Meet The Herald’s news intern, Ian Davis-Leonard, who spent his summer covering topics as varied as school uniforms, a fireworks ban, a vote on a bridge to the Edmonds waterfront and an old steam engine.
Weeks ago, on Ian’s first day here, an editor introduced him around the office. I had no idea then that I’d met him before — when he was 3.
On Monday, the start of his last week here, Ian stopped by my desk. Quiet and unassuming, he had one of those “you probably don’t remember this” questions. Years ago, he said, I’d written about his family. I didn’t remember, having written thousands of stories.
Then he shared a detail I hadn’t forgotten. “I have two moms,” he said.
Immediately I recalled visiting the Claremont neighborhood home of Betsy Davis and Amy Leonard 17 years ago. We chatted while Leonard held Ian’s 11-month-old brother, Sam, and Ian, 3, played on the floor.
Both 37 at the time, the moms explained that Leonard gave birth to both boys, who were fathered by sperm donors through what was then Swedish Medical Center’s Reproductive Technologies Program.
Ian had known all along about the column I wrote after that visit, published March 24, 2002. His mothers had saved copies. “Gay parents say they’re just a typical family,” the headline said.
With Ian’s help, I reconnected with his moms last week. We talked about their sons, and about societal changes that have brought families headed by same-sex couples from the shadows to the mainstream.
Davis and Leonard didn’t have the opportunity to legally marry. It wasn’t until 2012 that voters passed Referendum 74, allowing same-sex marriage in Washington.
Like many typical families, theirs includes the end of the parents’ union.
“It wasn’t actually divorce, we weren’t married, but the feeling is the same,” said Betsy Davis Currier, now living in Snohomish and married to Tim Currier. “We put parenting first, but we did it differently, from different homes.”
Leonard, who still lives in Everett, said their separation came about a decade ago, when Ian was 12 and Sam was 9. Their parenting plan was arranged through the Dispute Resolution Center, a Volunteers of America mediation program. “Our kids’ interest was our number one priority,” said Leonard, 55.
“I had two loving parents who were engaged in my life. They gave me the best, and would move mountains for me,” Ian said. When not away at college, he splits his time between the two households.
He tends to spend more time with Leonard because it’s “more calm.” He has five step-siblings in Davis Currier’s household.
In that 2002 column, I wrote: “There is one place to raise children, one right place — in a home filled with love and respect.” Clearly, he was raised in such a family. His brother Sam, who graduated from Everett High School in June, will start classes next month at Central Washington University in Ellensburg.
“I think I have awesome kids,” said Davis Currier, a social worker and service coordinator with the Everett Housing Authority. Also a social worker, Leonard works at Virginia Mason Lynnwood Medical Center.
Although strides have been made in LGBTQ rights and pride, Ian said it wasn’t always easy having a family different from most.
He and Sam spent their early school years in the Lighthouse Cooperative, the Everett district’s alternative program at Jefferson Elementary School. “What I liked about that, it was mostly the same kids all of elementary school,” Davis Currier said. “We had to volunteer in the classroom, and they knew us. We didn’t have to hide it.”
“That was an interesting program,” said Leonard, who for a time was the co-op’s chairperson. “There were hippie families and evangelical Christian families. They were really quite accepting.”
Ian’s worries about what peers would think surfaced at Evergreen Middle School. “Very few people in middle school knew I had two moms,” he said. By the time he was at Everett High, he said he was secure in his stance that he wouldn’t want as a friend anyone who’d disapprove of his family.
Ian knows little about his biological father, and hasn’t tried to find out more. “I have two parents who love me,” he said.
Leonard has a favorite memory of her older son, who ended up at basketball powerhouse Gonzaga. In 2008, she and Ian flew to Detroit to see her alma mater, tiny Davidson College of North Carolina, play Kansas in the Elite Eight, the NCAA’s regional final.
Stephen “Steph” Curry, now an NBA superstar with the Golden State Warriors, played for Davidson. “Kansas went on to win the whole thing,” said Leonard. She still remembers Ian’s excitement, and how he made a sign for his fourth-grade teacher hoping it would show up on national TV.
“He was always the kid who wanted to watch ‘SportsCenter,’ and Sam watched cartoons,” Leonard said. “It was a regular old household.”
Leonard sees her sons as “good kids but also normal kids — they have their own little ups and downs.” She’s fascinated “to see what will happen with Ian as he grows.”
With majors in both journalism and public relations, doors will surely be open. Davis Currier believes he’s open to job opportunities wherever they may be. She wouldn’t mind seeing him move far away, but hopes he “ends up coming back.”
“I’m going to miss him,” Leonard said the day before her son left for Spokane. The Herald’s newsroom and readers will miss him, too.
Ian is on track to graduate next May — on Mother’s Day.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.