If you grew up in a small town in the 1970s and 80s, and you related to the supporting characters in a John Hughes movie way more than you ever could to the actual, breathing individuals around you in your real life, then pull up a chair. Because this is our story.
And this story started before the Internet allowed us to find one another, before smart phones reconnected us every second, and before said phones were also TVs and alien tracking devices. Back when we waited all afternoon for our favorite song to be played on a radio station with terrible reception, just so we could quickly push record to capture it. Because you didn’t have a record store. You didn’t have a world wide everything to download anything. You had the people and things you could see, hear and touch within about a 10-mile radius. Small, safe, sound. Sorta. And that was your world.
And I was lucky enough to have Ken in my world. We met in first grade because we were put in the same reading group. There were probably about 150 kids in our grade, and three of us…Ken, Russell Merka and I…were put together to start reading the Rainbows anthology while everyone else tackled Lions and Tigers. Basically, what this means is, at recess Ken was Luke, Russell was Han and I was Leia. Obviously.
We survived, as we all tend to do, throughout the steady course of birthday parties, friendship bracelets, backyard campouts, Juice Newton, swimming lessons, choir performances, Footloose, weird feelings about boyfriends/girlfriends, puff paint, braces, his mom’s funeral, argyle socks, Purple Rain, lockers, love notes, marching band, Police concerts, youth groups, pool parties, student council, pep rallies, The Smiths, car dates, and things.
Lots of things.
He went to the giant University in Austin and worked at the coolest job in town. And I went to a smaller private school about two hours up the road. We visited each other regularly, as self-appointed siblings do, and marveled at the differences between a large state school and a smaller private Christian gathering. Even though I was the one at the “Christian school,” I always knew he was a way “stronger Christian” than I was. (That’s how people talked back then, I guess they still do.) He was extremely involved in Campus ministries, attended countless hours of bible study and discussion, moved to Brazil to help orphans. And then five seconds after graduation, he moved to DC, got a law degree, and helped a team of amazing people start International Justice Mission to rescue victims of individual human rights abuse. All the while, I stayed around Central Texas, for the most part, fiddling with press releases and working through a variety of life experiences.
Fast forward 10 years and 10,000 stories later, and I was pregnant with a little boy who needed a godfather…a Padrino as we call them around here. And Ken was the obvious choice.
“Does it bother you that he’s not married?” said some out loud.
“Um, no…,” I said. “If he does marry someone eventually, then Harry will have a godmother. If not, then not. Whatever.” I figured it was more important for a little boy to have a godfather than a godmother, and it would all sort itself out.
I also figured Ken wouldn’t marry someone for a while, if ever. He was extremely picky. Like all the Seinfeld characters. He dated always, tons of darling girls, but in the end, there was always something wrong. With the exception of a few girls, I can count three over three decades, there were always a lot of dates with perfect women that just sort of ended for a variety of random reasons.
It didn’t matter.
Harry had the perfect Padrino. He came to Harry’s baptism and stood up at the front of the beautiful, towering church with me and James and we all promised that we’d raise Harry up to know he is a beloved child of God in whom God is well pleased. The pastor asked Ken, “Will you keep this child in your care and prayers so that he may grow in the love of God?” Ken swore he would. And I knew he meant it.
And then when Harry was about three, the perfect Padrino took me to the Cedar Door for Mexican Martinis. He said I might want to reconsider the whole Padino thing. And then he told me he was gay.
He didn’t breathe. He didn’t move. He just looked at me.
“Good. Harry can have two Padrinos then.” This was my first response.
I think I also blabbered on about how much I loved him and how much I didn’t care about all the things people care about and how I had no problem with any of the things and we talked and talked and talked about his story and his struggles and his studies and God and the Bible and the church and family and probably more things too.
And he said, “You never suspected?”
And I said, “I always just thought if you were, you would be.”
But it makes complete sense that he wasn’t. I mean, he was, of course. He knew that he was when we were reading Rainbows and playing Star Wars. He always knew. But in a small Central Texas town, where parachute pants were considered “really out there,” you could not be gay. It was not allowed. He would not survive. I completely get it. And I can not imagine.
But I do know someone who can imagine, someone who knows exactly what that’s like.
And if we would have known enough back then to know to drive down I-10 for about three hours, to the land of Beyonce…Houston and Sugar Land… we would have known that there was another person going through the same thing. And I’m sure that this young man, in this much larger Texas town, has 10,000 stories of his own about growing up Gay in Texas. And I capitalize Gay, because that is also his last name. Yay adolescence.
But as things happen, these two met in DC…well, technically they met on a bus to Scranton. But that’s another story. Along with 100,000 other stories ready and waiting to be told. Finally.
Last year, Jeff asked Ken to marry him, and Ken said yes, and Harry thought that was a good plan.
And so here we are, finally, to this week. This week with two guys. Getting married. In Texas.
This is my favorite video right now. Did you watch it? Are you kidding me? How cute are they? Whenever I’ve been stressed or sad or bored or working too hard in the last month or so leading up Mom 2.0 Summit, I’ve watched this video. It makes me happy.
I’m so thankful that I live in a world where my son can grow up with two outstanding people like this as godparents. I’m not one to easily tear up, but just thinking about these fantastic individuals in our extended family…and that Harry will always have them and they will always have his back, well, I just feel that we are incredibly lucky and I am grateful.
Family, man. They are everywhere…sometimes where you least expect it. Sometimes you get it. Often you choose it. And if you’re very brave and very lucky, it grows.
I feel so lucky and beyond thankful (and proud and happy) that I know Ken and Jeff and that they are now a part of our family. I’m inspired by them, by their lives, their humor, and that they both have to courage to be themselves everyday.
And I wish that always for you, my dear Ken and Jeff. I’m so glad that you found each other….and that you are now together, safe and sound.
Soundtrack: Safe and Sound by Captial Cities