Such a wild surge of hope and elation and gratitude and fear and tremulousness and...hope, watching Barack Obama claim the Democratic nomination last night. We only get the educational channel and a Spanish language channel on our TV and so watched him in Spanish. What a beautiful, moving sight. And his wife, Michelle, is a queen, such grace and majesty and she is a big woman, tall and solid and strong. I'm so glad she's not a sylph!
Watching them, I felt the same crazy rush of romantic hope one feels at the beginning of a love affair, coupled with the gut-churning fear of all the possible scary places this could lead--committment, heartbreak, betrayal, death. I can't help it. That is the moment we as a nation are in right now. The moment of one more time allowing ourselves to fall in love with hope. Possibility.
Carla says that hope is not good for her right now. She says if a cure is found, great, but she can't live in that place of wanting and expecting. She has to live in what is, and take her joy in the fleeting present moments of reality.
Emily Dickinson said, "Hope is that thing with feathers."
Fragile, dangerous. Hope, like happiness, makes us vulnerable to disappointment. I couldn't stand it if something happened to Obama. I want to encase him in a big bubble of protection. I couldn't stand it if something were to happen to C. To Carla. I can't stand it that I can't protect my loves, my hopes, my hope for a long peaceful happy healthy life.
To tune into the news these days is to veer between despair and terror and...hope.
Yesterday I received an email from my friend Jackie that was so powerful and eloquent I asked if I could share it on this blog. She and her partner, Dawn, have been together 24 years. They have raised five children together, four of them adopted, and are now helping to raise their grandchildren. They have weathered illnesses, disability, job loss, financial problems, and high school--five times. They have stayed the course with humor and tough love. If any two people deserve to call themselves married, these do.
I had written to Jackie inviting them to come down and get married at my synagogue. My rabbi, David Cooper, is doing a big wedding for gay and lesbian couples later this month. Jackie gave me permission to share her response here.
Bless you for offering your home and hospitality. We thank you. It would be really cool to visit your synagogue. I'm not sure we could afford to do something... formal at this point. We're sort of stunned that the chance might present itself, and at the thought that we'd have to take an airplane without our family to do this. If the court doesn't put a "stay" on this and it really happens we'll have to figure it out and make it work. You can imagine we are not optimistic that it will happen for real, or about the reality that the voters could annul this in November. You've got to wonder, what's the point if they're going to take it back? I felt so heartbroken for the San Francisco couples that tied the knot and got it taken away again...
As I write, I realize I had no idea just how frightening a risk it would be to go the distance and to live with the potential of revocation. I also didn't realize how fragile and vulnerable I felt around this precious window of opportunity. I've been an activist my whole adult life about the rights of other groups and the rights of my tribe. I have wanted to have this particular right for us for so long. I appear confident, cavalier, or intense to others, but rarely vulnerable.
I've been present and rock steady when they stitched up my kids at the emergency room, or set a bone, and when my grandbabies crowned and arrived in the wide world. I was concerned or thrilled and experienced waves of emotion the crested and broke, ebbed and flowed. I was still standing and still holding onto strength for each event. Somehow, the ground becomes soft and slippery at the onramp to this bridge. I'm not the least bit nervous about getting hitched, but the idea that it might require retreat, backing the bus over the bridge and back down the ramp brings me to tears, instantly.
When Noah was about 4 he asked me, "Gramma, what does 'holy cow' mean?" I told him people said that when they were amazed, and often when they didn't know what else to say or didn't have the right words to express how big something was or how impressed they felt. This child had an immense vocabulary. A similar question followed about 'holy smokes.' Not long after that when something really peaked his wonder he exclaimed, "Holy smokes AND cow!" I think that says it all, don't you? J