We hijacked the television from the children on Monday so that we could all watch the inauguration. It was not a choice, much to the boys’ dismay. After a few tongue clicks and throaty exhales, they seemed open enough to the idea of watching something other than animation or a reality show. When I say reality show, I’m not talking about the Shahs of Sunset as fascinating as I am by Persian Jews who definitely did not grow up singing the same Jewish camp songs I did. I speak of a more wholesome programming.
Asher watches cooking shows with Gabriella. He loves the competitive angle of Sweet Genius and Chopped. He has taught his brother how to critique the food I serve him with a wide range of negative comments. “I think the spice overpowers the dish.” “The chewy texture of this steak might mean that it’s overcooked.” I guess that’s better than, “Yuck!”
On Monday, however, the only programming we sanctioned was the inauguration.
Mom: Here we are, boys. Watching history together. The 2nd inauguration an African American president, President Barack Obama.
Asher: Ok. Can I just play on the iPad now?
Levi leaned in to whisper in my ear. I’m really interested in history now. Tell Mommy I said that. Levi is the ass-kisser of the family. He knows exactly when to offer a sweet comment to juxtapose his curmudgeon of a brother. Well played, Levi. Well played.
Mom: Don’t you want to watch the rest of the ceremony, Asher? There are a lot of famous people who have come to celebrate the president. Look at this guy. That’s James Taylor. He’s a famous singer.
Asher: He’s old.
Mom: Yes, well he’s been famous for a very long time. …because he’s a wonderful singer and songwriter, and everyone knows his music.
He’s really good, added Levi.
Asher: So, now that Barack Obama is president, can you guys get married?
Mom: Not yet. The president isn’t the only one who decides, but his opinion matters a lot. There are still a lot of people who don’t want two men or two women to get married.
Asher: That’s weird.
Asher: Who’s that?
Mom: Kelly Clarkson. She’s a singer, too.
Asher: Hey, I know that song! She’s got a great voice!
Mommy: Aretha Franklin sang that song for President Obama last time. Now THAT was something.
The generational chasm expands exponentially it seems during moments like these. Eventually, the canyon will be so vast that we’ll have to squint to see each other waving from the other side. I suppose I should feel old and irrelevant as a result. Instead, I’m so very grateful. I’m grateful for what this next generation sees as their reality – not so much the Kelly Clarkson as iconic singer or technological advances that allow for online shopping, programming on demand or stalking with the iPhone app Find Friends. Instead, I see that equal rights sit at the beginning of their historical awareness.
When Gabriella and I talk about our beginnings, our stage is set with words like closeted, invisible, unaccepted, financially disadvantaged, unprotected, feared, hated, unequal. Now, our middle age present will one day be their distant past, and inequality will be as fuzzy for them as manually rolling down the car window is for us. And perhaps they will witness an historic inauguration with their own children and field the question, “Kelly who?”