Jack Montgomery’s wedding toast: To family

August 2, 2012

Jack Montgomery doesn’t want to see his family as different. Being a father of three and husband feels just right for him. But at his wedding reception last week, after he became that husband and father in the eyes of the law, he gave a moving toast thanking those who made his remarkable family possible.

Here is the toast that he read:

“I want to make a toast to family. Biological families, adopted families, chosen families.

“Kelly and I are somewhat apolitical people. We are fairly private and have never made stump speeches about civil liberties, gay rights, etc. But we have to recognize and thank those that are, because without them our family would still not legally be possible.

“And even though Kelly and I feel like we are just doing what comes as normally, our family makes some people uncomfortable. For others it is an inspiration. And we have to reluctantly accept that our actions and example are influencing people one way or another.

“So yes, two white guys got married and adopted three beautiful black kids. But I want to talk a little bit about what today means and what I have learned leading up to today about family. What happened today. And what didn’t happen.

“I never will forget my last visit with Nona [Kelly’s grandmother]. I think in all my life she was one of the brightest examples of what unconditional love could look like. She could be tough, but from the first time I met her she immediately made me feel like part of the family. She always made me laugh and I really felt like she was a friend and legitimately loved me. We had grown close.

“On the last visit, she was 93 years old and in a hospice care situation. She barely said a few words that visit, as she had a stroke that affected her speech. We showed her pictures of the two foster kids we had recently had in our family that she never knew about, Ja’nease and Ja’naya. She looked through the pictures and made out two hopeful words. ‘For Keeps?’ Sadly for us, they were not, but they helped solidify that Kelly and I wanted to grow our family permanently.

“The second thing she did was something that you think only happens in movies or novels. But she knew in her heart it was our last visit. She knew she would not see her most loved grandson, Kelly, again. And she wanted to give him one last blessing.

“As feeble as she was she picked up my hand, picked up Kelly’s and put them together. And just held our hands there together in an awesome and profound moment that I’m not sure Kelly and I have ever fully been able to describe. That was a wedding. That was a blessing that comes from someplace deep in someone's heart. That was a blessing from God. It was more a wedding than any silly paper license the District of Columbia can provide. It was more than enough.

“But we have more than each other to think about. And for the sake of these kids and our family we want it declared that we are one unit. So if we hit hospital triage with the kids we don’t run into ‘which one of you is the parent.’ So if my Metro car derails, Kelly and the kids are guaranteed certain rights and can in return make certain decisions about me.

“And for whatever legal protections our wedding today gives us, we are thankful to have it. Even more, we are happy that the religious community is broad enough and inclusive enough to help recognize that our family is truly a blessing from God.

“I could probably come up with innumerable stories about moments over the past 16 months — there have been such beautiful moments with us and the kids.

‘The random and utterly pure and truthful ‘I love you’s from the kids at unexpected times. The moments of uncontrollable giggles. The times we’ve been upset and frustrated as a team of five. A worried trip to the doctor here or there. The countless trivial changing of diapers, trying to patiently consequence and teach good behavior, sweeping up Cheerios, drop-offs and pick-ups from school, bedtime stories and changing wet sheets.

“When we saw the look of pride on Cardel’s face when he read his first book just a few weeks ago. When Raine made us giggle and touched our hearts by taking out one of her hair bows and giving it to a horse because she thought it would look pretty in her mane. How thrilled we were the first time Ravyn asked to sit on the potty.

“These are all the things that have made us a family. Just as we felt married long before a marriage certificate; we were parents and a family long before this finalization date.

“Kelly said it best right here in this restaurant. Tomorrow morning, life will go on like any other. One of the kids will wake us up. We’ll lumber downstairs, pour them cereal, and go on like any day. But there is one difference. They are legally our children. They will have our names. There will be no social workers to respond to. We can take them on vacations without filling out paperwork.

“And for that, we are extremely thankful.

“I offer these words as a toast to all families. So we are celebrating on this day when we are legally protected as one family. And tonight I want to say thank you to all of you that are here and many that are not or could not be here. That it is important to recognize that each of you has touched us in some simple way that has made you a part of our family. Some biological. Some chosen. Some adopted. But all Family.

“For listening to us complain. For helping us find babysitters. For helping us find time for our family support by helping in our workplaces. For giving hand-me-down clothes. For teaching us how to do black hair. For taking us out on adults’ nights out. For inviting the kids into your homes. For many small acts that have just made our lives easier, better, happier.

“Cheers!”

— Jack Montgomery

Petula is a columnist for The Washington Post's local team who writes about homeless shelters, gun control, high heels, high school choirs, the politics of parenting, jails, abortion clinics, mayors, modern families, strip clubs and gas prices, among other things.
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