Yup, that’s the title of this month’s column. A number of things probably popped into your head. Maybe bubble bath, bubble butt or bubble gum, specifically Bubbliscious. Maybe the word brought to mind champagne or songs such as Lawrence Welk’s “Bubbles in the Wine,” of Don Ho singing “Tiny Bubbles.” (You may need to Google Mr. Welk and Mr. Ho.)
Those are all good answers, but they are not the theme of this missive (although readership would probably soar with an article about bubble butts). This one is about a man given the name “Bubbles” and the little girl who changed it. More than that, it’s about this amazing bubble in which we live—seen through the eyes of a child.
It is often said that no one who currently lives in San Francisco was actually born here. It’s true that most residents are from places flung far and wide across the planet. This story is about someone who was, indeed, born here. For a moment, put yourself in her shoes, small as they are, and just imagine how your own life would be had you had anything akin to the first six years of Miss Clara Skye. There are lessons to be learned.
On November 28, 2010, a bouncing, bubbly baby girl was born at UCSF Parnassus. She spent the first day of her life in a room with a breathtaking, expansive view of the Golden Gate Bridge! She has never lost her fascination with that bridge. This week, she starts Kindergarten right here in San Francisco. Those six formative years were filled with wonder, as you will soon see.
Allow me to digress a moment. When my daughter became “great with child,” she decided that I couldn’t possibly be Papaw or Peepaw. She decided on Bubbles! Seriously. Bubbles. As Clara grew into her toddlerhood, try as she might, Bubbles just wasn’t going to happen. Thus, I am now proudly known as “Bop Bop.” I dodged the “Bubbles” bullet. Because of the repetition, my husband is Dan Dan to Clara.
I offer a brief highlight reel of Clara’s San Francisco. It may be yours as well. At least the lessons therein.
At seven months, Clara attended her first SF Gay Pride Parade! She began marching at the age of three.
She has spent every Easter with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and the Hunky Jesus Contest.
Her favorite television star is not Dora the Explorer, but RuPaul.
Christmas Eve is spent at church, of course. The church is better known as the Castro Theatre, where she listens to Bop Bop’s choir.
She was the flower girl at her Granddads’ wedding.
She helped her father and Granddads buy stilettos, makeup and stuff their bras with birdseed in order to raise money for the SFGMC scholarship fund! Her assistance was invaluable in the creation of the D’Lish Triplets. She learned it from watching RuPaul!
Her favorite color is the Rainbow Flag. She insisted on dressing as a rainbow this past Halloween.
Her day care was filled with children from every continent. She has no clue that they are not all the same. She is completely colorblind to the world.
She looks at the homeless with compassion and empathy, not disdain.
She lives one block from Golden Gate Park and thinks of it as a “backyard with museums.” Her backyard.
Needless to say, none of that would have happened had her parents and Bop Bop stayed in Dallas. It wouldn’t have happened had her Dad, a brilliant physician and oncology researcher, and Mom, a pediatric oncology nurse, accepted the offers they have had in cities that provided more compensation, but less magic, for Clara.
What would life have been like for that same six-year-old in Dallas, or Cincinnati or Atlanta? Fewer drag queens (including her Father!), no Sisters, a different Easter Jesus, less green (more malls), less diversity, less gay pride, less gay chorus, less Rainbow Flag, less gay in general. And definitely less fabulosity!
How lucky is she? Lucky beyond words, actually. And so are we!
Now, don’t get me wrong; Clara is a typical little girl in many ways. She loved Frozen more than life itself. (Bop Bop is ready to “Let It Go.”) She loves her menagerie of pets. She loves her family and understands that it extends far, far beyond her nuclear family. As our friend Armistead Maupin says, she loves both her biological and logical families equally.
What she did not learn is the narrowly defined existence many of us had foisted on us. She did not grow up with a sense or fear of “other” or “different.” There will be no artificial, arbitrary boundaries because someone does not look like her, talk like her, pray like her or have the luxuries of life she enjoys. She will continue to grow up without bigotry, religious constraints or judgments.
She’s just Clara. Just like Rice-A-Roni, a San Francisco treat! My little San Francisco treat. We plan to celebrate the completion of her first week of Kindergarten right back at her church (Castro Theatre) with the sing-along Little Mermaid.
She will no doubt grow to be a magnificent woman with the indelible imprint of this fabulous city and environment firmly stamped on her very soul.
Please join me, on this first day of Clara’s Kindergarten, in raising a glass of non-alcoholic bubbly in honor of our amazing city, all of its lucky children and the lucky adults who share in it.
May the lessons we learn from the children be ones that we carry throughout our lives. May we now honor and embrace those lessons, even if they took 60+ years to learn. May we walk through our streets with a smile on our faces, savoring our city and delighting in its eccentricities. There is no place on earth like this, especially as seen through eyes wide with wonder, the eyes of Clara Skye.
Dr. Tim Seelig is the Artistic Director of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.