Friday, July 3, 2015

A toast!

A week ago today, the Supreme Court ruled that it is discriminatory for states to prevent same sex couples from marrying. Auds and Curt were visiting, and they giggled a little when I responded to the news with a hearty "THANKS BE TO GOD!"  I forgot that such a response is not entirely universal! But to God be the glory.  Any time the arc of history bends toward justice, God is at work.

The end of the day brought us all together very briefly before we went in separate directions: Sean picked up the kids from day care, and then Auds and I set off for a sewing party to make re-usable sanitary pads for girls who live in countries without access to pads (I told our wonderful hostess, "This is our kind of party!")  Sean and Curt took the kids out for fish fry and put them to bed. But there was this brief moment, after day care and work and before we all scattered, when Sean gathered us in the van and told us we were going to have a toast.

He'd bought two bottles of sparkling grape juice and cider, and grabbed some plastic kids' cups from the kitchen.  It was pouring down rain, that serious summer rain that instantly floods the driveway and drenches you to sogginess. We all crowded into the van: Sean in the driver's seat, me in the front passenger seat, Walter and Sally in their carseats, Curt in the back and Auds crouched down next to Sally. We gave Sean our full attention.  The kids knew something important and interesting was happening.

"So, today," Sean said, as he started getting the juice and cups ready, "Today the Supreme Court, which is part of our government, decided that people who love each other can get married. You see, it used to be that there was a whole group of people who weren't allowed to get married, but now they can."

"It used to be that only women and men could get married in a lot of places," I clarified. "But now, all over over the country, women who love women can get married. And men who love men can get married. So, when you grow up, you can marry the person you love, whether that person is a man or a woman."

Walter listened with growing excitement.  It was clear he had something to say ... an announcement of great importance to make:

"I am going to marry Mama!"

We shouldn't have been completely unprepared for this; it's a pretty common assumption among three-year-old boys.  Also, he's told Sean in the past: "When I grow up, I'm going to sleep upstairs with Mama."  "Where am I going to sleep?" asked Sean. "Probably with one of the neighbors."  Sean was relieved that Walter still wanted him to be nearby.

But we did fumble slightly in the moment, and while we didn't guffaw or anything, we must have smiled and given him an "oh, sweetie" look, because immediately his joyful, proud look changed to one of shy disappointment.  "Mama is married to me," Sean explained. "But she'll always be your mama."  "And I'll always love you," I added.

With the grape juice poured and glasses distributed, it was time for the toast: "To marriage equality!" said Sean. "To marriage equality! To love!" I said.  "To love! Cheers!" the kids and Auds and Curt joined in.  Auds had offered to share a cup with Sally, but it was clear that Sally did not need any help drinking her grape juice.  A refill or two later, and we went our separate ways into a fun Friday night.

Sean texted me during the day on Friday to ask if we could sing "How Can I Keep From Singing?" in church on Sunday, and that morning the band backed him up while he sang (beautifully, and a little tearfully.)  The song was a perfect bridge between lamentation--as we mourned the murder of nine black church leaders at the hands of white supremacist--and celebration ("When friends rejoice both far and near, how can I keep from singing?")

It was my Umma's (my grandma's) favorite song, and I remember hearing it sung on a Prairie Home Companion, and hearing her sing along with all her heart.  I've always like Enya's version of it, too, and we used to listen to that album on our way up to visit Umma during the last year of her life.  It makes me think of summer, of 1991, of fresh raspberry pie from Norske Nook, of the sound of Umma's voice that I can just barely remember.  I wonder, now, what she thought about while she sang the song, and what it meant to her.

I don't know for sure what memories Walter and Sally will associate with the song, but I can tell you that they have been singing it a lot lately.  To make sure he could sing it without crying too much, Sean practiced singing it almost constantly over the weekend--while changing Sally's diapers, while getting Walter ready for bed, while walking Hank the Dog.  And so the kids, also, have been singing it as they go about their daily tasks of life. Walter likes to add a little extra vibrato when he does: "How can I keeeeeep .. from singinginginging!"

As I told the congregation on Sunday: God is at work for justice, peace, mercy and love in the world.  And we are called to be God's instruments in that work.  And we have a lot of work to do.  But as we work, we sing.

How can we keep from singing?

These are the lyrics Sean put together for church on Sunday, a hybrid of Pete Seeger and Evangelical Lutheran Worship:

My life flows on in endless song;
above earth’s lamentation,
I hear the real, though far-off hymn
that hails a new creation.
Through all the tumult and the strife,
I hear that music ringing.
It sounds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?
What though the tempest round me roars?
I know the truth, it liveth.
What though the darkness round me close?
Songs in the night it giveth.
No storm can shake my inmost calm
while to that Rock I’m clinging.
Since Love is Lord of heaven and earth,
how can I keep from singing?
In prison cells and dungeon vile
Our thoughts to them are winging
When friends rejoice both far and near
How can I keep from singing?
The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart,
a fountain ever springing!
When friends by shame are undefiled
How can I keep from singing?
No storm can shake my inmost calm
while to that Rock I’m clinging.
Since Love is Lord of heaven and earth,
how can I keep from singing?