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.