My new home was a wonderland. It sat on a hill over looking a valley nested in fragrant pine and eucalyptus trees. The neighborhood was rural; the street twisted and turned sprinkling houses here and there as you rose to the top. There were no street lights, no airplanes flying overhead and you could barely hear whether your neighbors were home. The yards were well manicured with California Native flowers and shrubs. The backdrop for this neighborhood was a private school for girls on the other side of the hill and a water shed that cradled the valley. Wild animals could be heard and seen, creeks gurgled, blackberry bushes fenced the creeks and the woods that framed this scene seemed never ending. For a child that had never really seen so much life from living in a concrete cave this was something straight out of a fairy tale. Deers, birds, bob cats, vultures, wild turkey, lizards, frogs…all new to me and all spectacular.
The neighborhood families all had children of various ages. Next door to me was my first friend. He was not as frightened of people as I was, but he was most definitely shy. One year my senior and with a set of monkey bars in his yard, he was my new mate. His thick black hair always attempting to wisp over his peering blue eyes revealed a boy who was kind and curious. Jason’s yellow house was a play ground to me. It has something I had never seen before: 2 floors. I wanted to run and up and down the stairs all day long, but being the 4 year old boy he was more interested in all things outside. His mother had a gravely voice that you could hear from any radius of his home; the woman could project her calls what seems miles. We had no doubts when she was calling us back to her kitchen and there was no hesitation to begin moving toward it when the beacon was sent out. His father seemed to be a shy timid man. He was usually working but when he was not he seemed in constant contemplation. It was Jason who introduced me to the other children in the neighborhood. My across the street neighbors Ellen, also one year older, and her older brother Chad who would become my first crush. Down the street were Doug and Mark who I never was very sure about. They were awkward suspicious boys. And, around the bend was Helen who would become a life long friend who I would lose track of and pick up again throughout my life. Jason and I walked to people’s homes, creek walked for hours and would study plant life while he would tell me stories of where this plant came from. Jason taught me to fly kites and not be afraid of the nature around me. A boy scout in the making he was adventurous and a small gentleman never allowing me to get hurt in any of our quests in the woods and creeks.
While it was never said it was known to me at a very early age my family was different and my family had secrets. The neighborhood children were not invited over to my house; my dad would always ask if I could go over to theirs for a few hours during the week while he sought out day care for me. I never questioned this being eager to please and terrified of being left again. The neighborhood parents also never asked if their children could come to my house. I have no doubt that there were suspicions of my parent’s gayness and I have no doubt that despite the progressiveness of Marin County the stereotype of homosexuals being perverts was prominent in parents minds. This is despite my yard having a pool and large enclosed yard to play in. This is despite me being a spoiled princess with more toys than I could possibly ever play with. But, this was the way it was due to the times and the mentality of most parents.
Oliver worked in San Francisco in the insurance industry. A white collar conservative and consistent industry that appealed to Oliver’s love of study and steady. The year was 1979 and it was still a time where a gay man could be fired if he was outed. Recall that this was the year after Proposition 6 was defeated. A politician from Orange County asked California to vote on banning any suspected gay teachers from educating children in California. This proposition also sought to out people who supported gay rights and ban then from public service as well. Although Proposition 6 failed there remained a reticent hurt and fear. More importantly, there were no anti discrimination laws protecting gay people from being fired just simply for being gay. Oliver was putting on a front with his employer. My dad could not be known to them and because Oliver’s home was more than an hour from the Financial District there was little threat of someone stopping by. This was a blessing because life at home was unsettling for all of us.
The biggest fear in our household was me. I was not warming up to Oliver and in fact I would neither speak to him nor look at him. Oliver’s hopes of having a family rested on my little heart opening up. 6 months had passed and there was no sign of this happening. I was a picky eater, I only wanted to be around my daddy and I refused to sleep by myself. Not exactly the situation described by the psychic Oliver had been counseled by so many years ago. My dad must have sensed that my love would be the glue to the relationship because he tried everything to help me warm up. To his dismay nothing was working. A trip to Golden Gate Park proved to be overwhelming for me and embarrassing for Oliver. I cried the entire time overcome by how many people were around us. I was weight in my dad’s arm who attempted to find relief for his arms in passing me along to Oliver but my protest quashed any success of that endeavor. Oliver tried cooking for me but I would not eat anything that was handed to me by him. He tried reading to me but I cried when he would enter my room without my dad. I was, to put it mildly, an impossible child.
A year passed and as Oliver frequently did, he went on a much needed business trip. He traveled at least 3 days per month for work, My dad and I would drive him to the airport and retrieve him from his returning flight. This trip was particularly special for Oliver. He contemplated his relationship, the lack of relationship with me and what effect this was having on everyone involved. He wondered if maybe this was not going to work. He felt he may have to break things off when he returned home. As he walked through the gate he saw my dad’s curly hair towering above all of the anxious greeters waiting for their loved ones. I was there too nestled in between my dad’s legs circling in and out of them as he stood waiting. I heard my dad say “Oh! There he is!” I looked up and saw my dad’s love smile. My head turned towards the object of his affection and I ran. I ran not away from Oliver but to him. He dropped his carry-on to the floor and with shock opened his arms as he bent down to my height. I put my arms around his neck and hugged him tight. I had missed him. My dad peered on with confusion and mixed elation. Oliver stayed knelt down until I had put my little body so close to his that he could pick me up with one arm. He kissed my cheek, looked at my dad and carried me back to the car. I insisted on sitting in the middle of them cuddled up to Oliver the entire two hour ride home. My dad did not know it, but I had just saved their relationship.