"Come on in," she motioned opening up her home to my daughter Sunshine and I.
We tromped into the sparsely decorated living room, took off our shoes, and I was immediately swept over to the bookcase where a picture of her giggly son Justin stood.
"Ahhhhh...this is so cute!" Was my predictable exclamation.
Truth is, he is very adorable. What kid isn't at 8? But, Justin is adopted from Guatemala and has a very statuesque, Mayan face for a little man. He is a real cute guy.
The kids ran off to play some video game and I settled in at the kitchen table with a cup of tea, ready to chat casually with this new mom as our kids played together for the first time.
YES, I am one of those mothers; the overprotective type which needs to meet every parent her child plays with. Karen apparently comes from the same tightly-wound mother camp, as she invited me to come along before I had to ask.
"You know, I just had one of the neighbors from the ONE church (we live in a small community and there is one predominately popular conservative church here) over on my doorstep asking me about immigration policies. She stood here for an hour grilling me about how could I support Obama when Glenn Beck says..." her voice trailed off.
I began to cross my fingers and toes under the table that she was a liberal as soon as I heard the grand ol' boys name hit the air. Simultaneously, I prepared to be diplomatic, just in case.
"Can I presume you're not conservative then?" I asked cautiously.
"I am a gay atheist, I am about as bleeding heart as they come!"
Did I just hear her correctly?
Here's the thing, people are just not that up front around here. While Washington as a whole is very liberal leaning, I am out in the country of the ONE church and you learn to mind your Ps and Qs (and other non-essential letters), especially around the moms of my daughter's classmates. In the past, most of my parent meetings have been pretty superficial, just enough touching base to ensure the person isn't an axe murderer and the subsequent finger printing I make them take (okay, the last part was a lie, but I would if I could). I had lost any expectation beyond idle chit chat.
I found myself wondering, how do I reply appropriately without showing any signs of shell shock?
"Well Holy Hell, it's about time I met someone of my political acuity around here. We can both chant kumbaya together at the next 'Day of Silence' while all the other moms gawk." This is what flew out of my mouth, with all caution being thrown to the wind.
Phew, I hope I didn't sound like a total asshat.
Karen bent over at her middle and produced the most charming howl. The 'Day of Silence' is a controversial day where our only high school's students stand together in solidarity to honor the gay students amongst their ranks - it is organized by the students. What makes it controversial is how the ONE church reacts to this day, asking parents to keep their kids home in protest. Those who do go to school that day, whether gay or in support of other gay friends, are sometimes harassed by those who disagree with "that lifestyle," is how I've heard it phrased.
We spent the next several hours talking obout our kids, Spanish, adoption, playdates, marriage, dating, human rights, current liberal policies and much, much more. Her father is a retired psychiatrist so she was very understanding about my needs to help my daughter manager her PTSD. We groused about the ONE church, the weird effect the influx of people settling here in the last several years has had on morphing our town into a commuter haven, and how we were thankful to have found each other as allies in this pocket of conservatism.
Gay or straight - we were just human beings with much more in common than not.
She spoke about how being gay around here was frowned upon at times. Although I could not relate to that personally, I empathized with her. There were children who were not allowed to come play at her house, with parents giving one excuse or another. It just never occurred to me to even consider someone's sexuality when I meet them, it isn't anything I find relevant in how I perceive people.
Yet, there is still a percentage of the population who still finds it extremely relevant, to both our dismays.
At the end, I found myself doing a skippy clap (imagine a golf clap really fast) about my fortune of finding a kindred friend at my daughter's playdate. Since then, I have had the pleasure of getting to know one of the brightest and most imaginative people to come into my life in a very long time. We both figure that is how ignorance is overcome, one friendship at a time.
It was my daughter's playdate, right?