In Celebration of Legalized Same-Sex Marriage
Note: I originally wrote this almost 3 years ago, then re-tooled it on a whim last night, in preparation for an amateur open mic night at a tiny burrito restaurant. My moms were legally married on Sunday, May 24th at the Tracy Aviary in Salt Lake City, UT. This is a story about how I first came to have two mommies, written in 3 parts.
Part I – “Motherfucker”
My little brother coined the term, and it stuck right away. Crass, sarcastic, self-consciously funny–it was a perfect fit for our wise-ass family. “Motherfucker,” as in one who…well, our mom’s new girlfriend, Beth (her given name).
There were predecessors–Denise the secret alcoholic and Debbie the painfully bland–and we had welcomed them without much fanfare and done our best to support Mom in her later-life coming out.
But Beth was the first one real enough to warrant a nickname, cool enough to happily accept, standing there in Mom’s kitchen, peeling linoleum and dark, low-hanging cabinets, only slightly self-conscious–at the moment of our meeting–that she had just taken a hit from a honey bear bong, sitting slyly on the counter.
Kids, meet Beth. Beth, my children. We weren’t expecting you home so soon.
But mom was blushing, smitten, in love.
Part II – “Motherfuck“
“How can you have more kids when you don’t even care about the ones you already have?? You think you can just fuck us up and then try again with a new batch?!”
I said this. In public. At a fancy sushi restaurant, where they’d taken us to share the Big News: a baby. Mom, her four adult children, and Beth, our MF. They were nervous, anxious, eager for approval, and I didn’t make it any easier, letting them ahave a piece of my mind, thinking myself the only one brave enough.
Not that our opinions mattered. They were already decided, donor sperm and turkey baster at the ready.
Nevermind that Mom’s youngest was at this point already in his twenties. Nevermind that they’d been dating less than a year. Nevermind that the four of us “emerging adults” were struggling, failing to thrive, still reeling from divorce and a consistent lack of cohesive parenting.
They were going to have a baby. Well, Beth was. Mom was already well past ovulation. They were going to raise a child, together.
Maybe they wanted a fresh start. Maybe Mom thought she wouldn’t make the same mistakes twice. Maybe they had NO FUCKING CLUE WHAT THEY WERE DOING AND THIS HAD “BAD IDEA” WRITTEN ALL OVER IT, and I told them as much, without shame, ever righteous.
They did it anyways, those motherfuckers.
Part III – “Mother”
But then there was this baby, a little sister, Rosie, and she had curly hair and blue eyes and a wary gaze. She distrusted strangers. She smiled when I sang to her.
Of course, in the nine month intermin we’d doubted, gossiped, judged Beth’s ability to parent, judged Mom’s ability to parent. Beth would probably try to make Rosie just like her, down to the miniature black converse (didn’t work, Rosie preferred pink and purple from the get-go). Mom would probably pick at Rosie for the littlest things, continuing our same battle for emotional superiority (she didn’t, too old to care).
And we would be left to fend for ourselves, the failed first batch, forgotten.
We weren’t. You see, what else happened in the interim is that Beth got me to go back to school, and helped me to believe (or remember) that I was a great student, intelligent, capable. What happened is that Beth made sure my nephew had adequate daycare, they type of education he deserved, much to my sister’s alternating relief and chagrin. What happened is that Beth supported my oldest sister’s family, always pushing for them to pull through and work things out, even when the rest of us thought they should throw in the towel. What happened is that Beth helped my younger brother adjust to life after the Navy, and trusted him to figure it out for himself when he rejected her help.
What happened is that she bought us kick-ass presents and encouraged us to throw parties at the house while they were out of town.
What happened, really, is something so simple and so intuitive, yet so rare in the world of step-parenting, and that is: having met us as adults, Beth did not try to parent us. She didn’t ground us or send us to our rooms, or call us spoiled brats. She did: care for us, encourage us to further our education, help us out financially, lend us the car, let us move back home again (and again, and again). She fought for us, she believed in us. She saw the best in us and helped us to see it in ourselves.
She helped us grow, and we grew up.
There’s a word for someone like that. It starts with the letter M.