This past Saturday afternoon, Chris was out working on the landscaping in our front yard. The sky had become cloudy since the morning, but the temperature was still early-spring balmy. Many of our neighbors were out, including two children from several houses down. One was Ally, about five or six, and her sister Maddy, about three. Ally is a big fan of earthworms. As Chris was digging in the soil and found worms, he gave them to Ally in her little hand. Believe me, that little girl has more guts handling earthworms than I do.
Anyway, close behind the girls was their mother, also named Chris. Ally's fascination with worms opened up conversation between her mother and me. We both laughed at how ready Ally was to dig in the sandy soil with her bare hands looking for worms, and how delighted she was when she found one. Neither one of us could figure out where this interest came from, but the main thing was Ally already had respect for nature by ensuring she didn't hurt the worms. She only wanted to hold them and let them droop in her fingers to make me sick.
Last spring, Chris, Ally and Maddy's mother, saw that we had workmen in our front yard, cutting up hardwood floor boards. "You put hardwood in your place, didn't you?" Chris asked. She asked other questions about our floor, so I thought she might as well come in the house and take a look for herself. The next thing I knew, I was showing her many of the other changes we've made to the house since we moved here.
After she had the tour, she asked if her husband, Warren, could come over and have a look sometime. She was especially interested in the hardwood floor and the crown moulding in the sitting/dining room and kitchen, and she wanted Warren to see them too because they were planning to make similar changes to their house. "Have him come over now if he's home," I offered. Minutes later, I formally introduced Chris and me to them, and then I brought them in the house.
Just inside the front door afterward, Chris, Warren, and I talked about the similarities in our houses, how the floor plans are exact, how they have a large window in the dining room area, while we have two narrow windows (one of the perks of living on a corner), and how different the two houses look, even though they are technically identical. All in all, I found Warren and Chris to be good people, and I was embarrassed that we hadn't introduced ourselves much sooner.
Outside, Chris and I talked with Chris and Warren a little longer. Then, Ally's mom told her daughter that it was time to put the worms down because they had to return home for dinner. Ally wanted to know if she could come back after she ate, knock on our door, and ask Chris to come out and play with her so she could dig in the dirt and find more worms. "You'll have to wait until he's outside again," Ally's mother told her. Kids.
I relate this brief story because I wondered, after Warren, Chris, Ally, and Maddy returned home, what they thought about Chris and me, two men living together, obviously not relatives and more than just friends. I wondered if Ally, a bright little girl by all counts, would ask her parents why there wasn't a mommy and a daddy living at our house, just like at all the other houses in the neighborhood. And I wondered how Warren and Chris, who had been warm and friendly with Chris and me, would answer that question.
Surely, they wouldn't go into any detail about us being gay--after all, how do you carefully explain that to a six year old without getting into the whole sex thing? But I thought, given how open minded they seemed to be, Warren and Chris had such a great opportunity with their daughter to create an understanding, even an acceptance, of Chris's and my living arrangement. Seeing it firsthand, perhaps she, and even her younger sister, would think nothing of two men living together and liking each other, just like mommy and daddy like each other.
The opportunity rests in the hands of people like Warren and Chris. If they are bigoted and prejudiced against gay people, to some degree, that will be passed on to their children, continuing the cycle of intolerance into the future. If, however, Warren and Chris are opened minded, as they seemed to be, and don't have a problem taking the opportunity to explain to their children the ways in which people are different, whatever the difference may be, then we can be hopeful that the younger people coming up, the ones who will run our world years from now, will be equipped with what they need to accept people for who they are.
I'm hopeful this is the case with Ally and Maddy, and all the children in our neighborhood, who, having seen Chris and me come and go, work in our yard, and interact with them, their parents, and others, will help to make being gay a non-issue in the near future.