Head for the Hills

School ended with a half-day on Thursday and Noah and Sasha ushered in their summer vacation with a five and a half hour playdate. It was a double-header, starting at our house immediately after school and moving in the late afternoon to Sasha’s where they swam in his family’s pool.

I was dubious about such a long playdate because Noah and Sasha’s friendship is an intense one. They have a lot in common; they have a lot of fun; they have a lot of arguments. But much to my surprise, they were extremely well behaved. I asked them to play outside during June’s nap so they pretended to be detectives solving a mystery in the yard, then they played snap circuits on the porch. Finally they moved inside and played Build-a-lot (http://www.arcadetown.com/buildalot/game.asp) on the computer. I didn’t hear a single argument. Noah confided to me later that they did argue, “but we did it quietly,” which was fine with me. An argument I don’t hear is one I don’t feel tempted to referee and one that might even help Noah learn to solve his own conflicts.

Friday we spent most of the morning running errands. Because of this, it was three in the afternoon before Noah used up all his television and computer time. Otherwise it surely would have been earlier. It was the first full day of summer vacation and he hasn’t learned to pace himself yet. “Is every day of summer going to be like this?” he whined.

“Like what?” I asked.

“No more tv. No more computer. Nothing to do.”

It was a good question. There will only be five weeks this summer when Noah’s not in day camp and we will be on vacation for two of them. Still, it could be a long three weeks if I don’t get more creative with activities for him and if he doesn’t get more independent about entertaining himself when I’m occupied with June or housework or the several hours of work a week I do for Sara. Still, nothing seems as charged as it did last year when we felt so bad about the rough spring he had that we were anxious for his summer to be perfect. He’s had a good year academically and a decent one socially. A few boring weeks at home won’t be the end of the world. A little boredom could even be a good thing if it spurs him to get out a rut and find new ways to have fun.

We spent all day Saturday and yesterday morning running errands, housecleaning and packing for our trip to Beth’s parents’ house. Beth’s folks haven’t seen the kids since Thanksgiving so a trip to Wheeling was our first priority once school was out. We drove half the distance Sunday afternoon, and then we stopped to camp at Rocky Gap State Park (http://www.dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/western/rockygap.html). After we settled into our cabin we headed down to Lake Habeeb for a swim. Noah practiced his swimming with Beth while June and I went back and forth between the water and the lakeside playground. June scrambled up a rope ladder until she was higher than my head and I had to hold my arms up to spot her. She swung in a new (to her) kind of bucket swing, the kind that’s open in the front, with a belt to secure her. “It’s broken,” she said at first, then grinned when she realized she would be only semi-enclosed. As she swung, she watched a boy climb up the outside of a tunnel slide with rapt attention; she was no doubt making plans for the future.

Back in the lake, she kept trying to wade too deep into the water until Beth and I settled down sitting in the water a few feet apart with water up to our chests and she amused herself walking back and forth between us.

A girl of eight or nine crawled over to us with just her head out of the water. June stared. The girl asked how old she was and said she was pretty. An older girl and a younger boy trailed her and joined us. The boy, who was about Noah’s age, demanded to know why June was so small if she was two. She didn’t look any bigger than his one-year-old brother. The girls tried to hush him with little success. I said she was small for her age.

After chatting for a while one of the girls asked Beth if she was Noah and June’s aunt. No, their mom, Beth replied. Who was I? Also their mom. The boy was shocked and skeptical. How could we be both be their mothers? Who would we marry? Each other. We’d had a wedding and now we had two kids. But why? Because we love each other. The boy said emphatically that women should not get married. We might kiss! Yuck! The girls starting telling him to be quiet, a bit more vigorously than before and then they started to splash him when he didn’t listen. He ignored them and went on in the same vein. Beth was magnificent, remaining calm and matter of fact throughout, eventually ceasing to offer explanations and just repeating, “Well, that’s your opinion.” I was silent.

Noah, who as far as I knew was listening to his first anti-gay tirade, was quiet for a long time. When the boy said it was impossible for two women to be a couple, he finally piped up, “But me and my sister Juney have two moms,” as if that settled everything. He didn’t sound upset, just a little baffled at the whole exchange. “It’s not the usual thing,” he added as a concession.

As we drove back to the camping cabin, Beth said, “Well, we gave that family something to talk about tonight.” I was struck by the irony that this conversation had occurred on Father’s Day and on the day of the gay pride festival in D.C., and on the eve of the first legal gay weddings in California (http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/state&id=6184802).

Beth and I spent the evening on separate but occasionally intersecting tracks. Beth was trying to coax a fire out the green firewood we’d bought at the camp office. I chased June through the woods, down into the ravine, along the camp road, into neighboring campsites. She was curious and excited and tireless and fast. Really, really fast. I was glad for the chance to catch my breath when she paused at the picnic table to eat. Beth had managed to warm baked bean and veggie hot dogs over the balky fire, but the noodles were a gummy mess because the water never boiled. June ate heartily—two hot dogs and a big pile of beans. Noah, who doesn’t care for hot dogs or beans, and for whom the noodles were intended, ate nothing. The camp store was closed, we’d lost the emergency food I carry in the diaper bag and there was nowhere nearby we could drive to get him a snack. It was late, too, 8:45 by the time we got the kids to bed.

Beth and I sat on top of the picnic table in the gathering dark. “We are never leaving Takoma Park,” she pronounced. Living there, where no one has ever told Noah he can’t have two moms, has helped create his nonchalant attitude toward his unconventional family, though his self-confident temperament no doubt helps, too. And it’s not only homosexuality Noah sees as normal. Several of his friends (Jill, Sadie, Maxine and Ruby to name a few) are mixed-race and he knows Latino kids with white parents and even two white boys with a white mom and a black mom. His idea of family is not restricted to heterosexual couples with kids all biologically related and of the same race. In fact, when I was pregnant with June, he asked me what race I thought she might be. I don’t think he was wondering if the donor was of a different race than me. I think he imagined race was randomly generated. He can be naïve about the world (he is remarkably innocent of sexism) but it’s a healthy naiveté, one that I hope will give him an expansive sense of possibility about his own life when he’s older.

Still, we decided we’d better talk to him about what the boy at the lake said, just in case he had any questions. This morning in the car as we drove to breakfast, I asked if the conversation had bothered him. “Why should it?” he asked. “It was just his opinion, not fact.” I probed a bit more, asking if anyone had said things like that to him before. “Never,” he answered. “No one ever said women shouldn’t marry, but sometimes they ask why I have two moms.”

“What do you say?” Beth asked.

“I say because my two moms married.”

“Well, I guess that’s the answer,” Beth said.

After breakfast, we drove the rest of the way to Beth’s folks’ house. It’s a haven, smaller than Takoma Park, but nurturing and full of love. I can’t and shouldn’t try to protect Noah from everything—from arguments with a good friend, from boredom, from the occasional glimpse of homophobia. In small doses, these are learning experiences he needs. But I was still glad, gladder than usual, to see him bolt out of the car, run to Andrea and John’s front door, and straight into Andrea’s arms, secure in the adoration of the grandmother who couldn’t love him more if he were a blood relative.