At the end of last year, I got on a shuttle bus at the airport with my kids and my dad. Tommy sat with my dad and I sat with Claire and Austin. We were on our way to Texas and everyone was really excited.
At the next stop, another family got on. It was a mom, a dad and two kids. They sat together and the parents chatted happily with the kids. To most outside observers, the scene was nothing out of the ordinary. But it struck me how much watching them bothered me. They were the family I was supposed to have.
I’m sure they didn’t think much about us. They were looking at their itinerary, excited about their own trip. I don’t remember thinking much about the people who surrounded me when I was traveling with Shawn and the kids. I was just happy to be together.
I looked out the window and reminded myself not to be overly sensitive about things that I could not control. Why should I be jealous of this family? I mean, they might be on the verge of divorce, or traveling to a funeral. Both seemed unlikely, but what did I know about their lives?
The bus stopped to pick up more travelers, and I chatted with my kids. At the final stop, a family with really young kids got on. I saw the mom step on to the bus holding the hands of two very small boys and behind her stood someone holding car seats. “I remember when Shawn had that role,” I thought.
The littlest boy sat down and began yelling “mama!” repetitively. I sat there for a moment, confused about what was going on. His mom appeared to be ignoring him. “Oh,” I almost said out loud as I looked at the car-seat holding parent. The other parent was also a mom.
Mom and mama. The boys kept referring to both of them throughout the ride, loudly calling each of their names, and the mom who sat closest to me gave me an embarrassed smile. I returned it with a big one of my own. “I remember those days,” I said, as though my own children were grown, rather than just a few years older than her own. “It’s hard when they are so little.” She nodded in agreement. She looked tired, but happy.
Eventually, the bus pulled up to the airport and we all got off. We walked together for a bit, and all the kids ran alongside each other. Eventually, we parted without saying goodbye, as you do with strangers. We all had flights to catch. I walked for a while thinking about them.
They were simply a family trying to make it through the airport with young kids. They were just like the other family I’d seen on the bus, I suppose, but with two moms instead of a mom and a dad. For some reason, it made me feel really happy to be around them. While I know plenty of same-sex couples at my church and in my community, seeing a happy family at the airport that was just a bit outside the “normal” conventions of family was comforting to me.
I thought a lot about how to lay out this blog post, because I didn’t want this to come across the wrong way. So this may not be perfectly said, but I’ll give it my best shot: I feel so lucky that “untraditional” families are much more common now. Because when I see a grandmother with her grandchildren, or a single dad with his son, or a same-sex couple with their young kids, I feel like my family is not so different from anyone else’s.
I realize that there are people out there who are probably rolling their eyes and thinking, “yes, Marjorie, welcome to the reality that we’ve all been living for much of our lives.” I get it. I don’t know what it’s like to face repeated strange looks or discrimination because of who I love. But I understand, at least a little bit, what it’s like to feel like my family is different. So I want to say this – thank God for all of the people who’ve redefined family before I had to do it for myself. You all have blazed an important path for me.
My family doesn’t look like many of the others that we know in our neighborhood. But we’re not the only family that’s just a bit untraditional, both in our neighborhood and in the outside world. That’s a real comfort to me.
Image Credit: Stefanie Harrington Photography.