My mother wrote songs as she rocked me
Singing lyrics aloud, her eyes blue on mine brown
A song of the mother Mary rocking the Christ child
A lullaby that soothed until heavy eyelids closed in sleep.
We cut holes in shoeboxes
Then covered them in paper, pink and red mostly.
Scissors sliced thick paper into hearts and letters
While scented colored markers etched our names
In grape purple and lemon yellow and licorice black.
On super hero valentines,
I wrote To’s and From’s to each member of my class
Except I wrote two for Michael, the boy who made me laugh.
The way Chris liked Michelle and Jason liked Desiree.
At the Valentines Party, I placed each small card in each small box
And two in Michael’s.
But I only wrote a From on one of his cards, leaving the other blank.
If I gave two to him, the other boys would know I was different.
“You are indeed one of Heavenly Father’s choice sons.
Do not in any way disappoint Him.”
The patriarch spoke kindly, firmly,
A direct message from God to me on his breath.
Weeks before, when I had told the bishop my shameful secret,
the message had been the same, kind and firm.
“God loves you, He does not tolerate sin.”
The words of the prophets, kind and firm again.
“Pray, do everything God says, and He will cure you,
Make you straight,
Because He loves you.”
And so I ket my eyes just that, straight
Dad was gone,
And my stepfather spoke with fists and angry words.
I was a fairy, he said. I would never measure up to a real man.
But God, He heard. I just couldn’t disappoint Him.
She looked at me sincerely, tears streaming down her face,
And asked why, why after six years of dating, we hadn’t kissed,
Hadn’t held hands, not even once.
I thought of the familiar excuses, used again and again,
About trying to be moral and righteous,
About saying it wasn’t just her, that I’d never kissed anyone,
Never held anyone’s hands.
Those were true words, but not the whole truth.
She needed the whole truth.
“I’m gay,” I said. “But I’m trying to cure it.”
And she didn’t mind. And so we kissed, finally.
There was affection and regard and kindness behind it,
If not chemical attraction,
And relationships had been built on less.
And for her the feelings were real.
And so, three months later, we married.
The day my second son was born, I got that same sense
Of holding my entire world in my hands.
That word again, Fatherhood,
Overwhelming in its possibility, its responsibility.
Here, a new miracle, different from his brother in every way.
But this time, our lives were different.
Early drafts of divorce papers sat on the desk at home.
I was sleeping in the basement now,
And her heart was broken,
While mine, though sad, had come up for oxygen
After three decades of holding its breath.
Pen to paper, I think back on six years of firsts.
First authentic kiss.
First try at an authentic relationship
And first authentic heartbreak.
First time dancing, euphoric and free.
First friends, real friends, finally, friends.
First realization that I like myself, powerfully,
And that I have no need to be cured of something that was never wrong.
First freedoms, from religion and deadly self-expectations.
I live now, loudly.
My sons thrive in two households, and they will tell anyone who asks
That their mother likes boys who like girls
And their father likes boys who like boys.
They are thriving, and smiling, and real.
And so is she.
And so am I.