Okay, fine. I’m not actually in sunny Boca Raton, Florida. Yet. I’m in grey, snowy, Thunder Bay, Ontario. Canada (where we spell it “grey”). But I’m writing this post in advance, because I’m not going to bring my computer on vacation.
And boy, I can use a vacation. It’s been a tiring fall, frankly: the usual round of negotiating any family life: kids, activities, work, getting dinner on the table. For reasons I won’t get into here, it has been an emotionally intense semester. Lots of grey days, lots of doctors’ appointments, lots of learning to inhabit the uncomfortable. Everyone’s fine, but a week or so away from home and work and soccer practice, a week or so of dinners out and seeing family and in-house babysitting and – hopefully – stellar beach weather is just what I had in mind.
We’re lucky to get to Florida: my dad and his wife rent a condo for the winter and make it possible, financially and otherwise, for their collective children and grandchildren to visit them there. It’s the fifth time we’ll have made this trip, and I love the idea that my kids are growing up with this sort of family tradition, with memories of their grandparents and swimming for hours and annual visits to the Wakodahatchee Nature Preserve part of their childhood narrative. I’m looking forward to seeing friends and family members that we see only in Florida, to giving my kids a sense of the larger family. I’m looking forward to relaxing.
At the same time, though, parts of going to Florida are distinctly un-relaxing. I think about this as I locate my marriage certificate, print off new power of attorney forms for me and Rachel, find our kids’ birth certificates with both our names on them as parents. For a Canadian queer, officially married going on nine years, it’s jarring to know that we’re going to a place that could very well deny me the right to visit my spouse in the hospital, deny our kids the right to see both their parents in the event — God forbid — that they end up hospitalized. And I know that even if I show the powers that be my marriage license, my power of attorney forms, that they could still deny me those rights. I’m by no means complacent, but you do get used to being treated like an equal citizen in your own country, and it makes me distinctly uncomfortable to cross a border or two and find myself, my family, second-class citizens.
I think about being hospitalized and how grateful I am that our benefits plan covers travel to the United States. I think about the fact that the serious illness would bankrupt so many of the people we encounter in Florida: the un- and underemployed anyone not privileged enough to be insured on somebody else’s plan, all those same-sex partners denied coverage that their heterosexual peers take for granted.
In the wake of Newton, I’m also reminded again that I am going to a place brimming over with guns, that every car we drive by may well have a pistol in its glove compartment, a rifle under the front seat — and not just a plain old rifle, but a semiautomatic one. I imagine holstered guns under the blazers of men walking down the street, in women’s handbags. Every time we drive into the condo complex, we have to stop at the gate and show ID to a uniformed guard carrying a gun.
I’m not used to these things. And I don’t want to get used to them.
Rachel and I occasionally muse about when we will outgrow this trip, about when the kids will get too old to be amused by the pool and the beach and the nature preserves and hot dogs for dinner every night; when my dad and his wife will get too old or too tired to host us as graciously as they do; when the competing demands of that many lives clash and we can’t make it. For the foreseeable future (as in, the next few years), I imagine that we’ll make this trip. Because I do love so many parts of it.
But I am looking forward to a time when I — and so many other people, Canadian, American, queer, het — can finally relax completely in Florida.