I sit at a diner munching salad and overhear a young boy in the next booth ask, “Dad, can I have some fries and do you see that rainbow flag over there?”

Susan Lebel Young, a retired psychotherapist and mindfulness teacher, is the author of three books. Her latest is “Grandkids as Gurus: Lessons for Grownups.” Learn more at susanlebelyoung.com or email [email protected]

“Yes, Donny, and yes.”

“If I wanted to learn to sew, would that be OK?”

“Sure, why?”

“Well, when I played at Jimmy’s, we read a book about the guy who made the first rainbow flag. Gilbert Baker. When he was young, his father wouldn’t let him sew.”

The daughter quizzes, “Why? And I want fries, too.”

Donny replies, “His dad thought only girls should sew.”

The mom senses a teachable moment, “Susie and Donny, Gilbert’s dad probably had ideas about – ”

Donny erupts and interrupts, “Gilbert’s dad also took Gilbert’s art supplies and ripped his drawings of gowns and costumes.”

Susie shouts, ”What?!”

I know Jimmy’s book, “Sewing the Rainbow,” about a gay boy who loves shimmering sparkle and color, whose father insists he act “like a real boy.”

I scoot closer to hear more. To extend my meal, I order fudge pie.

Donny’s energy presses. “Mom, pass the ketchup, please. The Army drafted Gilbert when he was 18. Soldiers were mean to him. Then someone sent him to San Francisco, where he taught himself to sew and made costumes and banners.” Donny stands. I see the ear-to-ear grin on his face as he points to the flag, “and THEN he sewed the first rainbow flag.”

The mom says, “Oh, Donny, oops, there’s ketchup on your chin. Here are some napkins. What do you know about this flag?”

Donny says, “Not much, but Jimmy’s dads have one flying at their house.”

The dad repeats, “Dads?’”

“Yup, Jimmy has two dads.”

“What are they like?”

“Just like you, Dad; they’re super nice. Mr. Bob plays ball with us – that game you taught us – and Mr. Mike bakes us chocolate chip cookies, yummy like Mom’s.”

Susie says, “Some kids at school say it’s not OK for men to marry men or women to marry women.”

The mom asks, “What do you think about that?”

Donny says, “That was the olden days, right? No one thinks like that anymore, do they? Jimmy has a ton of friends, the same as we do. We all get along great with Jimmy and his dads, and Jimmy loves his dads the same as we love you.”

The dad says, “Mm-hmm.”

I savor another bite of chocolatey-ness, noting that the parents don’t answer the children’s questions. I feel their openness as their children explore beliefs in hearts and minds, theirs and others. The children think out loud as they discover how they see and hold and come to know sexual identity and “difference.”

Susie asks, “Why were the soldiers mean?”

The dad says, “Hard to say. Are kids at school ever mean to you?”

“Yes.”

“Do you know why?”

“Well, sometimes I try hard to explain something, like how I love opera, and they don’t get it. Maybe they tease me because that’s different and they don’t understand.”

The dad says, “Just like that. Maybe that’s why the soldiers were mean. Maybe they didn’t understand Gilbert.”

Leaning to listen, I ponder, “Should I sip decaf to linger longer?”

Donny says, “That makes sense. Can I have dessert?”

I smile at the children’s deeply felt, yet unstated message: “Love is love, isn’t it?” and at the simple truth of “just like us,” which dwells within difference, which lives deeper than difference.

Warmed by the sweet space the parents hold for the kids’ deep-dive curiosity, with heart and belly full, I pay my bill and leave.

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