challenges together, creating a garden, coping with work and an elderly parent and car accidents and bad paint color choices and insect infestations and cat puke, celebrating our son’s achievements, taking long walks by the ocean in seriously inclement weather, and lots and lots of laughing.
And in the middle of those years, we began part 2 of the song — our fifth wedding anniversary is later this month. But forget the baby carriage from part 3; now that baby borrows my car to get around. (And we still need to discuss how he put over 100 miles on it in 3 days, supposedly just hanging out with friends in town…) He graduates from high school this week (!), and leaves for college this fall, and my wife and I will become empty-nesters. It’s sad to think about this transition, and how much I’ll miss him, even though I know that going off to college is absolutely the right next step for him. But thinking about my wife and I as empty-nesters, it seems oddly fitting to be picturing a nest in a tree, because I go back to the old song, and how it played out in my life.
First comes the baby in the baby carriage, then comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the empty nest — and for the first time in our lives, it will be just the two of us sitting in that tree. (And yes, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.)
We’re not a “traditional” family, and even for a gay or lesbian family, we haven’t taken a traditional path through the song. But I feel so incredibly fortunate to be living in the time and place that I do, with all the choices I’ve been able to make, and that I’ve been able to sing the whole song with my son and my wife.