Ada & Zora
As we shift gears into the full thrust of the holiday season, we acknowledge the pain that this time brings for many – especially for LGBTQ folks for whom home or family may not be places of cheer or refuge. For levity, and with brevity, we’d like to share a few of the first firsts that we experienced together as a couple. They are silly, serious, and attended by the Spirit of joy. It’s our wish that our stories will bring hope in this season made just for that.
1. First Kiss
When we finished our discernment process and started dating, we were on far ends of the U.S., with Ada working in the Southwest and Zora finishing college in New England. After a month of tending a long-distance relationship, we got the chance to see each other.
We were both nervous about how our time together would go. And upon recollection, things were a little more awkward at first than either of us would care to admit.
From the beginning, Ada has been passionate about being a pursuer. She wanted to initiate our first kiss, and much, much later down the road, she wanted to be the one to propose. And so she had planned a first date that centered around a glorious tramway view of the mountains in Ada’s new home.
But that afternoon, the tram refused to run due to high winds, and this really put a damper on Ada’s grand vision of a romantic beginning. There was little else in Ada’s tiny town that signaled, “New Lovers: Kiss Here.” And she stalled and stalled, unsure how to match her dashed plans.
A whole day went by.
On the second night, after a day of small adventures and a homemade meal, we got ready for bed. In her characteristic forthright manner, Zora asked before Ada went to sleep, “So, are you gonna kiss me or not?”
And we kissed, lightly and on the lips. It was pretty cute.
Ada especially felt relieved. It wasn’t as she had planned: a first kiss in her trailer bedroom instead of on a mountaintop overlooking the desert and the city. She had wanted perfection – a curated moment. But in the end, she got to kiss the girl, and that was perfect.
What we learned is that we don’t get perfection. We get finite moments with each other, and what matters is not the perfection of our expression but that we demonstrate love while we have the chance.
2. First Confidants
Zora once had a secret identity: in college, she was the co-founder of The Firework Bandits, known for their wild stunts at Homecoming and other all-school events, and also known for their ability to evade authorities across vast and varied campus terrains.
It was on one such heart-thumping escape that she made her first confidant. She and Thom played it cool on their walk back to campus after another successful fireworks show. They had no better disguise than to hold hands, feigning to be lovers on a leisurely evening stroll. Hoping to curb awkwardness or misconceptions and seeing an opportunity to share with one of her close friends, she blurted out that she was dating Ada. Thom – being Thom – was thrilled that Zora was happy, and he was honored to be entrusted.
And Carrie was Ada’s first confidant. They lived together in a trailer in a small compound. Carrie is fiercely generous and relentlessly compassionate, and she taught Ada how to be a better friend. She was quick to comfort Ada after difficult conversations with parents. And when others in the trailer court asked her well-intentioned questions about Ada’s personal life, she let Ada tell her own story.
When we tied the dating-knot, Ada went home that day and blasted embarrassing love songs. Carrie came home soon after, and they rejoiced together. She had been in Ada’s corner from the beginning. When trials came in the future, she continued on as Ada’s friend and advocate.
What both of us learned, even while we were separated by 3,000 miles, is that it helps in the coming-out process (and life in general) to share your heart with those who will celebrate when you celebrate, mourn when you mourn, and walk with you even when you aren’t sure where you’re going just so you know you’ll be okay.
3. First Getaway
We have always relished the trips we get to take together, big or small. Our last happened just this past weekend: a short trip with stops in Boston and Connecticut. Our first trip hit several Arizona highlights: Glen, Antelope, and the Grand Canyons, and the towns of Flagstaff and Sedona.
Little things went wrong: 40 mph winds threatened our tiny tent, wrong turns added time to ETAs, and a job rejection email came through. And little things went right: snapping selfies with sandstone waves, beer and burgers after a long day, magical fuzzy puppies that chased our car and then licked our faces on the side of a quiet highway. But what we remember most vividly is the joy of togetherness.
The next summer we squeezed in a cross-country road trip. More than one friend offered this subtle warning: a trip like this can make or break a relationship. We laughed it off.
What we’ve learned is that traveling can kindle love. It gives us adventure and intimate time together. It requires a degree of selflessness that is somehow both familiar and new.
Today, a quick getaway helps us recenter and replenish our relationship, even if we’re only camping in a neighboring town or taking a long drive outside of our standard radius. We keep a journal of it all – with Zora outlining the details and Ada providing accompanying illustrations.
4. First Family Visit
A few months after Zora had come out to her family, we made the trip to see her grandparents in Maine – a couple hours north of where we now live.
Ada was nervous. She took out her nose ring in the car. She imagined a dozen worst-case scenarios and talked through them with Zora, who promised that no one wanted a weekend of animosity.
But Zora’s grandparents were kind. Her boisterous, white-bearded grandfather offered Ada the same bear hug he gave Zora. Ada shared long conversations with Nana by the wood stove. No one acted like she wasn’t welcome.
What we learned from this is that sometimes, for LGBTQ folks, things can turn out okay. Sometimes we assume the worst, and sometimes the worst comes true. And sometimes we assume the worst, become our own anxiety, and forget that we are entrusted to the Spirit who fights for us.
5. First Sanctuary
After Ada left the desert, she frequented an Episcopal church in her new town. Zora came to visit one weekend, and they attended the service for the Feast of the Transfiguration, which celebrates Jesus’ ascension into heaven. This was our first time attending an affirming church as a couple. We may have held hands. We may have scooted closer to each other in the pews – comfortable, excited. We can’t remember.
What we do remember is the resplendent finale of the service, when congregants processed down the aisle with banners, rainbow ribbons, and dove-shaped kites, all set to the noise of celebration.
What we do remember is joy: the sense of being wrapped up, individually and together, in the celebration of our faith tradition, of a man who is God and Spirit transfigured and brought into paradise. This was a spark that illuminated the depth and beauty of the Church beyond our own tradition and a God joyful and welcoming beyond our own understanding.