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2015familyday403

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.

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8 years ago today, I sent an email to E asking her out on our first date. We were both so out of practice with dating, that between how I wrote the email and how she read it, she couldn’t tell if I was asking her out. Fortunately, she showed the email to a coworker who confirmed that yes, I was asking her on a date.

6 years and a few weeks ago, we walked back to the site of our first date. In the presence of indifferent joggers and hyperactive squirrels, I asked her to marry me.

4 years ago today, we stood together on a mountaintop in front of a few dozen people, and promised each other:

    I take you to be my wife,
    to have and to hold,
    to love and to cherish,
    to laugh with you in joy,
    to grieve with you in sorrow,
    and to take life’s journey together
    as long as we both shall live.

1 year ago today, we both took the day off from work so our whole family could be home together, clustered around 2 computers and a TV, watching the Supreme Court decision come down that recognized our marriage.

Compared to some years, today is nothing special; mostly we’re recuperating from a whirlwind trip to DC so our son could visit colleges. Except that today is still special, because I get to celebrate that I found a totally awesome woman who’s been my partner through all the ups and downs of the last 8 years, and I love her more than ever. Happy anniversary, honey.

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As soon as I got home from work yesterday, M helped me load the snowblower into the car. We drove over to E’s mom’s house and spent about 45 minutes clearing her driveway and walkways from Thursday’s snowstorm. (Good thing we got it done before today’s storm starts… it’s one of those winters.) We drove back to our town and I dropped M off at a friend’s house for a sleepover before heading home. E got home from a very long day at work just about the time I got out of the shower and no longer smelled like gasoline from the snowblower.

We were both too tired to do anything exciting for dinner. But I made a big pot of popcorn — slightly more than the pot could hold, as it turned out — and we gave each other Valentine’s Day cards, and we relaxed and watched TV together.

And life was good.

popcorn

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25 years ago, on a Saturday in June when I was at the end of 9th grade, I walked into City Hall Plaza for my first gay pride march.

My very-supportive best friend and I had traveled into the city with only the vaguest of notions where the march would be, and I think we were both a little stunned to walk up the steps and suddenly behold several thousand gay and lesbian people milling around. Especially since, up to that point, I only knew a grand total of three other LGB people in the entire world. I was amazed and overwhelmed and delighted to realize that there was a whole vibrant joyful world of people out there.

25 years later, on a Saturday in June when my son was at the end of 9th grade, I walked into City Hall Plaza at the finish line of the gay pride march, and kissed my wife under an arch of rainbow-colored balloons.

Way back when, I never dreamed it would someday be possible for gay and lesbian people to marry. I barely dared hope that I’d find someone to love. If you could have given my teenage self a crystal ball, I don’t know if I’d have been reassured to learn that both these things finally came true, or horrified at the idea that they would take a few decades. Looking back on all those bleak years, it makes the love and joy I’ve found all the sweeter.

But the most touching moment of this year’s march for me was walking past the statehouse.

I couldn’t help but think of how many states there are where this is a sight that people can only dream of on their own statehouses.

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E and I had hoped to go away somewhere nice while M was away on a trip with his confirmation class. Our original idea had been to go somewhere on the Cape overnight. However, when Saturday’s forecast was for damaging high winds with passing snow flurries, we reluctantly decided the weather wasn’t beachy enough to justify an overnight hotel cost. But by Sunday, the winds had died down somewhat, so we took a day trip to Plum Island. (Dying down was a relative concept — they were still gusting around 40 mph.)

The boardwalk through the marsh.

Did I mention it was cold enough that blobs of ice were clinging to the bases of some of the reeds?

No wonder we pretty much had the place to ourselves. That’s E by the observation tower.

Although there were a number of turkeys around to keep us company.

This dune reminded me of an Egyptian pyramid.

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M’s Boy Scout council periodically runs events so kids can earn some of the more esoteric merit badges that they might never be able to do with their troops. This time around, one of the badges M chose to work on is genealogy, because he really enjoys stories about some of his ancestors. And one of the requirements is to do a detailed family tree chart going back 3 generations.

If he were a young child doing a family tree chart for school, we’d probably make out a nice chart showing his 2 mommies and their families. We’d probably discuss with the teacher ahead of time how to handle it if other kids asked questions. But this is a teenager who will be in a workshop with several teens and two merit badge counselors, none of whom we know, and none of whom he’s likely ever to see again. We also don’t know whether the entire council is as accepting of alternative families as our own town and troop are. So we left it up to M how he wanted to handle the family tree, in a way that wouldn’t feel awkward to him.

Ultimately he decided to change a couple letters in my first name to turn it into a masculine name, and then listed me as father and E as mother. He figured this would explain why his last name matched mine and not hers. He also moved our wedding date up by 15 years so it would fall a respectable interval before his birth. He then filled out all the rest of the chart with our family’s correct information, or at least as much as he could dredge up from collective parental and grandparental memory plus some searches on the internet, which really was the point of the requirement.

I find it unfortunate that we live in a society where he does have to make these kinds of changes to feel comfortable discussing his family tree with a bunch of total strangers. But this is one case where it didn’t seem worth the effort to any of us for him to take a more honest but potentially problematic approach.

By contrast, a couple weeks ago he had an assignment for health class that discussed kids being bullied for being gay. We had a very long family discussion with M about how he wanted to approach this in class, about what all his concerns were, about what he’d worry kids might think of him if he stood up for gay people, about what kinds of bullying he did see at school, about whether he might want to skip math club one week and go to the school’s gay-straight alliance meeting instead, about how his various friends have reacted to finding out he has gay parents. (The answer to the last is, they haven’t found it noteworthy at all, except for one kid who we suspect is gay and who appeared visibly cheered up by the realization.)

M headed off to school the next day feeling emotionally prepared to participate fully in the conversation… and then it turned out the teacher just talked about bullying in general, and left out the gay-specific examples that had been mentioned in the homework. Oh well. A good heart-felt family discussion is never a waste, and hopefully M is now a little bit more confident about tackling this issue with classmates if it comes up again.

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Our actual birthday outing

Between the predicted snowstorm on Saturday. and prices being jacked up for Valentines’ weekend, and the need to be back by noon to pick up M, we ended up not going away overnight. However, we did manage to escape the February blahs by going somewhere warm that had lots of green and flowering plants: the greenhouses at Wellesley College.

There were a variety of rooms with different climates and plant types, and a fair number of flowering plants despite the season. We only saw a few other people in the hour or so we were there, and it was peaceful and pleasant and quiet.

And that evening we relaxed at home with some yummy appetizers and watched part of a TV series we’d both been wanting to see for a while. Overall, a nice mellow day.

Look — color! Large leaves! Neat spirally patterns! Living things in the dead of winter!

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