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Cheryl Dumesnil Headshot

On SCOTUS Watch, With Children

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"Mom, what are you doing?" K-Bird asks when he sees me standing at the bathroom sink, brushing my teeth and staring at the laptop I've placed precariously close to our notoriously splashy faucet.

"I'm watching SCOTUSblog to see if the Supreme Court has made a decision on Prop 8 and DOMA"

"Oh. That's kind of weird."

"Watching SCOTUSblog?"

"No, putting your computer in the bathroom."

"It is, isn't it?" I agree.

He rolls his eyes in confirmation then exits the room to look for his other mom and his brother, leaving me to consider this morning's many weirdnesses, which seem that much weirder because they're happening in the context of my otherwise run-of-the-mill, suburban family life. Here they are, in no particular order:

1) My six-year-old knows what SCOTUSblog means.

2) My marriage license, while legal in my state, does not hold the same federal value held by that of every other married couple on my block.

3) Next to the swim gear I keep in the trunk of my car in case we have a chance to take a dip in the neighborhood pool, I also have a backpack filled with essential items--BART tickets, food, water bottles, camera, hand sanitizer--in case SCOTUS issues a decision and we need to hightail it into San Francisco for a demonstration.

4) The note "SCOTUS?" appears on every square of this week's page in the family calendar. In fact, for the past three weeks, when friends have called to arrange get-togethers, I've said things like this: "Sure, Monday morning is open, unless SCOTUS issues a ruling." I said similar things when I was eight months pregnant: "Sure, I'll have lunch with you, unless I'm squeezing a baby out of my body that day."

5) Just as they talk about their favorite rides at the local waterpark or highlights from last year's family vacation, my kids wax nostalgic about past political demonstrations.

This is what they're doing when I join them in the kitchen, awkwardly balancing my open laptop and an empty coffee mug.

"Hey Mom," eight-year-old B-Man asks, "if SCOTUS announces the ruling, will we go into San Francisco for a march at night again, like when we wore the light-up mohawks and that guy let us talk in the bullhorn?"

"I'm not sure sweetie," I say, setting the computer and my mug on the counter. "If the ruling comes down on a day when you have basketball camp, we won't be able to get to the city in time. But we could go in the morning, before camp, to an event at City Hall."

K-Bird asks, "Is that the place that looks like Barak Obama's house, where we sat in a movie theater with all those people?"

"No, you're thinking about the California Supreme Court Building, where we watched the Prop 8 hearings on a big screen in an overflow room."

"Wait, was I there for that one?" B-Man asks.

"No, you were at school," K-Bird says. "Remember, Mom, they told us we couldn't carry our No on 8 signs into the building, so the security guard held them for us?"

"How do you remember all that?" I marvel. "That was over two years ago. You were barely four years old!"

My computer makes the clickety noise that means a new entry has appeared on SCOTUSblog. K-Bird gasps with alarm and looks at the screen, "Is that it?"

I read the cryptic one-liner, about some other case. "Nope, not it," I say. Then to ease K-Bird's tension I remind him, "You know, it might happen today, or it might not. And lots of people are saying they think it's probably not going to happen today. Probably more like Thursday."

He shrugs.

I suggest, "So why don't you two go get dressed, because whether there's a ruling today or not, we need to be out of here by 8:00 because a guy is coming to clean our carpets."

The boys scoot out of the kitchen, but as I turn to the sink to wash out my coffee mug, the alarm I heard in K-Bird's voice resonates with me. I wonder if he remembers what we told him months ago, that no matter what happens with SCOTUS, as far as his daily life is concerned, nothing will change. I decide to go check in.

I find the boys in their bedroom, (remarkably) doing what I'd asked them to do. "Hey, K-Bird," I sit beside him on the floor where he's pulling on his shorts, "you know, no matter what the court decides about Prop 8 or DOMA, nothing's going to change for you here. Mommy and Mama will still be here, our family will still be the same."

"Yeah, I know," he says, "but I want it to be fair."

I nod. "It will be fair, eventually. Maybe this time, maybe not, but eventually, it will be fair."

"How do you know that?" he asks, as if I'm feeding him some kind of Tooth Fairy hogwash.

"Because throughout history the people of our country have become more and more accepting of each other. That's just how we evolve as people."

K-Bird gives me a skeptical half-nod. I wrap my arms around him in what I hope feels like a reassuring hug and whisper, "Love always wins."

I consider following up with the words Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously used, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." But I suspect K-Bird's too young to understand that.

Then again, maybe he isn't.