With the closing of Target in Canada looming over our capitalistic hearts, my husband Derek and I loaded the twins in the car in search of good deals. It’s never easy shopping with kids but this was our opportunity to load up with 2-for-1 deals and 50%-offs to our hearts’ content.
When we walked into Target, already crawling with people, we each grabbed a shopping cart, buckled in the kids and split up in search of everything and anything we desired.
I weaved though the aisles, some empty with objects displaced apocalyptically on the shelves while others were still pristinely stocked as if the invasion of shoppers hadn’t arrived yet. There were people pulling two carts at a time; their feet shuffling against the linoleum floor behind them. There were gaggles of kids picking the dollar bins clean and the familiar sound of fussy toddlers. There was noise and the blur of red shopping carts darting in and out of departments everywhere.
But there, in the middle of my shopper’s daze, hanging immaculately was a poster of Target interior designer Nate Berkus. (See photo above; photo credit: Ben Fink Shapiro.)
His hair perfectly coiffed, his smile striking, his eyes so blue, so seductive they seemed to whisper, "I love you. Buy my new pouf.”
I looked deeply into those eyes and said, “Nate, don’t leave me; don’t leave Canada. And please can I get a discount on your hand-drawn Geo duvet cover set. I love it, but honestly, way too expensive.”
“The sale isn’t that great, is it?” said a woman pushing a stroller rounding the corner.
Stunned and embarrassed that someone had witnessed my Nate Berkus craziness, I quickly turned to my 3-year-old and said, “Oh, we are looking for deals. Aren’t we, Luna?” I hoped the woman would think I had been talking to my daughter and not to a poster of hunky Nate.
“Hi, Luna. That’s a lovely name,” said the woman. “This is my son, Ryken.”
Effortlessly, we fell into a conversation about our children, community centers, parks, our kids’ eating habits; everything parents talk about. Despite the throngs of shoppers and noise we carved out a space to have a rare adult conversation.
Halfway into our chat Derek came down the aisle with Leo riding in a shopping cart replete with art supplies. From the opposite direction, a woman was pushing a cart full of Target treasures, saying, “Honey, look what I found!”
Could this be, two sets of gay parents meeting coincidentally in front of the linen department under the sultry gaze of Nate Berkus?
“This is my husband,” I said. And she said, “This is my wife.” Suddenly, a connection deeper than a friendly chat between parents surged. It was like finding a long lost friend, unexpectedly, on a crowded street.
We again, fell effortlessly into a conversation about parks we go to, if we knew any other gay parents, eggs donors, sperm donors, and how our families were created. Here we were, two strangers sharing intimate stories in a very non-intimate space. Our spouses and children watched as we talked and talked among the sea of shoppers.
“I need a snack, ” peeped Luna and with that the spell was broken. We returned to our roles as parents. We said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.
As we went about shopping I was hit by the pangs of regret. “Why didn’t we exchange numbers?” I thought. “Why didn’t we plan a play date?” Making friends as an adult is impossible, and accidentally meeting someone who can relate to us as a couple and a family is rare and beautiful and, in my case, missed.
In the wake of Dolce and Gabbana’s thoughtless comments about gay marriage and “synthetic” children, gay families need to be more visible. In the sinister shadow of countless laws that are being passed in the States that allow EMTs to refuse medical attention to gays or give a teacher the right to deny teaching a child of a same-sex couple, gay families need to be more outspoken. And when a law such as the “Sodomite Suppression Act” is proposed in our home state of California, calling for any person who participates in sodomy to “be put to death by bullets to the head,” gay families need to protest, loudly, passionately, unapologetically.
As gay parents venture into uncharted waters carrying our babies in our arms, it’s vital to remember that the LGBT community is a group whose members actively have to seek one another out. We still need to find each other, learn from each other, and support one another.
The four of us made our way to the checkout line; our shopping cart filled to capacity with things that we probably didn’t need. Leo was flipping through a coloring book and Luna was ready to load the conveyor belt. I scanned the crowd searching for Ryken’s moms. The more I searched, the more my heart seemed to agonize over the lost opportunity.
That moment became a lesson: always to make a connection and reach out to parents like us.
But for now, I will delight in the moment when we were parents, just like any other, pushing our children around a store, running into other parents, just like us, buying ordinary thing to furnish our ordinary lives under the watchful eye of Nate Berkus.
And how extraordinary it is to feel that surge of belonging all over again. And how ironic, that as I write this, my news feed pops up informing me that Nate Berkus and his husband Jeremiah Brent became dads today. To that I say, “Welcome!” Welcome to the ordinary life of parenthood in extraordinary times.