It’s funny, and often fascinating, how so much can change in such a short time — and yet change so little. When our family arrived back home on Tuesday evening, we were the same family we were when we left home that afternoon.
Yet, as a family we experienced an important change when my husband and I — after being married in all but the legal sense for 10 years — were legally married to each other Tuesday afternoon.
The ceremony was brief and only attended by the media, a few friends, neighbors and supportive community members. It was a change from our family routine. The boys (briefly) exchanged their play clothes for the suits they wore for the ceremony. My husband and I talked to more reporters than we would on any other day. And instead of our usual family dinner at home, we celebrated with a dinner at a favorite restaurant.
Still, we were the same family upon returning home as we were when the day began, except for one important difference. When we left home, we had few of the same benefits and protections as the other families on our street — despite having happily assumed the same responsibilities. Thanks to D.C.’s City Council and Maryland’s state attorney general, when we returned home, we at least had equal rights and protections in Maryland — and in the community where we live.
Perhaps there is one more change to consider. We are as committed to one another now as we were before Tuesday, yet we’ve become a part of something too. Marriage is, to some degree, a community affair. Vows are usually made in front of others, whether a few witnesses or a room full of people. Sometimes the officiant asks those gathered if they will support the couple committing to each other and the commitment itself — even pledging in some cases to help them keep that commitment.
Committing to one another and our family connects us more deeply to our community. We chose to be responsible to and for each other, but we realize how vulnerable the people we love are, and how little we can do to protect them at times. So our commitment must extend beyond our front door, to the street where we live and where our children play, to the community — and world — we share with all other families. Being responsible to and for each other is, in a sense, the essence of community.
Making a public commitment to each other, and having that commitment recognized and supported in the same myriad ways our society supports other families, may not change our relationship to each other very much. But it changes our relationship to the community, because we’re included in a way we weren’t before. We are today, at least in D.C. and Maryland and a few more places.
So, Tuesday evening, we pulled into the same driveway, in front of the same house, in the same neighborhood. We did homework and bedtimes as usual. After the kids were asleep we loaded the dishwasher, folded the laundry and chatted about our day, just like any other day. I kissed my husband goodnight and finally retired myself a couple of hours later.
It was just like any other day, and unlike any other day. It was a day when very little changed, and everything changed.