A Brave New Domestic World
Despite the medical setbacks and pressures of parenting, their careers moved forward at a steady rate. Gail adjusted to the rigors of her position at Northwestern, and Columbia College Chicago solidified as a place for Deb to learn and grow as an artist while shepherding along the next generation. Any reticence at fulfilling to the role of professor faded away. She began as a guest lecturer on leather culture for Queer studies classes. Gail joined in as well, and they explained the scene to small roomfuls of slightly incredulous but deeply interested students.
Their involvement in the leather community at the time had reached an all-time low. In the process of baby-proofing their home, they took down a lot of their gear and equipment. They replaced their floggers and edgy art work with children’s films and family photos. Nearly all of their time was devoted to coaxing and encouraging their little girl to grow in mind and body.
For birthdays, they continued an old Celtic tradition from Gail’s family of buttering the person’s nose. It’s said that the grease makes the person too slippery for bad luck to catch them, and that seemed to be the case for Mollie. They enrolled her in dance class, briefly, but her hatred of the tights and following orders from the instructor was so great that it didn’t last long.
Mollie showed early signs of delighting in feminine things. The color pink became her favorite, although she also enjoyed a more gothic combination of black, skulls, and roses. Gail thoroughly indulged Mollie’s femininity, but Deb vehemently refrained. As Mollie grew a bit older, when Deb would complain about being asked to do something that would greatly impact her butch credibility, Mollie would ever-so-patiently explain to her parent that she “just isn’t a girly girl.” Then Mollie and Gail would go about their merry way.
The couple began including Mollie in their annual discussions with the Queer studies classes at Columbia. Their little girl took to speaking in front of people, and answered any questions directed at her with gusto. Growing up and coming to terms with their sexuality and how they would fit into straight society was not an easy journey for either of them, and they wanted to do anything they could to reach out to the younger generation. By sharing their stories as openly and honestly as possible, they hoped to offer hope, but with no illusions about how difficult building a life could be. They pair are unabashedly human, whether lesbian, Pagan, or kinky, and they wanted to express that it was that humanity that superseded all other descriptors. The students in the class were awed by the family they saw in front of them. For many LGBT students, having a family seemed antithetical to the gay experience, and the love Lewis-Fowler family shared opened their eyes to whole new realm of possibilities for themselves.
In late December of 2008, they went on a New Year’s Disney Cruise to the Caribbean. Deb reluctantly agreed to go, assuming Gail and Mollie would traipse off to engage in “princess” activities, and she could stay in their room and write. It turned out to be a lovely vacation for all. The ship had an area for children to stay during the day with a wealth of activities that would set their imaginations alight.
At first the pair felt bad for seemingly abandoning Mollie while they enjoyed drinks and food and the ocean. They checked the beeper given to them in case of emergency often, but their concerns were assuaged when they went to check on her during lunch the first day. “She was like ‘Why are you even here?’” Deb recalls. Wanting to do anything but leave, Mollie took matters into her own hands when they would come to pick her up in the evenings. “I had to find her because she would see us coming and hide. And then I would carry her out kicking and screaming, and I’m like, ‘Honey you have to sleep so you can come back tomorrow after breakfast.’”
When midnight came on the 31st, they lounged on the deck of the ship watching a fire works display put together by the crew and enjoying each other’s company with mammoth cocktails while kids played around them Mickey Mouse light sabers.
Shortly before their vacation, Deb’s father was diagnosed with bladder cancer. As 2009 progressed, his condition worsened, and Deb began spending more and more time in Marseilles helping her mother care for him. In July of that year, a catastrophe of a different kind threatened the very foundation of their family.