My “real-mom”: a term used in my childhood that now makes me bristle. Yet, I still have not found a way to respectfully differentiate, with proper dignity, the two women in my life who both married my father (at separate times) and both parented me with highly individualized mentoring styles.
In the chapter “What Happened” of my new book, Drama Club, the mother who gave birth to me decides to let me know how the divorce between her and my father played out.
Here is an excerpt:
“She was unpredictable and intense, just like the monsoon rains that flooded the Tucson desert floor: sudden and powerful; unable to ignore; exotic to my Northwestern sensibilities; and absolutely necessary to the ecosystem. I had learned that the panic caused by her sudden lightning strikes and claps of thunder quickly dissipated. After that, I usually enjoyed her unbridled insights into the life of our family. I just needed to let the information pour over me like a warm deluge of Arizona rain.”
This photo shows us sitting on the sofa where the conversation happened. She had given me a perm and I was enjoying the summer heat, oblivious to fact that I was nearly naked.
Why do I write? The question becomes really important now that three copies of my memoir are setting on my parent’s porch. One for mom, one for dad, and one for my sister Candra. A book cover with two boyskissing in front of the Salt Lake City Mormon Temple. All the details I’d hidden from my family during high school – details about love and sex that have been only half-explained over the years are now in print ready for them to peruse.
How will they react? Will it embarrass them, make them proud, or some mixture of each?Since they are in it, I wanted them to see it before the rest of the world starts reading it.
As if the rest of the world is going to read it. There’s that too. More fear. The fear that no one will want to read it.
So why do I write? One word: survival.
It was a solace when I was a teenager and continued through the tough years of my young adulthood. Putting pen to paper (that’s what we did back then) conjuredmagic. The angst inside my heart became lighter as words fell from my pen onto the paper. I felt legitimized and relevant. It was a message in a bottle to a distant future, a place where people were allowed to love who they love and be honored for expressing their passions for art and beauty. The message made it. I’m here. And after a phone call to my parents letting them know the books are waiting for them – even as they drive back from their time working in their local Temple – I know, and more importantly, I feel the unconditional love I had hoped against hope would be found if I just wrote it all down. Let’s hope they feel the same way after they’ve read it.
My tennis shoes edge towards the lip of the granite precipice and my heart races. I feel the sun on my face and a surge of adrenalin in my arms, legs, and chest. My older brother and I have made it to the precipice of the crazy rock formations that create a centerpiece for Vedauwoo National State Park. We smile broadly, without words, into the summer breeze. At 13 and 16 the view before us is something we can only experience. Appreciation will only come decades later. After becoming numb to the beauty of city living, and the long absence of a deceased sibling. But for now, the view is spectacular and the sheer drop, breathtaking.
The Supreme Court of the United States heard Prop 8 arguments yesterday, DOMA is being heard today, and this gay man just confirmed his reservations for a three day trip to Gothenburg, Nebraska. I will consider this trip to the hearland a success if I make it back without my heart being ripped from my chest. A pleasure trip this is not. But it could be interesting. I’m going to play like I’m Jane Goodall. It will be a safari into the natural habitat of the right wing. I’m an out gay leatherman. My mom is cool, so we’ll see how the rest of the family and I get along over Easter and my grandmother’s funeral. The trip will possibly be the last one I make to my birth state. All my other bio family has moved to other states and Nebraska’s other attractions are… well, there aren’t any.
I can’t help but feel like I am about to step into a time machine or possibly an alternate reality. Beam me up Scotty!