Tag Archives: A Gay Life The Story

Part 6, Chapter 1

Life was pretty normal for a few years. I was a happy child who was blossoming in school, I was making friends and my parents were madly in love with each other. We took family vacations. I had birthday parties with friends (I will get to one a bit later in this post) and home life was calm. I felt safe. I felt loved. I felt comfortable.

I was just 6 years old so boys were not yet gross but they were nothing I really thought of. They were just boys. First grade felt like my coming out party. My teacher recognized I was a quick learner and she nurtured this. I was reading and completing more book reports than anyone in the class. In retrospect, I realize now my first grade teacher was likely “family” and so I now understand her extra attention to me in class. She would ask me to read out loud, she would praise how smart she thought I was and above all she did not treat me as if I was an outsider. School was something I looked forward to.

I felt comfortable in the first grade, but it was also the start of me learning that I might be a bit different than the other children. This was the year where all of the girls were pressured into joining Brownies. An after school activity that really only meant one thing: we got to sell those damn cookies but saw none of the profits. Brownies was, of course, led by the mothers. Most of the mothers were full time mom’s so these ladies turned Brownies into who’s little girl was the best with the most badges. Some of us were left out of this mess (and by some of us I mean me and the other girls whose mothers worked full time)  and I am thankful for that, but I was the one singled out to be asked “where is your mommy?” by none other than the mommies. It still kinda of angers me the way they would ask me this in front of my peers in the middle of one their mindless activities and I would like to say I can forgive their ignorance, but lets face it they were doing it to make sure their daughters understood I was different; I came from somewhere different and my family was different. It succeeded.

These same nosey mommies would start what would become a vicious cycle of picking me last for every activity when it came to teaming up. And, it was these same mommies who opted their daughters out of my birthday parties. You want to talk about your heart being sunk at a time when Battleship was one of the number one board games. Mine was a prime target for these women. Somehow, I never was invited to these girls birthday parties and they consistently declined by invitations. May I remind you that we were a class of maybe 18 students? You felt the sting even at that age even if you could not name it.

But, alas I did have a great 6th birthday at the child’s dream cave of terrible pizza and frightening mechanical animals, Chuck-E-Cheese. It was awesome. We ate too much, we ran in circles playing those games that spit out tickets for who knows what you can redeem them with and we had a blast. I do not remember any of the events of that day, which is unusual for me, but what I do remember is I felt really happy. Running off a sugar high is really all a child looks forward to on their birthday. I look at the photos from that day and you cannot tell that I have 2 gay parents. You cannot determine that my mother is not here for my birthday (and she did not call either …. a pattern for her). All that you can see is a happy healthy child with other happy healthy children she was happy to call her friends.

I often wonder whether any of the other girls felt left out by these Brownie/Girl Scout mothers. I wonder if they felt they were ostracized for not having the same family these women felt they had. These women would set the tone for a fear I developed when I am around groups of women.  I wonder if these mommies knew the damage they were inflicting on a little girl who was without hers.

Part 5 Chapter 3

Kindergarten came and went as I was starting to feel safe in my new school surroundings and safe with the familiar faces on the play ground. I had just turned 6 years old and it was time for summer vacation and our first real family road trip.

Oliver’s aunt lived in Southern California on the coast in Morro Bay. It was his favorite aunt. Oliver did not have to pretend about anything with Aunt Nena and she loved anyone who loved her favorite nephew. Aunt Nena was excited to meet Oliver’s love and his daughter. The plan was to go to Yosemite, drive down to Morro Bay, take a day trip to Hearst Castle and then the prize …. Disneyland! Disneyland is a 6 year old dream of all dreams! To see Mickey and Minnie en vivo was more than my little temperament could handle. It would prove to be the bargaining chip that would be keep me behaved for most of the trip.

What Oliver and my dad did not have much experience with was the stamina or lack thereof as it relates to a child. Little legs, needing food, nap time, and constant snacks were something you would think after having been around a child for the last 2 years they would have picked up, but they did not and my stubbornness was not something you could calm down once it perked up. It started in Yosemite.

Recall this is 1981 and two men traveling with a 6 year old was not acceptable if they were to present themselves as a couple. At second issue was a fairly new couple still madly in love and wanting to express themselves physically, but had agreed not to express such emotions in front of me. After a very long drive where I insisted on listening to John Denver’s “Rocky Moutain High -iiiiii Colorado” over and over and over again and my dad wanting to listen to the latest George Harrison tune we arrived in Yosemite to our rented cabin. The tree’s were breath taking, the sounds completely new and the smell of pure clean was not something I will ever forget. I was already a small child, but now I felt as if I could get lost amongst all of the plant life.

They unloaded the car, fed me and we went for a short walk. I started running on the trail. I was a newly uncaged animal that had been freed. My dad being the former basketball track star knew he could catch up with me at anytime and Oliver was content with soaking in the scenery. When they caught up to me I was captivated by a squirrel in the tree but more so I was pooped. The next thing I remember was being awoken by a loud roar coming from outside our cabin. My dad peeked out of the window and screamed “Shit! It’s a bear!! What do we do?” Oliver put me in bed between them and said “nothing go back to sleep.”

Morro Bay was our next stop and a favorite stop. They make salt water taffy in Morro Bay and Aunt Nena was prepared to greet me with it. Aunt Nena was wonderful. She was my nap buddy, my eating buddy and she moved at my pace in her walker which I thought was a mini playground just for me. She cooed to me and told me stories about princesses. She told me these were the same stories she used to tell Oliver; princess stories were also his favorite. It was difficult to imagine how we could leave her, but after two days and a very tearful departure on my part we did leave.

Hearst Castle has got to be the most frustrating place for a child. Do you know they have crystal clear pools that you cannot swim in? WTF? It’s a big tease and a terrible thing to do. We had a pool at our house that I could swim in whenever my heart desired, so how are you going to tell me that this one is off limits? I got into a lot of trouble for putting my hand in the water to test out whether it was the right temperature to dive into. Security came rushing over and apparently was going to kick us out. Well, this child was in need of a nap and a snack so as soon as I was scolded the photos ops were out of the question. I insisted on being carried through the rest of the tour AND would NOT turn around for any photos. The conversation went something like this: Honey, turn around for the picture. NO! Honey, please turn around for the picture and smile. I WILL NOT!!  Mickey and Minnie may not want to see you if they hear you have been a bad girl. NO! We have many photos of my burying my face in Oliver or my dad while they have a frustrated smile on their face. Folks, you must carve out nap time when taking a child on a trip. It’s just a must.

Disneyland was the last stop and the best stop. Sugar kept me going at full speed ahead and Mickey and Minnie kept me on my best behavior. Pirates of the Caribbean, The Tea Cups, Dumbo, The Jungle Book characters, it was a child’s complete dream. I wanted to stay forever, but we were kept to just one day. What I sort of noticed at Disneyland was people staring at us. I thought it was unusual that people thought Oliver was my grandfather and that my dad did not correct them. I also recall hearing people ask where my mother was. A small splinter in my heart would open up, but my two dad’s would assure me that Minnie was just around the corner and a sugary treat was sure to follow. Their small way of distracting me and healing the wound as best they could.

Part 4, Chapter 4

“I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.” The first time I heard this phrase was not at daycare but in the first grade of all places. I couldn’t quite understand what I was supposed to be showing or what they had that I needed to see. And, I was not really sure I wanted to.

First grade was a gateway into everything new. We were still on a half day schedule, but we now had titles: First Graders! Now, we were allowed to play on the Big Playground as opposed to our sheltered Kindergarten playground for the little people. We were now on our way to being Big Girls and Big Boys. First grade was framed with my teacher Ms. McElfresh. She was a tiny woman with big red hair and a strict personality. And, I mean like Texas big. She drove a blue 1976 Mustang (how do I know this? The license plate gave it away). She was the first teacher I recall who was actually impressed with me. She would compliment me on my out loud reading skills, my book reports and my demeanor. I, in turn, tried to impress her even more. I checked out books from the library and would read double of what I was supposed to. I wanted to be her favorite. But, this was not to be. There was a dynamic duo who had gained favoritism from kindergarten and this was Amy and Wendy. *Sigh* To a little girl desperately wanting to fit in, they were perfect. Best of friends, perfect clothes, hair, the way they laughed, smart, the lunches they brought to school and they had mothers who were involved in everything. It was impossible to live up to. They ruled the playground and I just could not understand why everyone crowded around them, or why I felt the need to be a sheep and crowd around too. They were always the stars in the school plays and the teachers could not have loved them more.

We were 6 years old. I just want you to picture this in your mind. 6 years old. One day at lunch a group of kids were headed down to the baseball diamond near where the trees lined the fence. It was an area a school yard duty may not see you. I followed with the other little sheep crowding to see what was in the middle. As we moved behind the biggest tree I could see what was going on. A very hollow and familiar pit formed in my stomach; I was uncomfortable and felt something was not right. One little girl, Katlyn, and one little boy, Mark, were in the middle of everyone. They both were giggling at each other and at the audience. One bigger child screamed at them “pull it down!” And they did. They pulled their pants down and showed each other their genitals. Katlyn reached over and poked at Mark’s; Mark reciprocated. I was horrified. I mean horrified! But, I was also very curious and could not look away. The older kid looked at me and said “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.” I looked at him, I looked at my two classmates pulling up their pants and I ran. Somehow something in me knew I would be tagged with an unsavory reputation if I conceded. I ran up the small hill and sat on the tire swing by myself until the recess bell rang. I was cast aside for a few days, but I didn’t care. I even watched the kids continue to go down to the trees everyday while new sheep showed their parts.

It was the first time I recall being cast away from my peers and unfortunately it was something I would have to get used to. I joined Brownies out of pressure from the other girls mothers, but never felt apart of them. I was always more comfortable with the boys, but the boys were beginning to separate themselves from the girls. While I always found someone to pass the school time with I never had a consistent playmate at school except for my imagination. Daycare was different because we had cliques of kids and I was in one of them (probably due to my longstanding relationship with the daycare family). But, school was lonely many times as I fought to believe I was not different that the others.

Now don’t get me wrong. Hidden Valley was a place where I felt accepted. We were still quite young and had almost no filters of society. We did not care how your parents earned money; all we cared about was playing in the yard. Friends were more of a passing that a connection at this age. I relished in being a smart kid; part of the “early bird” group. And, we had our other awkward kids with learning disabilities, suffering abuse in the home, not comfortable with English – we had them all and I felt comfortable with them all. I was like Cher winning her Oscar “You love me, you really love me” … right?

Part 3 Chapter 3

Phone calls from my mother were infrequent. She was in an out of trouble which was not something I understood until I was much older, but what I recall feeling was abandoned. That sick empty feeling when followed by tears leads to the hyperventilation cry. The cry that is uncontrollable and animalistic. It is the feeling that nothing could be worse than that very moment no matter what age you practice it. I do not remember asking where she was or when I would see her, but I can vividly recall the feeling of needing her.

What I would discover 30 years later was that my mother did call. My father played interference until I was about 7 years old with my mother. He would not allow her to speak to me if he suspected she was high. Her tongue was sharp when she was feeling hurt and vulnerable; he did not want to risk this unpredictability when mixed with drugs with his daughter. A meeting was finally planned. My mother was coming to California to visit her little girl. I did not know this would be the last time I would see my mother alive. I was 5 years old and it was the only thing I cared about when I found out she was coming and the days following the short visit.

Oliver and my dad had a lengthy discussion on how this visit would transpire. They did not trust she would not take off with me. They did not trust she would not leave me somewhere while she looked for drugs. So, they told her the three of us would meet in Golden Gate Park. It was a central location, easy for her to find since she was not familiar with the City and sparse enough that they could linger while watching in the shadows. They allowed for a 3 hour visit that was not to leave the park. She decided she could only stay for one day.

Oliver, my dad and I walked through the park. And, then I saw her. It was a dream at first that my eyes needed adjusting to. I looked up at my dad for his approval and for his confirmation. “Go on and see your mother” he said. I ran. I ran fast as I could while her she slowly dropped her purse, knelt down to my height and enveloped me. My 5 year old arms were flung tightly around her neck while she cried.

We walked around a lot. She followed the rules and did not take me out of the park; she did not leave me; she held me as long as her arms would allow. We ate. We played. She chatted with me and she allowed me to feel like a little girl with her mother. I was as happy as I could remember and I did not want her to leave. She took me to get my face painted by a local artist in the park. I picked a rainbow with two clouds; it was very 80’s of me. The time moved by both slow and fast. When you are 5 everything seems to be in slow motion because things are still new. But, there is feeling of activities stopping too soon and my mother was getting ready to leave. I saw Oliver and my dad walk up. My mom told me it was time for her to go. I refused to let her go. A tantrum ensued and I could not breathe I was so upset. She kept telling me it was okay but she was crying too. My intuition though only 5 knew I would never see her again.

When we arrived home I was inconsolable. Actually, I was allowed to sit in the front with my parents because I was so upset and they did not know what to do. Pandora’s box of yearning for my mother had been opened and that emptiness would stay with me for 20 years.

After 3 days my dad finally would not take no for an answer on removing my cheek painted rainbow. I felt like if he washed it off my mother would be removed too. The wash rag stung but not nearly as bad as my heart ached.

Oliver and my father did the right thing in protecting me. My mother did the right thing in letting me go. But, how do you explain all of this to a child. The truth is that you don’t and you hope you provide enough for your child to understand when they get older.

To be continued……………

Part 2 Chapter 3

* Writers note: I beg your pardon as of late. I am feeling, as you may be able to sense, a bit scattered lately and have a lot on my brain to ponder. As a result, the writing is not as focused as I would like. I hope you are enjoying nonetheless 😉

Adjusting to a new life, a new neighborhood and life without my mother was not without it’s challenges. In retrospect my life had just become a lot better and my mother had done one of the most selfless acts one could imagine; she had given me up from her life so that I could have a chance at a  life. Now that I was in California I was also away from the loving support of both my mother’s and my father’s family. I no longer had my Aunt Nita to protect me or my cousins as playmates. My cousin Lea was no longer around to tell me what I should like and not like. I felt lost. Not only did I feel that isolation but I felt my dad’s isolation. When my dad left Washington he left behind a group of friends who no longer accepted him and family who would talk around him (didn’t want to speak on the whole gay thing). My mom in her rage over his departure spoke frequently to the people who had loved him over his unpopular decision to be true to his soul. I was not immune from this discussion.

My dad had located a daycare for me. It was conveniently up the hill from the elementary school I would eventually attend and this daycare had A LOT of kids running around. Jackie’s must have seen like the perfect place for a dad who was trying to give his little girl some kids to play with while also attempting not to draw too much attention to himself from the other parents. This place had constant activity. Jackie had 3 children of her own (one girl and 2 boys), a large front and back yard, plenty of toys and she loved to cook. She turned her 2 son’s bedroom into a nap room that had a built in divider so the boys were able to keep their own space. Only the select few were allowed to enter into the domain of Alan and Matt’s bedroom/Star Wars collectible enterprise. The daycare kids ranged from ages 6 months old to 11 years old. I would say Jackie was doing quite well for herself given she had no permit to run a daycare and believed in punishing her daycare kids in the same manner she punished her own children: screaming and slapping.

It was at this daycare I would meet my oldest friend, my first big crush/heart ache and feel I was a part of something even though I was constantly on the fringe of it. Allegra was about 4 months older than me and at a time in a child’s life where age ranks supreme this was a big deal. It was actually our first conversation and both of still speak of this meeting with great affection. It went something like this: How old are you? I’m 3. How old are you? I’m 3 too. Well, when is your birthday? June. When is yours? February? Which one comes first? I don’t know. Maybe we should wait to see whose birthday comes next and then that person will be older. Ok. Let’s go play on the big wheels. Yeah.

Of course by the time Allegra turned 4 she had already established herself as the leader of the daycare. This girl was tough. She refused to wear pants. She could outplay the boys in any sport. And, she spoke her mind all of the time. No joke, ALL of the time. If you were 5 years older than her, it did not matter. Allegra would tell you what’s what. She had me in constant trouble with Jackie. Here was me a shy, timid and scared of everyone 3 year old who had just befriended a strong willed child who was determined to exhaust her energy daily. Allegra ran everywhere and usually had a soccer ball or baseball with her. Tha girl had energy! She also got me in good with Alan and Matt so that I was allowed to touch (not play) with the Star War’s figures which was as good as hitting the lotto for the time. She was the first friend I looked up to and wanted to do everything she did. Our friendship has spanned 30 plus years and because we are girls has had its ups and downs.

One activity that used to get us into a lot of trouble was making water balloons out of plastic bags left at the school. We would fill them up, locate a twisty tie on the ground (this was before ziplock), shut them off at the top and proceed to throw them at an unsuspecting fellow daycare child patrons. You would then hear from what seemed like miles away “Allegra and friends!!! Get back up here NOW!!!!” Our stomachs would drop. We would ponder our options and then wonder how the heck she knew what we were up to. Deciding between a timeout in the kitchen if we came up now or a red rear end if we came up later, we opted to trek back up the hill (a very very very steep hill) and face the music. Allegra always received the more severe punishment: time out in the kitchen in which she would obstinately kill ants on the kitchen floor with her thumb. I usually was given some sort of verbal scare and sent to another room away from her which was punishment enough.

An event that stands out at Jackie’s, although I could write a book just on my experiences there alone, was when Allegra decided it would be a great idea to use a new word she had overheard the night before. She not only utilized this word in perfect context but directed it Jackie’s punishment towards her. We were undoubtedly doing something we knew we should not be (card board sliding down the hill, hitting up the janitors down at the school for milk boxes, throwing tan bark at birds, Allegra attempting to teach me how to swing on the monkey bars which inevitably ended in me on my rear end) and Jackie was providing her schpeel on why we were such terrible children. Allegra with full confidence looked at Jackie and said “This is BULLSHIT!” I do believe every child in ear shot dropped their jaw in full disbelief. All of us kids took our medicine and did not dare talk back to Jackie. All of us. We were terrified of Jackie and her wooden spoons placing warschock designs on our behinds. Allegra let the gaffe of all gaffe loose! Jackie looked at her. She looked at us. She looked back at Allegra. She smacked Allegra right on the cheek. And ya know what? Allegra did not cry. Talk about the ultimate middle finger right back at cha! The next thing I recall is watching Allegra’s mother hear of the events as they were told by Jackie and then watch Jackie cower to Allegra’s mother. The tongue lashing was unforgettable and I was forever frightened of pissing off Allegra’s mother from that point on.

To Be Continued………