Embrace Release

Amendment One and my family

by Aly Windsor    
Published: April 28, 2012 in A&E / Life&Style, Featured Stories

On May 8th, my neighbors, my mom and sister and brother and aunts and grandma, my postal worker, my landlord, my local firefighters, the checkout people and the manager and the baker from the grocery store, the old drunk but friendly guy who walks up and down our street all day long, other parents at the playground, drivers beside and around me at any given stoplight, and many thousands of people I will never see or meet will have the opportunity to vote on the validity of my marriage.

Some will stay home because they don’t feel passionately one way or another, or they’ll be too busy with their valid marriages and recognized families to weigh in.

I’m not going to write about all of the possible consequences of the amendment passing, including those for straight people and unmarried couples and their children, because to me it should be enough that it’s wrong for voters to literally deem thousands of same-sex couples’ relationships invalid. Instead, I’m going to tell you about us.

My partner and I have been together for seven years. We have two kids, and moved to Winston-Salem from Georgia last year after my partner was offered a professor position at a local college. Even though we left good friends and a comfortable-for-our-family social climate behind in Atlanta, we were so thrilled to leave the big city for beautiful North Carolina where the majority of my extended family lives. We’re now an hour and a half away by car from my mom and aunt whom our boys adore. We love being able to take a Sunday drive to see them, and do it often. You can imagine our dismay then, when only a month after we moved here, the North Carolina legislature voted to put Amendment One on the spring 2012 primary ballot.

On a typical day in our lives, the baby wakes up at seven. I blearily roll out of bed to change his diaper. On my way, I turn off the hall light that was on all night in case our older son made his way from his bedroom to ours. Then I let the dogs outside, start the coffee, and fire up my computer while the baby chases the cat faster on his hands and knees than I can move on two legs before coffee. Minutes later, our older son bounds out of our room and wants to “WATCH VIDEOS!” or “GO TO THE MUSEUM!” or “EAT 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 WAFFLES!” I cajole him into using the potty and putting on big kid underpants. My partner washes dishes from the night before while I make breakfast. After we eat, I check Facebook and email and focus for a little while on my part-time, work-from-home gig.

When I finish, my partner and I trade off the kids so we can each get ready for the day. One of us feeds the dogs. My partner leaves for work. The kids and I meet our playgroup at a local park. After a couple of hours of my older son charging around recklessly, incurring and inflicting countless boo-boos, while the baby stuffs mulch and other inedibles in his mouth and I hang him upside down and do finger sweeps trying not to panic, we go home for lunch and naps. After naps, there might be painting or coloring or playing out back. My partner arrives home around 5:30, except for the very long days when I’m on my own until 9:30. On the short days, I cook while the boys jump on our bed with my partner. On the very, very long ones, I cook alone while my older son watches “Sesame Street,” the baby raids the cabinets, and I drink a well-deserved glass of wine.

Bedtime is complicated. Our older son has never been an easy sleeper. After coerced teeth-brushing and pajama wrangling, my partner or I read aloud to him in his big kid bed, and then hold his hand while reading in the dark with a tiny book light until he falls asleep, at which point we creep out of his room, praying he’ll stay asleep. The baby has been an easier sleeper from the start but with new teeth coming in, he’s taking a lot longer to settle. When they’re finally both asleep, my partner and I collapse on the couch to talk. Some nights we’re too tired to do anything but lose ourselves together in DVR-ed “Survivor” or “American Idol.”

On the weekends, our mornings are the same except that I sometimes attempt pancakes. Later we go “exploring for bears,” grocery-shop, my partner mows the lawn, we tend to our growing garden as our older son digs for worms and the baby sneaks grass into his mouth, and my partner and I attempt meaningful conversation over the constant din of a shouting toddler and a screeching baby. Some days and weeks are hard and long, full of tantrums and sickness and bad news. Others are soft and light and seem to dreamily zoom past.

We’re thinking about buying a house but as we drive around pondering our options, we worry about the usual stuff: What if we get into a loan we can’t afford? Will the house appreciate? We also worry about not only the education quality of the local schools but whether our boys will feel comfortable in them. Will they be bullied for having same-sex parents? We wonder if prospective neighbors will be dismayed to have a same-sex couple with children move in next door. What if we buy only to find that we’re not wanted in our own cul-de-sac? As we drive around, my heart skips and swells every time a I see a “Vote Against Amendment One” yard sign, but deflates every time I spot a “Vote For.”

Here’s what we hope and dream for our future: we want our boys to become kind, smart, and capable people. We want my partner’s professional career to continue to develop. I want a room of my own to pursue a Writer’s life, or at least to find a way to contribute to our family income with my writing. My partner supports this dream. I want chickens too and my partner is fine with that as long as we wait until our current herd of pets passes on. Mostly, we just want to stay healthy, stick together, grow together, and support each other until the end of our days.

No matter how hard I squint, I cannot figure out what’s so threatening about this little life of ours. I believe in compassion and accepting people different from me so I have spent a lot of mental energy puzzling over the motivations of people who would vote to invalidate our family. I understand those who object to us mainly do so on the basis of their religious beliefs. I affirm that these people are entitled to their religious beliefs but I do not understand why my fellow citizens’ religious beliefs dictate how our government classifies my marriage and family. Why does my neighbor get a say over who is eligible to be my valid life partner? Why do other people get to vote at all on my access to the same legal rights and privileges they’re free to enjoy without a referendum?

My family will be glued to the TV screen on May 8th, anxiously watching the voting numbers roll in. At the end of the day, or when the tipping point is reached, we will either be crushed or buoyed by the results. If Amendment One passes, and I fear it will, for us there will be that initial gut punch, then tears, and then a burning rage at all of those people in our community who voted for it. This rage will slowly simmer down to a low boil on the back burner of our busy lives. I know this because a similar amendment passed in Georgia in 2004. Three years later, we stood before family and friends and had a beautiful wedding anyway. No amendment or law could or will stop us from staying committed to each other and our little family.

Whether or not the people of my state judge our marriage to be invalid or unworthy of being recognized on May 8th, on May 9th, we will wake up around seven. I’ll probably be tired and grumpy from nursing a teething baby through the night but I’ll make the coffee and get breakfast going anyway. Four days later, my partner and I will celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary. We might get to go on a date if my mom and aunt can drive over to babysit. That same month, our boys will turn three and one. The baby will likely be walking by then, and suddenly having two independently ambulatory kids will bring a host of new, more pressing problems to worry about.

To see more about Aly and her family, visit her blog at embracerelease.com. : :