imagine this

December 6, 2009

I wasn’t sure if he would notice, or, if he did, what he would think. We moved from room to room talking about windows. He’d measure. I’d discuss trim. The house was quiet, the homeowners away. Old friends but new clients, and this was only my second time in their home.

We’re like doctors, we carpenters, contractors, tradespeople. Visiting doctors, making house calls. We notice things, details. We don’t mean to. It’s all incidental, accidental. We’re not voyeurs. But we see things. How people live, in their homes, their stuff and how they arrange it, or don’t arrange it. Their books, the bottles in the recycling, their choice of dishes, the decor in the bathroom. You almost always have to use the bathroom on a job.

We see busyness. Stillness. Evidence of life, of passion, commitment, sometimes of struggle. Of quiet, contentment. It’s all there, on the walls, on the refrigerator, the floor, the kitchen counter, like DNA. Photographs of happy children. Pencil marks with dates and names on a door jamb, records of growth. A house full of cats, strays taken in by an animal lover/advocate. A house full of cookbooks with food all over the kitchen. A house on a lonely hill with a wall draped with South Asian musical instruments. A funky old hippie cabin with narrow walkways between piles of electronics gear.

People are fascinating, and fascinated, and preoccupied and busy, engaged in their lives, creating their own peculiar normalcies. If you ask questions they will teach you things: about strays and ferals, and the difference between them, about mandolins, and yoga and downward-facing-dog, about water chemistry in Bangladesh, a relative who died in the Holocaust, mysticism, parenthood, death, love, recipes. We’re amazing beings, truly, and the gifts and knowledge we have to offer each other are great and precious.

He finished measuring. The windows were all one size except for the one in the master bathroom. It was a straightforward order. Our business was done. He hadn’t picked up on anything, hadn’t commented. I had said nothing, except about the trim.

There is an interesting detail about this home, one that stands out a bit in this day and age. For better or worse. A detail that is commonplace for some people, terribly controversial for some other people. I was just there to replace windows, not to remark on controversies, or gossip, or sermonize, but I can’t stop my brain, and I’m always thinking, and wondering, and judging — what would he think if he had noticed the Hers and Hers towels in the master bathroom? maybe he did notice but didn’t say anything? or the wedding photo on the wall? the photos of them with their two beautiful children? What does he think of same-sex marriage? same-sex parenthood? Would that tax his imagination? It has certainly taxed mine. Any form of parenthood is pretty taxing. Is imagination the problem? Our lack of it? our ability/inability to imagine a life different from our own?

The root of imagine is the same as that of image, obviously, but also imitate. To create a picture in one’s mind, an image, of something in the world. The root basically means likeness, copy. To make a copy of something. Think of graven images, wooden statues of gods, think of the Jewish and Christian idea that human beings are made ‘in the image’ of God, that we’re little God-copies. But imagine has also come to mean something more, not just to copy, but to think a new thought, to see, in the mind or heart, something that does not yet exist in the world. Is same sex marriage such a new thing? Or is it merely a new recognition of a very old thing?

What is it like to grow up, to be a child of same-sex parents? (Ask someone who knows.) What is it like to be a gay child of heterosexual parents? (Ask someone who knows.) Is the same-sexness really the issue? Or is it the nurture? the love? the parenting? It’s a big step for some folks, to accept the integrity, health, the normalcy, of same sex couples. It is a bigger step to accept the goodness of same-sex parenthood. Or so I imagine. It touches so many nerves. Taboos. Fears. And two millennia of condemnation from Christian authorities who nonetheless worship God as a trinity of two hyper-close male figures (Father and Son) and a third (the Holy Spirit) of indeterminate gender.

All I’m doing is ordering windows but my mind is racing with these thoughts when he pauses and looks into the living room. He has seen something and changes the subject. “I guess it’s obvious who runs this household,” he observed. The living room was filled – neatly, but filled – with long fat flexible tubes that a child might crawl through, a gigantic soft giraffe that almost touched the ceiling, and forts and spaces draped with cloth where a child might nest. “What?” I answered. “This house,”he said, “the children, they have the run of the house.” “Yes,” I said, “I’ve met them, they’re very happy children, with loving, doting parents.”


4 Responses to “imagine this”

  1. SK Werner Says:

    This is a beautiful essay, I truly enjoyed reading it. I love the combination of the words, “peculiar normalcies,” because, what is normal? Normal to me is sure not normal to anyone else! People ARE fascinating, and have a wealth to share. I love people, and am happy whenever I make a new friend. I made another friend in the Netherlands through a common enjoyment of a singer in Norway. BTW, I put a link to your site on my LiveJournal account. Thanks for sharing this essay!

  2. Dan Wetmore Says:

    Thanks for your kind thoughts!


  3. jo Says:

    Isn’t parenting and growing children a joy, priviledge, and testiment to the imagination. Thsi is a beautiful set of imaginations that have come true for this couple and therefore for all of us.

    thanks Dan for such a wonderful imagination!

    love your wifey!

  4. Dan Wetmore Says:

    And thank you honey for both your imagination and vision!

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