Well my heart was filled with laughter
When I saw those city lights
She said the prettiest place on earth
Was Baltimore at night
From “The Streets of Baltimore” by Tompall Glaser and Harlan Howard
I had to hold on tight to June’s hand in the parking garage and Beth had to call to Noah to stop and look for passing cars before crossing over to the elevators. We were on our way to visit the Port Discovery Children’s Museum in Baltimore (http://www.portdiscovery.org/#home) and they were both giddy with excitement. Noah’s been asking to go to a museum for a long time and when he got a free child’s admission by submitting a code from Tropicana orange juice lids online, we decided instead of going to the Smithsonian as we usually do, we’d venture out to Baltimore.
We’ve been to Port Discovery only once before and that was the day Beth adopted June. The court proceedings were in Baltimore and afterwards we went to the museum and after that we went to the Inner Harbor and celebrated June’s three-month birthday and her adoption with cake. I couldn’t help thinking about that day as we walked through the doors of the museum and later as we passed the infants and toddlers room where June and I had spent most of that museum visit, nursing and playing on the floor mats and watching the giant tubes filled with moving bubbles while Beth took Noah through the exhibits. It was a joyous day.
We might be on the brink of another legal milestone for our family and then again we might not. On Wednesday gay marriage became legal in the District of Columbia. Shortly before this, the Attorney General of Maryland Doug Gansler issued an opinion that Maryland could honor gay marriages performed in other states and then Governor Martin O’Malley signaled his agreement with the opinion. So theoretically, we could hop on a Metro train, get married in the city and have it recognized at home. But of course, gay marriage is never that simple. A member of the state legislature has threatened to have Gansler impeached and the issue will surely end up either in the legislature, in the courts or both. It could be a while before it’s settled and Beth and I have decided we don’t want to do it unless it’s going to stick. We’ve already had a commitment ceremony in front of our friends and family. What we want now is legal recognition and we don’t want to confuse the kids by getting married over and over as the legal sand shifts underneath us. When we do it, we want it to be for good. I keep telling myself it might not happen and if it does, it could be a long time from now and then I go around the house singing, “We’re going to the chapel and we’re gonna get married.”
The museum was fun. We split up because Noah was interested in the exhibits for older kids, such as the Egyptian exhibit and Miss Perception’s Mystery House where you get to solve mysteries. June played with pretend food in the farmer’s market, dressed up in a knight’s tunic (which she said was a princess dress), played an African drum, made her own monster out of cloth pieces that attached to each other with Velcro and played in the Curious George exhibit. She was almost as happy to see the statue of George as if the monkey had been there himself. When we had to leave, she insisted on hugging him and kissing him on the lips. The only exhibit that both kids could enjoy was the three-story metal and rope climbing structure and even then, he went in the big kids’ entrance that allows you to go all the way up and she went in the little kids’ entrance that doesn’t.
When the museum closed at five, we walked to Little Italy for dinner. Noah was crying most of the way because he had not finished the second mystery they started. He claimed there wasn’t time. Beth said he quit because he was too scared to climb through a dark drainpipe to retrieve a clue. June skipped along the sidewalk and offered occasional report: “He’s stopped crying. Now he’s whining.” I lifted her up so she could see a canal as we crossed over it and she spotted a tower in the distance. “A castle,” she exclaimed.
Noah had calmed down by the time we entered the restaurant and he loved the poster in the foyer with illustrations of dozens of kinds of pasta so much he went back to look at it after we were seated. Beth said it was the kind of Italian restaurant they have in Wheeling where they serve you soft white bread and salads made with iceberg lettuce. I knew what she meant. It was like an Italian restaurant in South Philadelphia. Sometimes that’s exactly what you want.
Beth had eggplant parmesan, I had gnocchi, June had rigatoni with tomato sauce and Noah had spaghetti with a butter sauce. He didn’t care for the sauce, but he was happy enough with bread and butter and the side order of broccoli the kids were splitting and every one else dug into their entrees. “Always trust a fat waiter,” the waiter said when Beth and I took his advice and got the chocolate mousse cake for dessert. Our trust was not misplaced.
When we left the restaurant at 6:15, it was still light. I was surprised. It always creeps up on me when the days start to get longer. Since it’s part of our family code not to visit Baltimore without stopping at Vaccaro’s (http://www.vaccarospastry.com/), we ducked into the bakery for Italian cookies and cannoli to take home. We emerged at 6:25 and it was noticeably darker. We live right on the border of D.C. and I’m often in the city, but rarely after dark, and to be walking through a different city in the dark blue twilight felt like an adventure. June must have felt the same way because she looked up at me and said, “I love this night.”
And walking through the streets of Baltimore, thinking of the day almost four years ago when June became Beth’s and Beth became June’s in the eyes of the law, and thinking of the day when Beth and I can say the same, I loved it, too.