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.