Tag Archives: daughters

Proud Mama

29 Jun

The other evening while I was on my knees digging in the garden, a woman riding her bike by our house stopped and circled back. I assumed she was there to admire my colorful flowers, as my “Covid” garden has become quite an attraction for local passersby as of late. Although she seemed familiar to me, with her helmet and sunglasses, I couldn’t place her.

“You’re Jessica—right?” she said, removing her glasses.

I nodded, still unsure of who she was.

She smiled. “My daughter went to elementary school with your son, (dead name)!”  

My shoulders tightened. Up until that moment, I had been relaxed and in my element, enjoying the early evening light with my hands in the soil. I didn’t want to have to stop and explain to this woman—a mere acquaintance from over a decade ago—that my former son was now my daughter. Hearing my daughter’s dead name, let alone saying it aloud, is quite painful for me.

“Oh, hey—hi!” I stammered. “So good to see you!” Before she asked any more questions, I decided to launch into my well-practiced monologue. “Just so you know, my daughter, who now goes by “Cece,” has come out to us as a transgender woman. Until recently, she hid who she really was, and our family is so pleased that she’s now able to live as her true self.” I pointed to the large progressive pride flag we have affixed to the front of our house. It waved at us in the evening breeze.

The woman didn’t bat an eye. “Oh, that’s wonderful!” she exclaimed. “I’m so happy that you’re being supportive. My mom tried really hard to fix me when I was young.”

“Fix you?” I was confused. “What do you mean?”

She looked right into my eyes. “She sent me away to a camp to try to make me straight. It almost worked, too.”

When I knew this woman, she had a husband and two small children. “Wait—you’re no longer married to your husband?”

“Not any more. I’ve been in a relationship with a woman for over ten years. We live just a few blocks over.”

Wow. What a surprise.

We talked for a while—reminiscing about our kids in elementary school and what they’re up to now—the “usual” mom-talk. She told me her daughter was about to have her first baby. I told her about my four daughters, all of whom identify as “queer.” Probably not a conversation we would have all those years ago.

Times are changing—not quickly enough, in my opinion—but it’s moving exponentially faster than it ever has before. My children’s generation is largely responsible for continuing the legacy of those brave people who strived for inclusivity and equal rights all those decades ago.

When people begin to open their minds, society begins to change.

It’s simple, really. We’re all part of a beautiful garden of varieties and colors. Unique and exceptional on our own, but so much more vibrant and beautiful when we are all together.

Happy Pride Month!

The Scent of a Mother

10 May

 

mom holding me at beachWhen I was young, it never occurred to me that my mother would grow old someday. She was just my mom—a pretty woman with soft, shoulder length brown hair and a lovely smile. As far as I was concerned, she would be there forever to take care of me. If I was sick in the middle of the night, she would be there to open up the pull-out couch in the living room and let me lie down with her until I fell asleep. Every day when I returned home from school, there would be a snack set out on the table, complete with a folded cloth napkin. After helping me and my brothers with our homework she would then battle it out with us at the piano where we’d whine and cry until we learned to play the B-flat Major scale—and play it well. All this and she still managed to have dinner on the table every night promptly at 6:30.

 

Back then, I thought she was perfect. I loved the smell of her so much that often when she was out running errands and I felt lonely and afraid, I would sneak into her bedroom, open the top drawer of her dresser where she kept her bras (back then she referred to them as her bureau and her brassieres) just so I could inhale the sweet perfume of her clothing. I’d play with her scarves, try on her jewelry and try to decipher the love letters my dad wrote to her when they were dating. She was a beautiful mystery to me and imagining a life without her made my head spin.

 

My mother pregnant with me.

My mother pregnant with me.

When I hit adolescence and my world turned inward, my mother began to embarrass me with her stretchy polyester pants, orthopedic Dr. Scholls shoes and out-of-date haircut. Even the freckles on her forearms made me cringe. I hated that she drove a weird, foreign car that sounded like female genitalia (‘66 Volvo wagon) when everyone else’s mom drove an American-made car. I hated that my mother was so friendly that just for the heck of it would initiate a conversation with anyone she came in contact with. Once, when we were shopping at Sears, I accused her of being overly talkative with the sales clerk just to embarrass me on purpose.

 

My junior high school girlfriends told me I was lucky to have such a mom—that she was the “cool” type of mom—someone who had absolutely no problem answering their questions about boys and sex. At their urging, she would come into my room, sit on my bed and join the conversation.  On hot summer evenings, she’d let us go skinny dipping in the backyard pool until it was discovered that my brother had assembled the neighborhood boys in the yard of the house next door so they could spy on us through the holes in the fence.

 

Mom in the kitchen.

Mom in the kitchen.

My mother wasn’t the perfect mother—the truth is, there’s no such thing. Yet, in every single childhood memory I carry, my mother’s presence is there, supporting me, cheering me on, and loving me with her unconditional and overflowing love. This has always been my truth and more than anything, I hope that I’ve been able to pass this on to my own children.

 

Today, I think about my mother as I wonder how many more Mother’s Days I’ll have to spend with her—ten, maybe fifteen if I’m lucky. I’m sure that when she gave birth to me, she didn’t stop to think that I would grow up to be an adult and have my own family someday. She certainly didn’t imagine herself approaching eighty years old. She simply held my tiny body against her warm chest, inhaling that sweet, powdery baby smell and marveled at the perfection of me, imagining that I’d stay that way forever.

 

The other day, I saw my youngest daughter in our bedroom, holding my pillow against her face.

“Isa,” I asked, “What are you doing?”

She looked up at me with a sheepish grin on her face. “Just smelling your pillow,” she said.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because it smells like you,” she said.  “And it makes me feel safe.”

 

Mom and Isa posing with a painting done by my friend, Melani Guinn.

Mom and Isa posing with a painting done by my friend, Melani Guinn.