I’d been battling a summer cold and was giving my achy muscles a rest, when multiple alerts on my phone roused me from grogginess. At long last, the Supreme Court had ruled to uphold the legality of same-sex marriage! Friends and family were texting, emailing and posting in a celebratory barrage of beeps and tweets.
Yet my relief, excitement and pride were shortly muffled by throbbing sinuses, and I resigned myself to sitting this historic event out. I had been there when DOMA and Prop8 were overturned, we’d been legally married last year, my husband was out of town and I was exhausted from my solo-parenting stint — the reasons to stay in bed were legion. But something (the social media frenzy? live news reports on the TV in the background? guilt?) moved me to maneuver upright and out of bed, where my thoughts became clearer…
This isn’t about you, or about what you have or haven’t experienced. It’s not about living within reach of where it’s all taking place. This is an opportunity to share a moment with your son. A historic moment in the nation’s evolution. A moment relevant to him and his story.
After a shot of Mucinex, I somehow managed to pull it (snacks, water, metro cards, myself) together, picked Jon up from day camp, and we set out on our adventure.
I told my curious and excited 5-year-old we were going on a field trip to the Supreme Court Building. I told him we would get to ride the subway and a taxi, and that the building looked kind of like the Hall of Justice. He was already sold by the how and where, but I needed to explain the why.
Remember when Daddy and Papa got married, and how much fun that was? (Nods) Well, we were able to get married and be a family because it was legal in our state. But there were still a lot of families with two mommies or two daddies in other states that couldn’t get married because they weren’t allowed to. Because it wouldn’t count. (Look of concern) Until today. The Supreme Court is where they decide all the laws in the country, and they said that any two people can get married anywhere and be a family — and they said that was the law just today. So we’re going to celebrate!
So, it’s gonna be… like a little party?
Jon hopped out of his inaugural cab ride, taking his rainbow flag in one hand and mine in the other. We waded through the crowd formed on the sidewalk that had spilled into the street. We passed the cage of cameras and cameramen on break, and made our way toward the larger crowd below the building’s steps.
Before we’d gone more than a few steps, people were asking to take photos of us. Okay, mostly they were asking to take photos of Jon. Of his semi-toothless grin, blue fedora, pride flag and “My Two Daddies (Can Beat Up Your One)” t-shirt. He obliged politely, a bit overwhelmed.
A woman noticed my t-shirt and asked if I sang with the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington. I told her I did, but hadn’t made it to sing with them this time. Her name was Jane, a reporter for a Chinese social media site, and had interviewed several of my chorus brothers. She then knelt down and asked Jon if he was excited to be here and why. He hesitated, trying to remember the conversation we’d had…
Yes, yes, yes! We’re here for the party!
Another member of our paparazzi kindly took some photos of us, we sat and took a selfie, then walked up the steps to get a better view.
We stopped after the first flight to look at a fountain. A man holding the hand of a wobbly toddler paused to chat, admiring the shirt of each others’ child (his son wore a giant shark). We shared in the excitement of the day, and that he had friends in town who were on their way. I wondered if he was also a gay dad, but decided it didn’t matter. We were here to celebrate either way.
Toddler Dad suggested if we wanted to go all the way up, we had to go inside the building and come down the stairs from the top. Figuring we could use a respite from the hazy heat, we made our way into the cool, marbly halls of the Supreme Court Building — a first for both of us.
Jon was content for a while to stroll hand-in-hand (my favorite kind of strolling), marveling at the bigness of it all. He stopped to rub the foot of John Marshall, peeked up his robes, then knocked on the metal shoe again for good measure. He was enthralled at the scale model of the building that lay under glass, making his way around it a full two-and-a-half times. We stepped into the gift shop, where Jon got a miniature gavel and I (after an emotional moment) got the remaining two magnets commemorating the country’s journey to marriage equality.
As we made our way to exit, we ran into Jane again, who wanted a photo with Jon on the monumental staircase. We exchanged numbers so I could text her the picture.
We made our way back through the crowd, past the reporters, stopping to take a silly pic inside a heart-shaped wreath made of ice cream cartons.
Jon was getting tired (I know this because he passed up a free sample of ice cream), so we stepped into the street to take a cab from an exiting couple. The man and woman were wearing Texas t-shirts, so I asked if they were from Texas, and where. They replied “Waco,” so I told them I’d gone to Baylor, and they chattered excitedly about the coincidence of us being the first people they met in DC. As Jon and I settled into the cab, I pondered the coincidence as well, and what a long journey I’d made since leaving Waco — moving to DC, coming out, meeting Papa, becoming a father, marriage, and the visit to this building on this day.
We stopped for a snack in Union Station then headed toward home on the Red Line. Our train dumped us out at the Silver Spring station, where we had 14 minutes to kill before we could board a new, all-the-way-homebound car. As has been the spirit of the day, Jon befriended a boy around his age waiting with his father. What started as funny faces through a pane of glass progressed to playing bullfighter with the Pride flag, interrupted only by a stranger asking to take a photo, and a father or two cautioning to stay near the center of the platform.
We father and son pairs boarded the same train; the boys hopped onto the same bench, as if old friends. They made a game of Foosball from the bar and its broken ring seal on the back of their seat. They gazed in amazement at a Ninja (a Muslim woman wearing a full face veil) seated further down the train car. They giggled and tickled and wiggled, as young/old friends do.
The new friend soon disembarked, and as we rode the rest of the way — Jon gazing out the window, giving color commentary on things whizzing by — I thought about our day. What it meant to me and Papa; to the couples waiting for years or decades to be married; what it would mean for the political climate of the country. But I was once again brought back to what this day meant and would mean for my son.
It struck me that for the first six years of his life, my son will have had an African-American president…and until he’s a teenager, perhaps a woman. He would grow up not remembering a time when two daddies or two mommies couldn’t get married. He would take these things for granted, and he will not have to fight for them.
On our initial cab ride to SCOTUS, Jon overheard the radio mention the shootings in South Carolina. Papa and I had recently visited Charleston, and he was worried we had been there when the people were shot. I assured him we’d already left and that we were safe, assuming that would assuage his only concern. After a few seconds, he asked if they had caught the shooter, so that no one else would get hurt. I told him yes, and marveled at my little boy’s capacity to think and to care beyond his own corner of the globe.
Later that afternoon, our new friend Jane sent me a photo she had candidly taken as we exited the Supreme Court Building. It encapsulated our day perfectly.
While Jon would grow up in a world vastly different — and in many ways better — than mine, there would still be plenty of people and things for him to care and to fight for. It was my job as his father not to choose his battles, but to guide and support him as he found his own. Hope for the future, restored.
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