By Rebecca Novak
Hi Everyone. So not many daughters get the opportunity give a wedding toast for their parents. It’s kind of an unusual situation. It’s like, “when I first met Anne and Theresa…I was in the womb. I remember when they were just two young lovebirds, the vague sound of their voices coming through to my amniotic sac.”
I also can’t ruminate on their future together. It’s like “spoiler alert,” 39 years later.. things are pretty good. You still get nervous when the other person drives. You are still in love. You have 3 kids.. and they turned out awesome.
So, I don’t get to do the typical wedding toast. But, instead I do have this really remarkable opportunity to celebrate my moms’ relationship. I want to talk about what I’ve learned from my witty, opinionated mothers.
Especially with all of the news and debate about marriage equality today, I’ve had lots of time to think about my moms and the impact they have had on me. Am I all screwed up because I have lesbian moms? Am I confused about who I am? Do I wish I had a dad?
I’ve had to answer those questions a lot. And the answer is no.
My mothers are parents who chose to be together, in spite of real obstacles. These are parents who pushed their children to always be who we are, no matter what other people think. Parents who taught us to advocate for our rights and for the rights of others. Parents who taught us to love who we love, no matter what.
They have taught me so much, but because today is a wedding, I want to talk in particular about I’ve learned from my mothers about love.
Their relationship is pretty amazing. 39 years! And I’m in a very good position to talk about their relationship and commitment to one another. I’ve had a front seat.
(Mom & Mama.. you look worried. You should be. Your kids see it all.)
Some of you might know that last summer, I hiked the John Muir Trail. It’s a backcountry trail that runs 218 miles from Yosemite, over 8 mountain passes to Mt. Whitney, all in the backcountry. This is something I would never have considered if not for the wonderful summers my mothers spent taking the three of us camping in Yosemite, in Yellowstone, in Glacier national parks. Thank you.
One of the things I was thinking about as I was hiking, was my moms. I had called them from an outpost a week into the hike, and they told me that they had been officially married in California. And I was so upset that they did it without me and without any guests, so I’m glad we’re all here today.
It’s good I had my moms to think about because while the trail was beautiful, actually hiking it was also the hardest thing I have ever done. My backpack was too heavy, it weighed 45 pounds. I had to clamber up these endless 10 mile inclines, up thousands of ft in elevation, to get to each peak. And then I had to do it all over again. Those climbs were absolutely horrible.
But then, I’d get to the top. And the top was unfailingly the most beautiful place I’d ever been, each peak more breathtaking than the last. There were turquoise alpine lakes, wildflowers, snowcapped peaks, the whole world spread out below your feet.
And I realized, this is what I know about love. And I learned it from my moms. It is hard sometimes. It can be horrible. There are endless switchbacks and sometimes you don’t know if they’ll end, you’re not sure if you’ll make it to the top.
But you keep working at it, you put your head down and put one foot in front of the other and you make it to the top. And at the top is the most beautiful place you’ve ever been.
And then you do it all over again.
And, mommy and mama, you’ve been through a lot together. You’ve climbed a lot of long uphills, and I’ve watched you put the work into many of them. You have reached so many glorious peaks. Thank you for your perseverance and your honesty, your commitment and your love. You’ve taught me that the things that matter, like love, take work.
I want to toast you both — to the mountains you have yet to climb, the peaks you have yet to reach. Congratulations, and here’s to 39 more years.
While many in this country are shivering in the coldest of storms, a polar vortex bringing travel to a halt, we are driving back to Utah from a state where the sun still shines. I spent the last three weeks in California, the golden state where I was born, the one that in my heart will always be my home. What a trip, what a journey, and what a swirling of emotions, the last few weeks have been. With more than a hundred friends and family members, on January 3rd we exchanged our wedding vows and danced late into the night. Our joy was even deeper thinking that when we got back to Utah our marriage would also be recognized.
The smoggy hateful skies had parted there and the light of love was shining brightly. We felt the excitement from afar. We imagined all the weddings I would have done outside the courthouse, and seeing in person the tears of gladness falling down the cheeks of lovers old and young. But there would be time to celebrate, we thought. Time to officiate at more weddings. It seemed that justice had finally come.
Then, just as our car was almost packed, justice was so quickly snatched away. The vortex of hate blanketed Utah again.
When the court case on Utah’s Amendment 3 was first pending, and the state began to make its case, I wrote a poem called Rage
A few lines were:
“Shall I burn
Down your temples
And set fire to your lies?”
I feel some of that same rage today. I also feel disappointed that we missed the celebrations, and will return only to share the grief and the pain. I also know, as Unitarian minister Theodore Parker said, that the arc of the universe bends toward justice. I hate that the arc is such a long one. Parker worked to end slavery but racism still thrives more than a hundred years later. I also know that love, in the end, is so much stronger than hate. I know that faith can be greater than fear. I do know that the snow will eventually melt and the sun will shine again. In the meantime, we will just have to keep each other warm.
To my Mormon Cousins:
If it made you happy
If it kept you strong
I would smile for you
And bless your journey
If you found the one
Whose soul met yours
In the ancient dance of bliss
I’d just have to cheer you on.
She makes me happy
She keeps me strong
We sing a sacred song
I don’t need your temples
Your bishops or your priests
I have my own
With folks that love me
With folks that care
A God that is all love
I don’t need you
To cheer me on.
I don’t need your blessing
I have my own
You can’t rain on my parade
But don’t take my money
To try and prove
Your way is somehow better
Than my own
If you try to outlaw my love
Your own heart will shrivel
And your God will look away
Embarrassed by your coldness
Your hubris and your fear.
Your temple it will fall
Crushed by weight of the wrong
That you have done to others.
Let love in before your faith
Turns to ashes in the wind.