My Two Moms

I miss my mom a lot this time of year.  Christmas was a big deal to her and she died in early December of 1997.  I’m thankful that she’s not here to witness my transition and name change.  I sometimes wonder how she would feel about it.  I think, in some ways, she would understand.  She told me more than a few times that I should have been born a boy.  I have a vague memory from college days of us talking about my desire to change my name and her telling me that I could do anything I wanted to about my name.  I think she was resolved to the fact that I wasn’t the daughter she had imagined and had pretty much given up on that dream.  There was a tone of sadness and surrender in her voice when we talked about these things.

When I was in high school I found it really hard to talk to my own mom and I would often go over to visit with my friend Shirley.  She was the mother of a couple kids I was in band with, played the piano for our solo competitions and often substituted for our music teachers in school so I had gotten to know her pretty well.  We would sit at her kitchen table and drink coffee together while she chain smoked her Benson & Hedges.  I referred to her as my second mom.  Shirley gave me advice on life and listened to my woes, told me stories and made me laugh.  I wished so many times that she was my real mom.

My real mom was pretty jealous of my relationship with Shirley and often grilled me to find out what we talked about at the kitchen table.  She didn’t like the idea of me telling Shirley all of our dirty little secrets.  I didn’t.  Usually I was really vague about what was going on with me.  I wanted to tell her more but I didn’t want to betray my mom either.  Still, the talks were healing and helpful.  For a couple of hours I escaped my reality and could be Shirley’s kid.

One day, after I was grown and had moved far away from home to escape my mother’s narcissism my mother called me up to chat.  She mentioned that she had run into Shirley at the grocery store and that she had asked about me.  They had a conversation about me living so far away and, according to my mother, Shirley told her that I would move back home after I was done trying to prove to the world that I was as good as a man.  I don’t know if this is true or not but when I heard this it was like someone punched me in my gut.  Had Shirley really said something so hurtful about me?  I couldn’t believe it and I still don’t.  I was never trying to prove anything to anyone.  Man or woman, I just wanted to be able to do what I wanted to do without the tag at the end of “for a girl”.  Like, “you’re a pretty good trumpet player, for a girl.”  Or, “you’re a pretty strong person, for a girl.”  Or, “you’re a pretty good ________, for a girl.”  I just wanted someone to say, “you’re a pretty good trumpet player.”  Period.  No need to qualify it with “for a girl”.  And, of course, the real irony in this statement is that I AM a man and always have been.  Shirley didn’t understand that and neither did my mom.  Heck, I didn’t understand it.

So I wonder sometimes how these two women, who I loved despite their flaws and still do, would feel about me today.  What I wouldn’t give to sit at Shirley’s table again sipping coffee and chatting about life.  And if I could, I’d go pick my mom up and take her out for lunch and have a nice heart to heart with her over a good meal.  In general I’m glad that I don’t have to worry about how they might react to my transition but on a deeper level I miss them tremendously and wish they were here to talk to and bounce ideas off of even if they might not have such nice things to say to me.  I’ve come to appreciate my mother over the years.  She was narcissistic and she was extremely flawed in so many ways but she wasn’t the worst mom out there and actually was pretty good in a lot of ways.  And, especially this time of year, I miss her a lot.

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7 thoughts on “My Two Moms

  1. Thank you for writing this. I’m having intense problems with my own mum at the moment. Although you probably didn’t intend it, it helps me to think that in the end probably what I’ll remember too are the conversations, the books we read together, the times she was there for me without question. A lot of shit has gone on since then but I suppose most mums do their best.

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    • I always write in the hope that others can get something from it so I’m glad it helped you some. I remember the day my mother died I felt a complex combination of emotions that ranged from relief to deep sadness. I haven’t forgotten the bad stuff that happened with us but after all these years the over ruling emotion that hits me now is how much I miss her so I guess, in the end, the good parts of our relationship win out over the bad. Also it helps me now to understand that her narcissism made her blind to a lot of things and with understanding comes compassion for her limits. I do think she did the best she could and that she did love me very much. I wish you luck with your mum. Enjoy her while you have her.

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  2. And in the midst of talking about my stuff I forgot to comment on the most important thing in your post: if Shirley was truly in your corner she would never have said such a bitchy, horrible thing. So, at this point, you may as well conclude that it was some sad attempt at point scoring from your Mum. It also makes me wish we could get rid of all this shit about being good … for a girl, and being a “real man” forever.

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    • Yes, I’m pretty sure that my mom took something Shirl said and twisted it into her own hurtful emotional bomb because she knew how much I looked up to her and she felt jealous of it. I never asked Shirley about it because I doubted that it was true. I hate gendered rules so much! I wish everyone could just be and do what they want without it always having to have a gender attached to it. I remember how all the boys who wanted to play flute were told that only girls or gays played the flute. Such a crock of shit!! It works both ways and it sucks!

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  3. Thank you for sharing these memories. Shirley sounds like she was really there for you back then and I’m glad you are able to think about positive memories for both her and your mother. I certainly hope that the hurtful comment wasn’t from her or that it was horribly misunderstood.
    The holidays are so hard. It’s hard to not be bitter. I’m glad you don’t have to worry about your mother’s reaction to your transition. It is a very stressful thing. I’m also sorry that you don’t have her to help you through it. Again, thank you for sharing your complex feelings here.

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    • Oh Shirley might have made some comment that my mother twisted around to use against me but I am not concerned about it anymore. I rather enjoy the irony in the comment at this point in time. They’re both gone and I miss them and that’s what really matters. I do wish I had my mom to talk to but I’m also glad she isn’t so I don’t have to endure the negative comments as well. It’s a complex mix of emotions. Yep, holidays are hard. I’m pretty much an orphan now and my only family is through my partner’s side and they are all supportive so that’s good. Thanks for taking the time to read my posts and leave comments. I know how busy you are so it means a lot to me. I hope the holidays aren’t too rough for you this year. A lot of us struggle this time of year.

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