We never intended to be the pot stirrers of our neighborhood. Unless it’s a Potluck or a get-together, we keep our stirring spoons at home and pretty much just live our own lives. Certainly, we weren’t planning on starting any controversy among our new neighborhood. This was the first time we were allowed as a lesbian family to live in military housing, and I was trying really hard to watch my P’s and Q’s . (the Q’s were much more rambunctious!)
Our Military home in Monterey was bright and spacious, in contrast to the tiny shoebox of an apartment we lived in for 2 ½ years. Due to the recent acknowledgment of gay and lesbian spouses by the DOD on Sept. 3rd, 2013, we were finally able to acquire benefits and live in housing like real people. Looking out onto this well-manicured and secured neighborhood, brought a sense of belonging to this community. This was indeed our “movin’ on up!” moment.
Over the months, we made friends, said “Hi” to neighbors, attended raucous backyard BBQ and karaoke parties, and took our daughter to the community pool almost every day we could.
December came and we were rather slow at getting up the gumption to decorate for the Winter Holidays. We were, admittedly, “holiday slackers”. While some Pinterest enthusiasts in our neighborhood love to decorate as early as our local CVS with Christmas in July, my internal holiday alarm will hit the snooze button repeatedly until the next holiday’s approach sounds its apocalyptic bugle for “last call” for us to rally.
It came as quite a shock really when I went outside to get the mail in mid-December and noticed a sign on our porch. At first glance, I thought it was a NEX holiday flyer or something from Fleet and Family. The card stock was “patriotic” and picked out with the utmost attention to primary colors. In bold, emblazoned across the top in threat-alert Red was the word PLEASE! Followed by the following message:
“Stop displaying my national flag is if it is merely a rag wrapped around a stick! It is disgraceful! Yours has been fouled up like that for months!
Also, Halloween decorations (Jack-O-Lanterns) were supposed to have been removed no later than 2 weeks after Oct. 31st. THANK YOU!”
Living on a corner had afforded us two luxuries; a front row seat to all foot and car traffic that passed our house on the way to school as well as the seasonal winds that kick up in November and settle down after April. Apparently, we were not as stealthy as we thought. At first, I was embarrassed, thinking “We need to get our act together. Obviously, everyone else must be hiding their children from glancing at our slacker squash and furled up flag!”
I decided to take the dog for a walk to air out my thoughts about the time and attention to their anger it took this stranger in creating such personalized hate. It was during my walk, I noticed we weren’t the only delinquents of dilly-dallying on décor. We were also far from the only neighbors who had our flag occasionally wrapped around like a “rag on a stick”, and yet I saw no notes to anyone else who seemed to be breaking the rules. It was something else.
Perhaps it started back when we moved in and we placed our Rainbow flag out during June. Perhaps someone saw us holding hands. Perhaps someone saw me kissing my wife on her way in the door like so many other people do. All my insecurities began to wind around me like red ribbons around a candy cane, threatening to choke out all the wonderful memories we had accrued over the months.
While we tried to “belong” in the way that this Porch Patriot was demanding, the underlying current to their attack was You don’t belong here. We don’t want your kind among us.
First I was shocked, then embarrassed. And then, I remembered that my better half and I have a way of dealing with just these kinds of shenanigans. I knew just what we were going to do!
We snatched up our pestiferous pumpkins and brought them inside. While I seized our art suitcase and paints, my wife and I got to work googling images to create the most illustrious holiday decorations that would melt any Grinch’s cold dead heart.
Our new and Holiday improved pumpkins were returned to the porch, along with our own note, attached to the door. Finally, we exchanged our furled up American flag with our Rainbow flag and posted it firmly in its holder.
I also reported this to our local neighborhood Facebook group and added our improvements to let any other Porch patriots know we would not be going away quietly and that they had instead awakened the sleeping Gorgon of Glitter. I wasn’t sure what I expected, but we went to bed satisfied we didn’t lash out in anger in our response but made it fun instead.
About a week later, we received a note on our door. This time, a hand-written note with sincerity and compassion. “Dear Neighbor, we are so sorry someone bullied you and wrote you that nasty note. We love your pumpkins and in solidarity, we are leaving our pumpkin out too! Not all of us are mean.” These caring and compassionate neighbors not only left their pumpkin out but painted it blue with a pink equals sign on it! Later, they bought a package of rainbow flags to display, after a bigoted neighbor made a homophobic comment. We ended up re-gifting four of these flags to other neighbors and kept one.
As the rest of December rolled by, we received so many smiles and compliments from children passing by and other neighbors, we sort of let it go to our heads. My wife had the idea to make the pumpkins last through as many holidays as we could.
So, for Valentines, we had Valentine’s pumpkins, and for March we had a St. Patty’s day pumpkin. Mine caught a case of the mold, but my wife kept up with hers. We planned on re-painting the same pumpkin for Pride, but our sweet pumpkins had seen better days and their magic had already worked wonders.
Months later, we were known as the couple “with the awesome pumpkins!” and when we sadly had to pack up and PCS to our next destination, we realized how many friends we had made in that neighborhood. Cinderella may have gotten a coach ride to the ball out of hers, but our Pumpkin brought us solidarity and friendships everlasting.
Fast forward to this most recent train wreck of an election. It has been indeed a devastating blow to the LGBT community, as each new cabinet post threatens to put one more anti-LGBTQ “Porch Patriot” into a position to wreak havoc on our families and our futures for decades to come.
I felt the same insecurities begin to rear their ugly heads. There are many different Americans that are directly threatened and impacted by the latest election and there are unfortunately many “porch patriots” who seek to steal or control our happiness.
We cannot and will not shrink silently away. We will come out boldly from the best parts of ourselves and ally with others, because what a Porch Patriot wants is for you to feel isolated and that the whole world is against you. We will not believe them! We will not keep silent and bear witness to another’s pain or humiliation. I’m asking you, my neighbor allies, to continue to stand in love, keeping our sense of humor, and raising each other up into the light.
This story is dedicated to the Potters.