Monday, May 19, 2008

This is what love looks like

It's Thursday and the news alert pops into my email: California Supreme Court legalizes gay marriage. I think, "I'll have to blog on that.” That afternoon I meet with a colleague. He’s a gay dad who has raised two children (now grown) with his partner of many years, and he’s overjoyed. I don’t find the time to write a blog entry.

I get home and my wife calls: She and my son are stranded at a bus stop—the twenty-four bus, she says, is being routed around the Castro because of spontaneous street partying, but a friend is coming to pick them up.

I can’t resist: I jump on my bike and ride down Castro and walk through the gathering throng. People are dancing and talking in small circles on the street, and I see many couples wander through crowd with dazed looks on their faces: the mood somehow combines wary happiness with giddy disbelief. Cops stand at barricades, but they look relaxed and they laugh and joke with the people streaming into the Castro. A DJ sets up at the intersection of Castro and Market.

When I get home, my family is there. That night, it’s warm enough so that you can leave your house without a coat. This happens maybe five or six nights a year in the usually very cool and foggy city of San Francisco, and so I drag the mattress out onto our deck and the three of us go to bed outside.

I look up at the clear sky and the big dipper is directly overhead. The tree in our yard rustles in the breeze. The street party at the bottom of the hill is now in full swing, and we drift asleep to laughter and the thump-thump-thump of electronic dance music. Liko throws an arm over my chest and snuggles into my neck.

Friday, another hot day, I get a text message from our friends Jessica, Jackie, and their little boy Ezra: Do we want to have dinner that night? We meet at Savor and get a table on the patio, and two other families join us.

Jessica orders wine. We want to celebrate, she says.

Why? I ask.

We’re getting married, says Jessica, throwing her arm around Jackie.

It hadn’t even occurred to me: our friends can now get married.

A feeling of happiness sweeps through my body; I feel a smile pop onto my face. It’s a rare kind of happiness I’m feeling, the kind that has nothing to do with me. I happy for Jackie, Jessica, and Ezra, genuinely happy for them, through them.

Why? I’ve never been a great friend of marriage. I’ve always seen it as optional. But I see how much it means to my friends: They never expected it, never dreamed of it, but here it is, marriage. They are silly with plans: they quiz the straight couples on venues, clothes, vows, invitations, costs, the whole crazy thing. Mark volunteers to get the food; Karen says she’ll design invitations. Their marriage becomes one more thread that ties our little community together.

Now I am thinking of the California Supreme Court judges who wrote the decision. Their working lives consist of books, papers, arguments, precedents, a place apart from our small, private lives. Did they know this one decision would create such happiness and improve so many lives? Could they have imagined it? And do we as a society have the courage to embrace the happiness they helped create?


Backpacking Dad said...

My wife cried when she read the decision the other day.

In a totally "mean-and-tough-lawyer" kind of way. :}

She campaigned against the prop when she was at the ACLU as a law student, and she can hardly believe that the court took the hard way out.

Anonymous said...

I'm so happy for same-sex California couples! The joy and love that burst out when same-sex marriage was allowed here in Massachusetts made me glad to be alive to witness it. I'm a huge fan of marriage, despite all the naysayers, and making it possible for all people gives me a grin I can't wipe off. How often is our news about happiness? Hooray, California Supreme Court!

Anonymous said...

"And do we as a society have the courage to embrace the happiness they helped create?"

Come November, at least, I really, really hope so. Great post! And even better Castro photo -- just awesome!


Jeremy Adam Smith said...

Ah, well, I stole that photo from the NYT, and, er, I guess I should have included some kind of credit. But by God, I was there!