Before roller derby practice, there was men's hockey on the schedule. I remember the building stank of stale sweat and plastic. It echoed with the jeers and laughter of everyone gearing up. Pablo rolled up to me and explained that I was going to be paired with an experienced skater, who would teach me the basics. I rolled, wobbly and uncertain, in my brand new speed skates, over to the corner. Pablo introduced me to a girl wearing a Care Bear shirt (the green bear!) and a jean skirt. She had short hair tucked behind her ears, sparkling brown eyes, and a grin that stretched across her face. Her name was Dirty T.
I find it infinitely entertaining now, to think about that green Care Bear with a 4-leaf clover displayed proudly on his white tummy - he was the Good Luck bear. Indeed, he brought us more good luck and good fortune than I could imagine.
T and I were eighteen. The only teenagers in the whole league. That night, she taught me to keep my knees bent, complete a T-stop, and how to fall to one knee then stand back up. But in the 13 years since then... she's taught me much more. That night, I made a new friend. She was generous and kind and quick to laugh and encouraging. She offered to pick me up for Wednesday's practice, since those were held elsewhere and it wasn't easy to find. I gladly took her up on it. She still is generous and kind and quick to laugh and encouraging, and I still need help with directions sometimes, but now I get to call her my wife.
In May of 2008, she asked me to marry her. I don't remember if I said "yes", but I do remember the tears from both our cheeks mixing when I wrapped my arms around her and kissed her. We were twenty-one. Three months later, we joined our lives and hearts formally, in a small ceremony at the Laguna Hills county clerk's office. We asked the officiant to skip the ring exchange part, so that we could exchange our vows and rings with one another that evening on the beach, as the sun dove toward the waves of the Pacific. We celebrated with champagne and a barbecue in the cooling sand.
The next morning, we were in a gorgeous little art shop, and the salesperson asked us what we were in town for. "We got married yesterday!" was the enthusiastic reply. It was surreal. The salesperson looked sincerely happy for us. We drove back home that day and celebrated with a huge number of friends and family members that night.
The early years weren't simple. We loved each other; but it often felt like it was the two of us against the world. We fought hard for acceptance. We looked carefully around and filled our lives with people who could love us for who we were, but that bubble felt small sometimes. In a world where you feel that your love is constantly under attack, it's simple to grab onto each other and hold tight. We're both stubborn, hardheaded fighters and we weren't willing to give up.
Over the years, our bubble has grown so much. We're accepted by a larger swath of people. I'm thrilled to tell people, "My homosexuality is the least interesting part of my life," and actually be right. Of course there are still challenges, and there will always be bigoted people, but we've got a huge support system and I know that I can face anything with T's hand in mine. We are extremely fortunate.
Our family has grown in other ways, too. It started with a dog. Then we brought home a cat. Then we fostered some more dogs and cats and upon T's insistence, I grudgingly found them forever homes that weren't our own. I snuck home a rescue horse not too long after we were married (would not recommend) and surprise! She was pregnant. Soon we had a dog, a cat, the rescue mare and her colt, plus my old rodeo gelding.
A year after the colt was born, we became licensed foster parents and welcomed three children into our lives and hearts. After two years of loving children who would never be ours, we decided we were ready for a child who was ours. In 2012, T carried and birthed our daughter E. My heart burst open with the intensity of my love for both of them, and I found that it knit itself back together even larger than it was before. Now we had a whole other human to fight for. We knew that we had a huge responsibility for this little life, not just the regular child-rearing concerns but I stayed awake nights worrying about her future with two mothers. Again, hand in hand in tiny hand, we stood together. Now we were advocates for a person much more important than ourselves.
E grew into a magical, hilarious child. She was more than we ever knew we needed. Yet our family didn't feel complete. We knew we wanted two children. In 2016, I carried and birthed our son, C. Once more, I found myself being broken open and overwhelmed with the intensity of love I felt for not only C, but for our family as a whole. We were more than the sum of our parts. Once again, my heart found all its myriad pieces and stuck itself back together, but now with all the old stitches from before and the new embroidery I pieced it together with, it was larger yet again. As I held our newborn son and our three year old daughter and felt T's arms around all of us, I knew my whole world was contained in that embrace.
We're older now. Turning 32 this year. Together, we've weathered storm after storm. Hand in hand in hand in hand, we are a unit. We are a force to be reckoned with. With an army of love behind us and our hands locked together, we will face what comes our way.
It's not been an easy road. Life will continue to present us with challenges. It can be difficult to maintain a marriage while working and completing grad school and parenting two young children. There may be two children to hold between us, wife, but you are still the cornerstone to my castle. You help me keep my feet on the ground and my speedometer below illegality.
I know that I can face anything, with your hand in mine. This has been the best ten years of my life.
Happy Anniversary, darling.